Right Out of the Gate

Frederik Andersen is a large factor for this year’s Canes.

The preseason is a time for overreactions and tune-ups, but the start of the season often offers legitimate insights for the rest of the year. Last year, Frederik Andersen went 7-0 in the month of October with a scalding-hot performance, posting a .956 save percentage en route to what was a Vezina-worthy year up until his injury. While players can get off to hot starts and fizzle out as the months progress or vice versa, it’s important to track early-season progress as an indicator for a full season.

Frederik Andersen is the player I’m looking forward to watching at the beginning of the season the most because of his injury history. Having an extremely talented, seasoned defensive group that ranks among the NHL’s best puts the Canes in a strong position to contend, but when Andersen is on his game the Canes become an elite Stanley Cup contender. One way he can elevate his game further is to seek more consistency this year. Last October, Andersen was an impenetrable obstacle for opposing offenses, but his November save percentage was .904, falling from the aforementioned .956. This came amidst a month in which he went 4-5. Now, Andersen responded to his five November losses by losing 5 games in December, January, February, and March combined, but the point stands. High expectations demand high levels of performance, and the Canes can fly even higher than last year’s 116 points if they can find their game early in the year. That starts with the defense, but finishes with Andersen.

He’s looked sharp so far this preseason, making a couple athletic saves during the first period of Carolina’s first preseason game against Tampa Bay earlier this week. Although he wasn’t tested much, the focus is on him being back 100% from his injury, and so far last year’s elite play seems to be a probability more than a possibility.

The defense will be sound, and if Andersen is on his game, the Canes need to find their offensive rhythm in order to maintain consistency throughout the year. Rod Brind’Amour has juggled the lines in the preseason. I previously thought the first line would be composed of Andrei Svechnikov, Sebastian Aho, and Seth Jarvis, but Carolina lined up Teravainen instead of Svechnikov against Tampa Bay. There’s chemistry in both options, yet ideally there’d be continuity, especially on the top lines.

Teuvo Teravainen is another critical cog in Carolina’s forward group.

Obviously, the lines will shift around constantly as Brind’Amour finds spots for new players such as Paul Stastny and as injuries come into play. Additonally-it’s preseason. It’s not uncommon for coaches to mix up lines just to see if there’s chemistry. When Max Pacioretty returns later in the year, the math will only grow more complex. So there’s lots of factors that go into lineup decisions and different combinations Carolina can roll out, which is a good problem to have, but if the Canes find chemistry and continuity quickly within their top six it’ll bode well for their ability to compete for the division and even a President’s Trophy.

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