‘What I’m watching’ — 2021 Playoffs —Gm3 @Tam: Backs against wall, Canes seek rebound

‘What I’m watching’ — 2021 Playoffs —Gm3 @Tam: Backs against wall, Canes seek rebound

After two pretty evenly played games but no results in the win column, the Carolina Hurricanes head to Tampa Bay with the season on the line. A loss on Thursday does not officially end the series, but it represents whatever the closest thing to that is. With two tightly-contested affairs in which you could make a reasonable case that the Canes deserved better in either or both games, so there is a reasonable case for just staying the course. But in today’s Daily Cup of Joe pondered what, if anything, Brind’Amour should do to stir things up. With Vincent Trocheck likely out of the lineup, some change is necessary regardless. Aside from the lineup watch points, the drama is full force tonight. Is this a Hurricanes team that deserved better in games 1 and 2 and will dig down and get what it deserves in game 3? Or is it the group that struggled with basic puck-handling late in game 2 and suffering from waning confidence? Can a team that was at times an offensive juggernaut during the regular season find a higher gear after struggling mightily to put the puck in the net? Can Brind’Amour and his staff make adjustments to generate more offensive inside the offensive zone with Tampa Bay playing a conservative defensive style that offers very little for offense off the rush? After a season full of regular season heroes, can the team find one or two players to don a cape when the team desperately needs such a hero in the playoffs? Against that backdrop, my watch points follow:   ‘What I’m watching’ for the...
Preview for Canes vs. Lightning: Head to head

Preview for Canes vs. Lightning: Head to head

Part 1 of 2 previewing the Canes versus the Lightning looked at the state of the Canes (and to a lesser degree the Lightning) exiting round 1. You can find that HERE. Part 2 looks more directly at the match up between the two. The regular season series was pretty even. Each team had a game or two in which they were the better team by a wide margin but in general the games were pretty evenly paid. The winner of this series will not be so much which team is better but rather which team plays better for the next two weeks. That might sound like the same thing, but the nuance is that every team has a range of levels in which it plays. Both of these teams have high ceilings that are good enough to outplay the other but also floors that put them at a slight disadvantage. This series is about finding something close to peak Hurricanes hockey for 2020-21. I do not think the Hurricanes medium level in round 1 will be enough.   Where both teams are dangerous Ability to quickly capitalize on errors in transition Both teams have speed and skill throughout the lineup. With that comes the ability to strike fast and often. If either team has a rough time of it defensively, the potential is there to very quickly dig sizeable holes that cannot be overcome.   Power play Both teams can also be deadly on the power play. With Nikita Kucherov back in the lineup, Stamkos and Kucherov on opposite sides of the ice combined with enough other skill...
Preview for Canes vs. Lightning: Exiting the first round

Preview for Canes vs. Lightning: Exiting the first round

This is article is part 1 of 2 previewing the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Tampa Bay Lightning which this part focusing on the state of the Hurricanes (and to a lesser degree the Lightning) exiting the first round. Check out also part 2 which looks at the two teams head to head.   Canes versus Predators On the Hurricanes side, the first round was an arduous task. The Canes score points for ‘survive and advance’ which is all that really matters, but they claimed very few of any points that could be available for being impressive or dominant in the process. In regulation and not counting empty-net or after empty net goals, the Hurricanes won by 2 goals once, won by 1 goal once and finished the other 4 games tied. After winning six straight against the Predators in the regular season before losing the last two games with minimal significance, the Hurricanes were better by only a slim margin in the playoff series. As noted at the beginning, that is not a horrible thing. In the playoffs, the other teams are always decent or better too, and advancing is all that really matters. But at the same time, I do not think the first round version of the Carolina Hurricanes will be enough to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning if they play well in round 2. But the flipside is that the peak version of the Hurricanes from the 2020-21 season is much better, so it is just a matter of refinding that higher gear.   What worked 1) Strength down the middle Sebastian Aho had an odd...
‘What I’m watching’ — 2021 Playoffs —Gm5 Vs. Nas: Truly PIVOTAL game for Canes versus Preds

‘What I’m watching’ — 2021 Playoffs —Gm5 Vs. Nas: Truly PIVOTAL game for Canes versus Preds

After two fun even if imperfect wins at home to start the series, the Hurricanes fell twice in double overtime in Nashville. Any kind of random lucky bounce goal late in regulation or through nearly two periods of overtime hockey twice and the Canes are up 3-1 trying to make quick work of the series tonight. But instead tied at 2-2, tonight’s game is truly a pivotal one for the series. For the Hurricanes, I think the game is about a few themes: 1) Capitalizing on home ice. Though easier would have been preferred obviously, winning the series is still just about winning at home. Between the home crowd and last change to help the blue line a bit, that seems well within reason. 2) Finding a higher gear. The Hurricanes have not been horrible by any means, but at the same time they have been nowhere close to their regular season peak even in the two wins that were closer and much less dominant than the scores would indicate. Defensive acumen, the power play, and young players rising up are just a few of the areas where the team has the potential to be much better. 3) Cleaning up the mistakes. The game four loss was largely driven by self-inflicted wounds. Nashville has for long stretches struggled to generate more than pedestrian scoring chances, so if the Canes can force the Predators to earn their scoring chances, they should have the upper hand. I think those themes are front and center for game five but also for finding the higher gear needed to go much deeper in the...
‘What I’m watching’ — 2021 Playoffs — Gm3 @Nas: Trying to stay on the simple path

‘What I’m watching’ — 2021 Playoffs — Gm3 @Nas: Trying to stay on the simple path

Through two games of the first round 2021 NHL Playoff series between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Nashville Predators, it feels very much like the Canes will coast to a series win in four or five games. But NHL playoff series very regularly take a winding road with turns that seem improbable before they happen. And though the Hurricanes are off to a great start, all they have really done so far is defend home ice. Game three in Nashville sets up to be a fork in the road for how the series goes in total. If the Hurricanes win again, their 3-0 deficit is nearly insurmountable per past history, and they seem almost certain to win the series in four or maybe five games without much for playoff duress. If instead Nashville can refind what it had in winning the final two games of the regular season and claim a game three victory, they will have staved off the fast path and at least staked a claim to making it a long series. Inevitably, the Hurricanes will face some setbacks in the playoffs just because that is how it works, but in Wednesday’s game they have sitting in front of them a path that very likely pushes adversity and setbacks of significance off into the second round of the playoffs. Against that backdrop, Friday’s game three could be more important than the current series 2-0 lead suggests. My watch points follow.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Nashville Predators 1) Any effect from home cooking for Predators? Last time these two teams met for...
‘What I’m watching’ — 2021 Playoffs — Gm2 Vs. Nas: Seeking continuation

‘What I’m watching’ — 2021 Playoffs — Gm2 Vs. Nas: Seeking continuation

In a 2021 NHL Playoffs so far that has seem a high percentage of one-goal games including a bunch of a regulation ties that had to be decided in overtime, the Hurricanes scored a rare two-goal (not counting the empty-netter) win in its series opener on Monday. The 5-2 final score somewhat overstated the ease. The Canes were down early and tied entering the third period before notching a couple goals to pull away. But the results were perfect and in total the level of play was good if not better. In today’s Daily Cup of Joe my list of items for ‘keep’ and ‘improve’ heading into game two leaned strongly toward keep. Based on that, the basic focus for today’s game is mostly to stay on the same path with a few areas for potential improvement. My watch points follow.   ‘What I’m watching for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Nashville Predators 1) Extension of Monday with bit more pace The Hurricanes generally played well on Monday, but the game had a cautious pace to start and the Hurricanes did not generate a ton in transition. Showing they can win a somewhat tamped down game is a positive, but the peak version of the Hurricanes turns over pucks and attacks quickly in transition. On Wednesday especially out of the gate, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can find a higher gear and make things even more difficult on the Predators.   2) The top guns In my game recap, I called went back and forth and ultimately called Aho’s line a mixed bag. Teravainen/Aho/Svechnikov tallied...