‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm18 Vs. Chi: Canes face off against Blackhawks in Cam Ward’s return

‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm18 Vs. Chi: Canes face off against Blackhawks in Cam Ward’s return

In addition to the usual ongoing 82-game battle to try to push back up into the playoffs, the Carolina Hurricanes 2018-19 schedule will feature a number of homecomings for former fan favorites. With the departure of long-time favorites Cam Ward and Jeff Skinner and also younger starts Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin, the schedule is checkered with players returning to Raleigh as an opponent for the first time. The first of these games is arguably the biggest with Cam Ward’s return on Monday in a Blackhawks uniform. Cam Ward is nothing short of being a franchise icon. He was a key part in the pinnacle of the Carolina Hurricanes’ history and was one of the leaders in the era that followed. He has been both part of some of the highest highs and also right there with the Canes hockey community during some of the lowest of lows. But more than anything, Ward was always a class act, a good person and most certainly someone who I was always proud to have as part of our hockey community. History aside, the game is also a big one in the here and now. After beating the same Blackhawks to salvage as much as possible from a tough 1-2-1 road trip, the Hurricanes started a six-game home stand on Saturday against the Red Wings. After jump out to a lead and seemingly having two points in hand, the Hurricanes sagged in the third and ultimately lost in overtime, giving up a point in the process. That result makes Monday’s game even more critical in terms of capitalizing on home ice and...
‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm17 Vs. Det: Critical home stretch begins versus the Detroit Red Wings

‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm17 Vs. Det: Critical home stretch begins versus the Detroit Red Wings

After wrapping up a challenging road trip with a much-needed win over the Blackhawks on Tuesday, the Hurricanes next begin a critical stretch of home hockey. The 1-2-1 mark over the four-game road trip is not good enough, nor is the current 7-7-1 record in terms of chasing a return to playoff hockey. And the trend after a stellar 4-0-1 start continues to be negative. But the team does deserve some credit for scratching and clawing to salvage three points in a 1-2-1 road trip. And only 16 games into the season, by no means is anything decided. And that is what makes the next stretch of games critical. The Hurricanes now play six straight games at home. Four of those six games are against teams currently in the bottom third of the league. To push up into the playoffs will require the team to find some stretches where they reel off wins (and ideally next time not proceed to quickly give up that progress). By no means will the season be decided when the Hurricanes emerge from this home stand still in November, but in terms of charting a different course from recent years, I really believe this next stretch is more critical than many might realize. The game is against a Detroit team that has rebounded a bit from a slow start but still sits near the bottom of the Atlantic Division at 6-8-2. The Wings won in overtime last night against the Rangers and have been hot in winning five out of their last six games.   Against that back drop, here are my watch points...
‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm16 @Chi: Canes battle struggling Blackhawks hoping to salvage something from road trip

‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm16 @Chi: Canes battle struggling Blackhawks hoping to salvage something from road trip

For the second time this week, the Hurricanes will battle another team desperately needing to right the ship and push upward. The situation in Chicago had become dire enough that the team fired long-time coach and three-time Stanley Cup champion Joel Quenneville. As such, the game will be the Blackhawks first under a new coach. But right now games are much less about the opponent and much more about the Hurricanes finding their way back into the win column and a repeatable formula that can start a path upward after five straight losses. With a downward trend in the standings, the election coverage on Tuesday and a Carolina Panthers prime time game on Thursday, the Carolina Hurricanes are entering a fight for their sports relevance right now. Against that back drop here is what I will be watching for Thursday.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Chicago Blackhawks 1) Attitude and response to adversity What disturbed me most about Sunday’s loss was the way the team imploded early and then seemed to whimper away accepting a losing fate. Despite the ups and downs of the season, Sunday was the first game where the team seemed to fold up the tents early and show some of the fragility that permeated the team in the second half of the 2017-18 season. Tuesday’s follow up was just as bad. The team started hesitant and cautious. Gone completely was the fiery attacking style that won the day in the first few games of the season. The result, maybe not surprisingly, was a run of big ‘oopses’ that doomed Tuesday’s...
‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm15 @StL: Canes battle beleaguered Blues hoping to end losing streak

‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm15 @StL: Canes battle beleaguered Blues hoping to end losing streak

After a pair of weekend road losses that at least saw the Canes pick up an overtime loss point, the team’s road trip continues in the Midwest on Tuesday against the St. Louis Blues before finishing up against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday. The Blues have rebounded a bit with two wins in their past three games, but their 4-5-3 overall record and 5-1 loss in their most recent game have the team trying to find a higher gear. After posting on 16 shots on goal in the 5-1 loss to the Wild, the game offers the potential for a perfect storm for suffering Canes fans. Could the Canes hold the Blues to say 12 shots on goal and still find a way to lose? That is the fear right now. From the Canes side, the team is sitting on its longest losing streak of the season at four games and has the chance to fall below .500 for the first time this season. The level of urgency is increasing as the team tries to patch some holes and figure out a winning formula following the initial starting point surge. Against, that back drop, here are my watch points….   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the St. Louis Blues 1) Attitude When Rod Brind’Amour was hired as the head coach and Justin Williams was named the captain, one thing taken as a given was that the team’s attitude would change. Early on, I would say that there are in fact positive signs as measured by more consistent (even if not perfect) effort level and an ability...
‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm14 @Veg: Canes battle the Golden Knights and seek carry over Saturday’s comeback

‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm14 @Veg: Canes battle the Golden Knights and seek carry over Saturday’s comeback

After a wild affair on Friday night against the Arizona Coyotes, the Hurricanes are right back at in Las Vegas on Saturday night. For those who either skipped the late start altogether or abandoned ship after the horrid first period, you can catch up with the recap HERE. On Saturday, the Canes face a Golden Knights team that has yet to get going in 2018-19 and should be hungry and desperate on Saturday night. Las Vegas enters the game with a 5-7-1 record that puts them seventh in the Pacific Division. Despite surging and salvaging a point late on Friday, the Hurricanes still enter Saturday with a three-game losing streak and generally negative trend which should make for two scrappy teams on Saturday night. Against that back drop, here are my watch points for round two of #CanesAfterDark.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Vegas Golden Knights 1) The level of play The Canes start in general was ‘meh’ on Friday in the first game out west, and then they let one lackadaisical play snow ball quickly into a three goal deficit. But the team recovered and played significantly better in the second half of the game. The starting point for Saturday’s result will be which version of the Hurricanes shows up. Can they muster more out of the gate? Do they look sluggish after spending so much energy coming back the night before? Etc.   2) Goaltending In consecutive starts, the Hurricanes have received good or better goaltending for half of a game and then bad or worse goaltending for the other half of...
‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm13 @Ari: Canes kick off four-game road trip against Arizona

‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm13 @Ari: Canes kick off four-game road trip against Arizona

After stumbling a bit with two straight losses at home, the Hurricanes take to the road for a four-game road trip that starts in Arizona against the Coyotes. Like the Hurricanes, the Coyotes were a 2018 lottery entry. But with the topsy-turvy start to the 2018-19 season that now sees that Islanders atop the Metropolitan Division and the Canadiens also in a playoff spot, the Coyotes are no slouch either with a 6-5-0 mark and more significantly a four-game winning streak. On the Canes side, the game and the road trip in total will be more inwardly focused on trying to find a new rhythm after a fast start but a decline since then. Issues still remain with the penalty kill and depth scoring, and with Scott Darling back in the mix, the goalie position continues to be a question mark with high upside but also significant uncertainty. Against that back drop, here is what I am watching for tonight’s first round of #CanesAfterDark.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Arizona Coyotes 1) Netminding With a back-to-back set, Scott Darling and Petr Mrazek figure to split the Friday and Saturday starts. Regardless of who plays on Friday, goaltending continues to be at or near the top of the list of watch points. Darling looked very good for half of a game and then not very good for the second half in his 2018-19 debut. So the glass half full view would be that there was enough there to build on. Mrazek has been decent at times and ‘meh’ at others. His record benefited from the...