Carolina Hurricanes fans’ guide to the NHL’s center stage and the coverage that comes with it

Carolina Hurricanes fans’ guide to the NHL’s center stage and the coverage that comes with it

The transition to a bigger North American stage and audience With Boston’s win over Columbus on Monday night, the Hurricanes lead up to the Eastern Conference Finals has officially begun. We are two game sevens out West away from having only four teams remaining in the NHL playoffs. There are exactly zero teams from Canada and really only Boston and possibly St. Louis and/or Colorado as traditional hockey markets. The result is that a mass of hockey media will descend on Raleigh over the next couple weeks both physically to attend Eastern Conference Finals games but maybe even more significantly attention-wise. The attention and presence that is on the way will generate a different environment and have both pros and cons. What follows is an attempt to help make some sense of that for the Caniac faithful.   The Caniac’s guide to optimal usage of hockey energy Since this has the potential to become long and ‘rambly’, let me be kind and put a couple key points right up front. First and foremost, everyone should be a Canes fan in the way that works best for them. That is the theme of what follows but importantly also applies to my well-intentioned opinions and advice. Encouraging, friendly input can be helpful, but at the end of the day, you should do your Hurricanes hockey fandom in your own way.  Second, our hockey team and our hockey community does not need to defend itself from some of the BS that gets spewed in our direction each and ever time the Hurricanes reach a level where those who normally do not care...
Canes vs. Isles Series Preview-Part 2: From the Hurricanes side

Canes vs. Isles Series Preview-Part 2: From the Hurricanes side

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...
Canes vs. Caps Series Preview–Part 2: From the Hurricanes side

Canes vs. Caps Series Preview–Part 2: From the Hurricanes side

Yesterday, part 1 of my Canes versus Caps series preview focused on the Capitals side of the ledger. Part 2 of my Canes versus Caps 2019 NHL playoff series preview looks inward at the Carolina Hurricanes as they forge into post season play.   1) Attitude is everything In his post-game speech after the Hurricanes clinched a playoff berth, Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour briefly complimented the team on what it had accomplished and then very quickly started into a mini-rant with “We’re not done” as its focal point. The Hurricanes have had a great 2018-19 season already. Nothing that happens from here forward can change that. But for the Hurricanes to add to the initial accomplishment will require the team to temporarily put the regular season success behind them and look forward with the same hungry attitude as from January to March. Anything short of that will certainly doom the Hurricanes in round one of the 2019 NHL playoffs. The burning question(s): Especially if things do not go well at points of the series, will this Hurricanes team take solace in what it accomplished this season or will it instead double down on determination and hunger?   2) Re-finding the highest gear Thus far in the 2018-19 season, the Hurricanes played their best hockey in February. The team’s 12-3-0 record in February was better than March’s 9-6-1 mark. More significantly, the Hurricanes wins in March much more so relied on goalie heroics or catching a break or two and finding a way. The steadiness in February seemed to give way to a model that was more opportunistic than truly...
Canes vs. Caps Series Preview–Part 1: Assessing the Capitals

Canes vs. Caps Series Preview–Part 1: Assessing the Capitals

The stage is set for a long overdue first playoff meeting between the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals. The two teams should be bitter rivals, but because of mismatches when each team was good and the lack of playoff meetings to fuel the rivalry the rivalry really is not what it could and should be. In that regard, the first round tussle is a match made in heaven. The schedule was announced today and can be found HERE. Part 1 of my series preview will take a first look at the Washington Capitals.   1) Depth in terms of scoring production Showing zero signs of slowing in his mid-30s, Alexander Ovechkin again led the NHL in goal scoring with 51 goals. But the Capitals were actually balanced rather than top heavy in terms of scoring. The Caps had seven players score 20 or more goals on the way to finishing fifth in the NHL in scoring. The Hurricanes by contrast had only four players reach the 20 goal mark. Add in a power play that finished 12th in the NHL and arguably underperformed relative to its talent level, and the Capitals are clearly a team that can put the puck in the net. In my opinion, what separates the Caps from the Canes is having two high-end playmakers in Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov who can generate scoring chances out of thin air. Upshot for the Hurricanes: The Hurricanes obviously need to generate offense and score to win but does not want to get into a series where they just trade high-end chances with the Capitals. That type of...
Carolina Hurricanes trade Victor Rask for Nino Niederreiter

Carolina Hurricanes trade Victor Rask for Nino Niederreiter

On Thursday afternoon the Carolina Hurricanes announced that they had traded center Victor Rask to the Minnesota Wild for wing Nino Niederreiter. At a basic level, the trade was a ‘change of scenery’ type swap of two mid-priced players who were underperforming relative to their salary and currently struggling to find a role with their current teams.   Victor Rask Less than two years ago, Victor Rask was signed to a six-year contract for $4 million per year. When signed, Rask was 22 years old and coming off of a 21-goal, 48-point season. Equally significantly, at the time he seemed to be still on the rise. That 48-point season was only his second in the NHL and was a nice step up from the 33 points that he scored as a rookie the year before. But the 2016-17 saw him plateau with a similar 45 points and five fewer goals. Then the 2017-18 season saw Rask take a significant step backwards especially in the first half of the season. When the dust settled on the 2017-18 season, Rask had rebounded enough late to offer some hope but was very clearly headed into the 2018-19 season needing to find a higher gear. With Sebastian Aho moving to center, Jordan Staal anchored in the second slot and the team hoping that Martin Necas would be ready for the NHL, Rask slotted as a depth forward ideally to end up in the C4 slot and hopefully rebound and play his way up from there. But then a kitchen accident delayed the start of his 2018-19 season. Now 26 games deep into the...