Part 1 of my series preview assessed the New York Islanders. You can find that article HERE.
Part 2 looks at the series from the Hurricanes side in offering a couple keys to success in the series.
1) Finding/maintaining a high level of compete and play
The start of this series includes an interest contrast in starting points physically. The Carolina Hurricanes will be about 40 hours removed from an incredibly physical series that no doubt took a tool. Meanwhile, the Islanders will come in with nine days of rest. To be successful, the Hurricanes will need to quickly let go of past successes and instantly dial the intensity right back up to 100 percent. Part of that is mental transitioning quickly from enjoying success to not being satisfied. Part of that is physical in fighting through whatever bumps and bruises everyone has after the Capitals series.
Burning question(s): Can the Hurricanes bounce immediately back to full intensity after just finishing round 1 on Wednesday? Or will it take some time to play their way into the series in which case they could start with a costly deficit?
2) Navigating the Islanders’ layers of defense to earn enough good scoring chances
As I noted in the Islanders side of this preview, the Islanders were the top team in the NHL in terms of goals allowed during the regular season. The team just stymied Sidney Crosby in its first-round series win. And the Isles would set up a maze of obstacles for the Hurricanes between the defensive zone and good scoring chances between the face-off circles at the other end. During three of the four regular season meetings, the Islanders stymied the north-south puck movement that helps the Canes offense go. The series could well come down to whether or not the Hurricanes can generate enough offense in this series against a team happy to squeeze the life out of you for a 2-1 win.
Burning question: Will the Hurricanes be able to move the puck and generate offense through the multiple layers of the Islanders defensive system?
3) The forecheck
Numbers 2 and 3 go together. The primary engine for the Hurricanes offense right now is the forecheck. When the forecheck was effective versus Washington, the Hurricanes had a decent number of good or better scoring chances spread across the entire lineup. When the forecheck was ineffective, the Hurricanes struggled to generate much of anything offensively. Ideally, the Hurricanes find a bit more ‘great players making great plays with puck possession’ offense in this series, but that might again be hard to come by. As such, the ability of the Hurricanes to use their forecheck to generate offensive zone puck possession and pressure and also scoring chances will be critical in this series. The forecheck was also front and center for the team defense. The Hurricanes forecheck so aggressively that if teams are able to beat the first layer quickly enough, the neutral zone is mostly open and becomes a launching pad for rushes. When the Hurricanes forecheck was ineffective against Washington, the result was a repeated formula of carrying the puck the side with another forward wide leaving the middle lane open to be exploited off the rush if the Hurricanes back checkers were even a step slow.
Burning question: Will the Hurricanes be able to again dial up the forecheck such that it becomes a weapon both offensively and defensively?
4) Heroes rising up
When the Hurricanes had their backs against the wall down 2-0 in games to the Capitals, unlikely hero Warren Foegele rose up and led the Canes to two home wins to get back into the series. The Hurricanes will again need a hero or two to rise up and push the team into the win column. Ideal would be if the Hurricanes top forwards can hit the ground running in this series, but Warren Foegele’s performance in the first round shows that anyone who is in the lineup can be that hero. The likeliness of a similar physical tone could put this series right in Jordan Staal’s wheel house and/or put the ball on the tea for the Hurricanes physical left wingers.
Burning question: Who, if anyone, will be the hero who steps up when the team needs someone to lead the way to an important win or two?
What say you Canes fans?
1) What do you see as the keys to the series for the Hurricanes?
2) Do you think the Hurricanes can do enough offensively and defensively if the forecheck is not at the top of its game?
3) Who do you see as likely heroes for the second round on the Canes side?