‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm32 Vs. Clu: Return home finds tough match up in waiting Blue Jackets

‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm32 Vs. Clu: Return home finds tough match up in waiting Blue Jackets

By no means has it been easy or pretty, but the Carolina Hurricanes return to Raleigh with a two-game winning streak in hand. Courtesy of a shootout win on Tuesday in Las Vegas and then an other side of the country overtime win in Buffalo on Friday, the Hurricanes will try to extend their winning ways. The game is a scheduling oddity on numerous fronts. First, it sees the team return from a 13-day, six-game road trip just to play a single home game before departing again. The game is also odd in the sense that it represents the fourth and final match up against the Blue Jackets despite being only game #32 of the season and prior to a single meeting with either other division foes New Jersey and Washington. I have said all season that the Blue Jackets are one of the toughest match ups stylistically for the Hurricanes in the entire NHL. They forecheck aggressively and push the game to the walls. If if they can force the Canes to the outside, the game sets up nicely for Vezina-caliber Sergei Bobrovsky to just make as many saves as needed on shots he tracks the whole way in. But despite the challenge, the Hurricanes are actually 1-0-2 through the first three games, so there is clearly hope. Here is hoping that the Hurricanes can find a burst of energy in what can be a challenging first game home after a long road trip.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Columbus Blue Jackets 1) Willingness and desire On any night, the Blue Jackets can...
Gm31 @Buf: Canes finish road trip by gutting out a win against the Buffalo Sabres

Gm31 @Buf: Canes finish road trip by gutting out a win against the Buffalo Sabres

Just like the rest of the road trip, it wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t easy, but the result in the finale was what the team needed. In a strange game that featured some of the most boring hockey of the entire season (the second period) followed immediately by one of the wildest periods of hockey all year in the third period, the Hurricanes fought their way to a 5-4 overtime win and a respectable 2-2-2 record for the long six-game road trip. As has generally been the case even in the disappointing games, the Hurricanes played a decent first period but really were not rewarded for it. The Sabres seemed to find their way into the game courtesy of a couple power plays that jolted them to life despite not netting goals. With both teams having a poor track record in the second period, it played out almost as if both teams were trying to cautiously slide past it without incident. The Hurricanes scored first when Justin Williams banged in a rebound, but the Sabres answered in short order when Jack Eichel scored the first of his three goals. The period ended 1-1 probably with many a fan dozing off after a couple late nights earlier in the week. But for every bit that the second period was boring, the third period was exhilarating even if not necessarily of the highest quality. Buffalo pushed up 2-1, but Jordan Staal scored a big answer goal to quickly make it 2-2. From there, the Hurricanes ran out to a 4-2 lead seemingly on their way to coasting to a win. Then...
‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm31 @Buf: Canes face pivotal game for road trip against the Sabres

‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm31 @Buf: Canes face pivotal game for road trip against the Sabres

By no means has it been easy, but the Carolina Hurricanes will enter the sixth and final game of a long and meandering road trip with the chance to finish up at break even with a win. Because of the minus status of the road trip thus far, the strong play by the rest of the Metropolitan Division and the beatable opponent who also played on Thursday and traveled, Friday’s game is the kind of game that the Hurricanes really need to win. ‘Must win’ for any single game in December is always an overstatement, but per today’s Daily Cup of Joe, I do think that the season slowly slips away for teams who do not capitalize on key games that are favorable match up-wise. In short, the Canes come in at 1-2-2 on the current road trip and gradually falling behind the rest of the Metropolitan Division. The Sabres enter the game ahead of only Arizona among the NHL’s 31 teams and having played and traveled last night. Per my article this morning, the game is the kind that the Hurricanes desperately need to win right now. Against that backdrop, here is ‘what I’m watching’ for tonight’s match up.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Buffalo Sabres   1) Seizing a physical advantage with pace and intensity The advantage from resting and playing a team that played and traveled the night before is not a gift that is granted but rather an advantage that must be seized. Whether things come easily or hard, the Hurricanes need to show up from the opening face-off and...
The need to seize wins in favorable games

The need to seize wins in favorable games

So I just finished writing a long and detailed article entitles “Seeking heroes…and taking the next step” only to see it seemingly disappear into the ether of the internet. If this is what the internet looks like post net neutrality, I’m quitting. 🙂 More seriously, I do not have the energy to re-write that article right now, so I will instead pull out something else that I have some scribbled notes on. In the NHL, there is enough parity that there is no such things as a sure win. Bottom teams beat top teams on a fairly regular basis. But good teams do seem to have an uncanny knack for winning most of the games that they should and also rebounding and cutting losing streaks short. For the young Carolina Hurricanes, I would say that this is still a work in progress. Right when the team was surging and trying to play its way back into the 2016-17 season, it somehow managed to lose to bottom dwellers Arizona and Colorado. The 2017-18 season has featured a few puzzling losses to. The team entered Thanksgiving week generally playing good hockey only to lay an egg twice before eking out an overtime win against Nashville salvage something from the week. The Hurricanes near-term schedule features a couple important rounds of games that the team needs to win. It starts with a huge match up in Buffalo on Friday night. The Sabres are near the bottom of the NHL, are 3-5-2 in their past 10 games and played and traveled on Thursday night to boot. The game looks favorable for the Hurricanes...
Re-handicapping the Metropolitan Division

Re-handicapping the Metropolitan Division

Through 30 games of the 2017-18 NHL season, the Carolina Hurricanes have two problems. The first is that they have not been good enough. The team’s 31 points in 30 games is on pace for 85 points which is two short of its 2016-17 total and destined to be about 10 points short of a playoff berth regardless of how the competition shapes up. The second problem is that the competition in the Metropolitan Division has played well through 30ish games. Worth noting is that the Hurricanes would still be below the playoff cut line and chasing the same teams in the Metro if they were instead in that Atlantic Division, but the vantage point sitting in fourth place would feel much better than their current eighth. With enough games to evaluate teams based on actual game action, today’s Daily Cup of Joe reassesses the Metropolitan foes.   (Standings based on games above .500 to adjust for games played Columbus Blue Jackets First place — 19-11-1 The Blue Jackets picked up right where they left off during the regular season in 2016-17. Columbus has been near the top of the division most of the season and seems destined to finish the season there. Vulnerabilities: The Blue Jackets are deep at both forward and defense and do not rely on a small number of players to drive play. The only big vulnerability I see is if Sergei Bobrovsky was injured and missed a significant number of games. Short of a Bobrovsky injury, I do not see the Blue Jackets as a team that the Hurricanes likely to chase/catch.   New...