‘What I’m watching’ — Gm73 Vs. Tam: Canes face ultimate measuring stick in the Lightning

‘What I’m watching’ — Gm73 Vs. Tam: Canes face ultimate measuring stick in the Lightning

With a near-perfect (gave Pens an OTL point) 2-0 start to a critical five-game home stand, the Hurricanes will next face the best of the best in the Tampa Bay Lightning. If the team was based in Canada, the hockey world would be regularly debating where this team rates among the best teams of the past few decades. With eight games to go, the Lightning have already have 118 points which would have been good enough to win the President’s Trophy for the 2017-18 season. Timing-wise, there is at least a chance that the Hurricanes will catch the Lightning with the door cracked open. Tampa Bay emerged from a battle of the Eastern Conference titans with the Capitals on Tuesday with a hard-fought 5-4 overtime win. With the travel and quick turnaround, is it possible that the Hurricanes could catch the Lightning with a bit of a letdown and maybe weary legs? One can hope. But regardless, games are decided on the ice not in the standings, and the Hurricanes have been faring well in that regard too. The ‘just find a way’ Hurricanes have a chance against any team in hockey right now. My watch points for the game follow.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Tampa Bay Lightning 1) The best defense is a good offense Trying to defend the Lightning to a low goal total is almost certainly to be unfruitful. The way to beat a great and deep offensive team like the Lightning is not so much to defend their attacks but rather to stay on the offensive and be the...
‘What I’m watching’ — Gm72 Vs. Pit: Canes battle Pens for 3rd place in the Metro

‘What I’m watching’ — Gm72 Vs. Pit: Canes battle Pens for 3rd place in the Metro

Technically, the Hurricanes cannot overtake the Penguins for third place in the Metropolitan Division, but with a win the Canes will be down only a single point to the Penguins but have two games in hand. That would put the Hurricanes in the driver’s seat for winning that third playoff slot. Bigger picture, the Hurricanes are now up four points on the Canadiens with one game in hand for at least earning a playoff berth. In that vein, every two points puts even more pressure on the Canadiens who are already fading. Needless to say, Tuesday’s game at PNC Arena is a HUGE one. The Penguins recently found a rhythm, won six out of seven and climbed at least slightly above the wild card fray. But the Penguins have since lost two straight (second loss in overtime) and are now without Evgeni Malkin. Kris Letang who has been out since late February has been practicing with the team but did not play in Sunday’s game against the Flyers. Were he to return to the Penguins lineup on Tuesday, it would be a boost for their blue line. On the Hurricanes front, the team has been in ‘just find a way’ mode of late. Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Sabres did the necessary work but was a ‘meh’ quality effort. The Hurricanes have been plagued by slow starts in a few other games and paid the price for it but continue to be in the winning column more often than not. Timing would be nice for the Hurricanes to start faster and put together a full 60 minutes in a...
‘What I’m watching’ — Gm71 Vs. Buf: Critical 5-game home stand begins against the Sabres

‘What I’m watching’ — Gm71 Vs. Buf: Critical 5-game home stand begins against the Sabres

Had Canes fans been browsing the 2018-19 Carolina Hurricanes schedule in late September or early October and been told that the Hurricanes would would make it to upcoming five-game home stand sitting in playoff position and just needing to maintain it, they most certainly would have accepted that fate. That is exactly where the Hurricanes are playing game #71 at home against the Buffalo Sabres as the first of five straight at home. The week has already been a roller coaster. On Monday, Petr Mrazek absolutely stood on his in net to grab a win for the Hurricanes. On Friday, Sergei Bobrovsky and the Columbus proved that turnabout is fair play in blanking the Hurricanes 3-0. The game also features another quick turnaround and need to rebound quickly just like after last Friday’ loss. On the opposing side, the Buffalo Sabres were an early season surprise but have since faded. The Sabres are now one game below .500 and are 2-7-1 in their last 10 game. So after a run of five straight games after higher-end competition, at least on paper the Hurricanes will face a team from a lower rung on the NHL ladder. But the wild cards are significant. Jack Eichel will return from a couple-game suspension and former Hurricane Jeff Skinner will likely have a bee in his bonnet returning to Raleigh. As for the Hurricanes side, the Hurricanes will again be trying to follow a loss with a win before it becomes a losing streak. Aside from the slow start that was costly, the Canes played a solid game and were denied a win only...
‘What I’m watching’ — Gm70 @Clu: Canes set for huge 4-point game in Columbus

‘What I’m watching’ — Gm70 @Clu: Canes set for huge 4-point game in Columbus

After a three-day layoff, the Canes are back in action on Friday with another game on Saturday for a quick run at four more points in the standings. The opponent on Friday is the Columbus Blue Jackets who are competing with the Hurricanes for the last three playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. With a two-point cushion over Columbus and a game in hand, the game is by no means a must-win for the Hurricanes but with the four-point swing and only a dozen games to follow, the importance is clearly magnified. On the Hurricanes side, the team is coming off their last extended layoff of three days. Interestingly, the sample size is small, but the Carolina Hurricanes are an abysmal 1-5 in 2018-19 with three days rest (not counting coming out of the All-Star break/bye week). But many of those losses were when the team in general was struggling in general. On the Blue Jackets side, the team has been mostly treading water and at times seemed ready to sink since going all in at the trade deadline. The Blue Jackets are only 5-5 in their last 10 games but are coming off a big win over a good Bruins team on Tuesday. That Tuesday win relieved pressure a bit, but with a two-point deficit and minus a game in hand to the Hurricanes, the game is even more important for Columbus. The Hurricanes enter the game with a 2-1 record against Columbus this year with the loss being with Scott Darling in net. Curtis McElhinney was in net for both wins and would be the odds on...
‘What I’m watching’ — Gm69 @Clr: Canes playoff push continues against the Avalanche

‘What I’m watching’ — Gm69 @Clr: Canes playoff push continues against the Avalanche

After a hard-fought 1-1-1 record last week against three strong opponents, the Hurricanes kick off this week on the road against the Colorado Avalanche. The is the end of a short burst of three games in four days with two travel days and with three days off before the next game is clearly an ’empty the tank’ type of game. The Hurricanes enter the game sitting in the first of two wild card slots in the Eastern Conference and with the potential to jump back into a tie with the Penguins for third place in the Metropolitan Division. Needless to say, every game is critically important right now. The opponent is a Colorado Avalanche team that despite having nine fewer points than the Hurricanes is still very much in the playoff chase at only two points out of a wildcard spot. The Avs are only 2-3 in the team’s last five games and are now without Gabriel Landeskog. As such, the Avs should be a team desperate for a win much like the Canes and every other team still in playoff contention. On the Hurricanes side, the game is mostly about bringing the right level of effort and intensity. The team has generally been doing that for more than two months now, but received a stark reminder in Friday’s 8-1 loss of what can happen if the team does not dial up the intensity level. Saturday was a solid rebound and a win, so here is hoping that Friday was just a one-game blip. My watch points follow.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Colorado...
‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm68 @Nas: After lopsided loss, Canes seek quick rebound versus the Predators

‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm68 @Nas: After lopsided loss, Canes seek quick rebound versus the Predators

After a brutal 8-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night in Raleigh, the Hurricanes will get right back on the horse on Saturday and face another best from the West in the Nashville Predators. With a Columbus loss on Thursday and Montreal losses on both Thursday and Friday, the Hurricanes are actually holding their place in the playoff standings despite an 0-1-1 mark so far this week. But the magnitude of Saturday’s game is greater coming off the kind of loss that Friday’s was. Unfortunately, the opponent is another tough one in the Nashville Predators who also are a potential Cup contender. The Predators are a solid hockey team with depth both at forward and on defense. On the Hurricanes side, the team needs to quickly either tighten up significantly on defense or refind the forecheck that minimizes the volume of time playing defense. And after an 8-1 loss on Friday, the team might also need to fight off some demons and self-doubt issues early on to play their way into this game. My watch points for the game follow.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Nashville Predators 1) Angry determination? Or passive self-doubt? The key for the Hurricanes is mostly putting Friday’s debacle behind them and using whatever of it carries forward to put a bee in their bonnets for Saturday. If the Hurricanes spend half of a game fighting their way through self-doubt and look hesitant doing so, the game could be over when they arrive. Rod Brind’Amour, Justin Williams and the rest of the leadership has a bit of work...