Every Stanley Cup contender has to have an elite presence in between the pipes. After signing Frederik Andersen in the offseason, the Carolina Hurricanes have found just that.
The Hurricanes have gotten off to an incredibly hot start with a 10-1-0 record and they trail only the Florida Panthers for the most points in the league. It's been no secret that the Hurricanes have been one of the most-gifted offensive teams that the NHL has to offer in the past few seasons.
- 2021-22 season: Scored 41 goals (6th in NHL) and averaged 3.7 goals-per-game (third in NHL)
- 2020-21 season: Scored 175 goals (10th in NHL) and averaged 3.1 goals-per-game (third in NHL)
The Hurricanes' deep forward group includes the likes of Andrei Svechnikov, Sebastian Aho, Vincent Trocheck and Teuvo Teravainen. Svechnikov has been an absolute force this season with a team-leading 15 points (7 goals & 8 assists). From top to bottom, all four lines are capable of putting the puck in the net.
However, the defensive end of the ice has been where Carolina has struggled in the past -- until now.
After reaching the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2008-09 season, the Hurricanes missed the playoffs in nine consecutive seasons prior to the 2018-19 campaign. The Hurricanes have been able to win their opening round series in each of those postseason appearances, but things went awry after that.
The Hurricanes defeated the Nashville Predators in six games in the first round of the 2021 postseason. Carolina followed that up with a dreadful performance in which they were defeated by the Tampa Bay Lightning in just five games.
One of the biggest issues for the Hurricanes throughout that series was instability at the goaltender position. The team split the duties between Alex Nedeljkovic and Petr Mrazek. Mrazek struggled surrendered eight goals in two starts during the series against the Predators. Nedeljkovic gave up six goals in three games, but the Hurricanes still weren't willing to commit to the young netminder with a long-term contract.
So, the Hurricanes decided to trade Nedeljkovic to the Detroit Red Wings and the franchise was suddenly in the market for a goaltender. Carolina then turned to an old friend in Andersen, who the team drafted back in 2010.
The decision to sign Andersen has proved to be an exceptional one.
In 10 games, Andersen has accumulated a 9-1-0 record to go along with a 1.73 goals-against-average, which is the fourth-best mark in the league. The 32-year old netminder has also allowed one goal or less in six of his starts while recording one shutout. He's allowed more than three goals on just one occasion.
Andersen turned in yet another sensational performance in Tuesday's 2-1 overtime victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Hurricanes goaltender turned aside 17 of the 18 shots that he faced against the heralded Lightning offensive attack. He was named the NHL's Third Star for the month of October after having a 7-0-0 record, 1.29 goals-against-average, a .956 save percentage and a shutout in seven starts last month.
"It's just a sign that it's been going well for the team," Anderson said after receiving the honor. "We've been playing hard. I think we're happy with the way the first month went, but we know that it doesn't mean too much yet. Every day, we try and get better."
Andersen currently leads all NHL goaltenders with nine wins and ranks fifth with a .939 save percentage. He also became the seventh goaltender in NHL history to earn wins in his first six games to start off a season.
After five seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Andersen appears to have found his home in Carolina. Andersen did have success with the Maple Leafs. In five seasons, the veteran netminder compiled a 267-74-36 record to go along with a 2.79 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.
However, Andersen never had anywhere near the type of success in Canada that he's currently enjoying with the Hurricanes.
"Of course there's a difference (in pressure), especially with media and stuff like that," Andersen said regarding his time in Toronto. "But I think there's pressure everywhere. Every team is out there trying to win. We have pressure within ourselves and we want to get the best out of each other. So I think there's definitely pressure everywhere, it's just a matter of controlling it."
There's obviously plenty of regular season games remaining before the Hurricanes can anoint themselves the class of the Eastern Conference. But up to this point in the 2021-22 season, the Hurricanes have defeated some of the conference's most talented teams in the Boston Bruins, New York Islanders, Lightning and Maple Leafs.
If Andersen can continue his stellar level of play throughout the entire season, there's no doubt that the Hurricanes could have a chance to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup this summer.