‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm48 @Edm: Canes seek to salvage something from tough week versus the Oilers

‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm48 @Edm: Canes seek to salvage something from tough week versus the Oilers

After consecutive disappointing efforts and results, the Hurricanes head west to try to salvage something from a tough week and rebound during a three-game road trip before an extended layoff for the NHL All-Star break and the team’s bye week. The Hurricanes have recent experience with this situation. Twice in late December, the Hurricanes entered a Sunday game winless heading into it. In both cases, the Hurricanes pulled out a win to salvage something from a negative week. With the distance below the last playoff spot back at seven points (adjusted for games played), the team desperately needs a win to try to stop the bleeding before playoff hopes die. The game is an interesting match up schedule-wise in that the Oilers are playing the second half of a back-to-back, and the Hurricanes are playing their first game after the long trip out West. But more than scheduling, the opponent or anything else, the Hurricanes need to demonstrate that they are still engaged after what was one of the team’s worst outings this season. My watch points for the first of three #CanesAfterDark games follow.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Edmonton Oilers 1) A response and a pulse The Hurricanes were lifeless in Friday’s loss. The team failed to start on time and really never mustered much of a push back once they fell behind. After a similarly ‘meh’ effort in a loss on Tuesday and with a deficit still to be made up, the effort and level of play was both inexcusable and inexplainable. So on Sunday I will be watching to see...
‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm47 Vs. Ott: Canes try to regain the force versus the Senators

‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm47 Vs. Ott: Canes try to regain the force versus the Senators

After a spectacular run of seven wins in eight games with even the loss being an admirable effort, the Hurricanes fell flat for the first time in 2019 with a lackluster effort and loss to the Rangers on Tuesday. On the one hand, the team was not just going to storm through the rest of schedule without losing. But on the other hand, the abysmal December still has the team teetering on the edge of playoff extinction and unable to absorb another losing streak. So a home game against an Ottawa Senators team that sits at the bottom of the Atlantic Division standings is well-timed. The game is definitely one that the Hurricanes should win and really must win. But in the NHL there are no guarantees and games like this can prove to be a trap. On the Canes side, there a couple key developments since the Hurricanes left the ice in New York on Tuesday. Most notable is Thursday’s trade that sent Victor Rask to Minnesota for forward Nino Niederreiter. Also of significance is injury news at the goalie position. Curtis McElhinney is out with a lower body injury. That development has Alex Nedeljkovic recalled theoretically to be the backup. But in addition, Petr Mrazek was part of a crease crash collision in practice. Check in with the team’s preview to see if Mrazek is good to go or if Nedeljkovic could be pressed into action for his first NHL start. For a bit of extra fun, the game is the regular rendition of Star Wars night which makes for some great photo ops and other fun....
‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm46 @NYR: Canes aim to continue run in tough building versus the Rangers

‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm46 @NYR: Canes aim to continue run in tough building versus the Rangers

After storming through a generally soft patch of schedule for a 4-0 mark two weeks ago and then fighting through a gauntlet of tough opponents for a 3-1 record last week, this week sees the Hurricanes with a lighter three-game schedule and more middle of the road match ups. The week kicks off at Madison Square Garden against a New York Rangers team that seems to be in an odd in between state having traded off a few veterans like a rebuilding team might do but still being led by an elite veteran goalie and a group that includes a good chunk of the old guard. Regardless of the state of the Rangers who enter with an 18-20-7 mark, Madison Square Garden has always been a tough building for the Canes. Here is hoping that times are changing in that regard. On the Hurricanes side of the puck, the key is not to exhale or become overconfident. Many things have gone right over the recent run. Last week the hockey gods tossed in a bunch of bonuses with two opposing goals disallowed after replays and some crazy series of own goals or deflections where the puck found the net after going off an opposing defenseman. On the ‘earned’ side of the ledger, the top line hit a scoring burst, the team is suddenly four lines deep and the defense and goaltending has continued to be solid. But at the core of the second half of the positive run beating good teams has been the team’s consistent level of compete across the entire roster and 60 minutes. Critical is not...
‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm45 Vs. Nas: Canes aim to close out strong week with a win over the Predators

‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm45 Vs. Nas: Canes aim to close out strong week with a win over the Predators

Even with a heartbreaking loss to the Lightning mixed in, the ball is on the tee for the Hurricanes to have a second consecutive positive week if they can win on Sunday. A win makes for a solid 3-1 mark whereas a loss sees four more games come off the schedule without any gains. Such is the pressure on the Hurricanes trying to make up for a tough December. The opponent features another reunion with Peter Laviolette and the Nashville Predators in town. Nashville who leads the Central Division represents another challenge in a week of tough competition. From the Hurricanes side, the key is not to exhale or get comfortable. Even in the loss to the Lightning, the Hurricanes have been consistent with their compete level. More of the same will be required to beat a good Predators team. The game is also another afternoon start (12:30pm) which should be reasonably familiar to the Hurricanes who will be playing their fifth afternoon game. My watch points for Sunday afternoon are:   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Nashville Predators 1) More of the same balance and compete level For me, the two key differences that stand out as changes/improvements for the team’s current upswing are the team’s ability to compete evenly for nearly all of 60 minutes each game and the sudden four-line balance. Especially playing their third game in less than four days, I will be watching to see if the Canes can again dial up 60 minutes of full on compete and if Brind’Amour can again roll four lines throughout to keep everyone...
‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm44 Vs. Buf: Canes host Sabres in Jeff Skinner’s return

‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm44 Vs. Buf: Canes host Sabres in Jeff Skinner’s return

After a solid effort but disappointing result in Thursday’s 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Hurricanes are right back at it on Friday at PNC Arena against the Buffalo Sabres. The game features a perfect storm of entertainment. The game is an important one for a Hurricanes team that has been playing well but needs to rebound quickly from Thursday’s loss to avoid giving back too much of what has recently been gained. The game is also another of the popular ‘Homegrown’ series featuring local food, art and music. And most significantly, the game features the return of Jeff Skinner. In fitting fashion, Skinner was named the ‘last man in’ or the Atlantic Division on Friday. I say fitting because Skinner burst onto the Raleigh and broader NHL scene in a magical 2010-11 rookie season whose pinnacle was arguably the All-Star game in Raleigh that season before winning the Calder Trophy. Having now done a few of these ‘return’ games with Eric Staal and Cam Ward, I find them to be a wild mix of emotions ranging from being happy to see a former hero return but also the more conflicting part of considering the team’s recent losing past and the difficulty of letting go of favorites for the fan base. Outside of Skinner’s return, the game is a HUGE one for the Hurricanes. The five-game winning streak made up some ground on the playoff cut line, but the Hurricanes are very clearly still on the outside looking in with the need to string together more runs to climb back into it. To add a level of...
‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm43 @Tam: Canes tote 5-game winning streak into massive test against Lightning

‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm43 @Tam: Canes tote 5-game winning streak into massive test against Lightning

After a tough December, the Hurricanes used New Year’s Eve to start fresh in the new year. The result has been an impressive five-game winning streak that capitalized on friendly match ups versus the Flyers twice and the Senators but also included two wins over strong opponents in the Blue Jackets and the Islanders. On Thursday, the winning streak will be put to the test against the best in the NHL right now in a road match up against the Lightning. I view this game as an opportunity to make up for one of the too many losses in December by winning or even collecting an overtime loss point in a game that figured to be a loss on paper. From the Hurricanes side, the team mostly just needs to keep doing what it has been doing which is attacking offensively across more lines, being decent or better defensively and receiving strong netminding. If the team does that for a full 60 minutes, it has a chance despite the opponent.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Tampa Bay Lightning 1) The start and a full 60 minutes One minor flaw with the Hurricanes streak is the tendency to have lapses in terms of intensity even in overall strong efforts. The team has had a few games in which they took the foot off the pedal and let teams back in it. Though the starts have been better in the past few, the early wins also featured sluggish starts. Against a Lightning team that can strike quickly, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes...