‘What I’m watching’ — Gm19 @Tam: Canes seek push back in final game of set after decisive loss on Wednesday

‘What I’m watching’ — Gm19 @Tam: Canes seek push back in final game of set after decisive loss on Wednesday

After an exhilarating 1-0 overtime win with a COVID-depleted roster and then a stellar win in the first of a four-game set, things have taken a turn for the worse in the past two games against the Tampa Bay Lightning. It is still early in the season and the Hurricanes are in great position, so the amount of ‘sky is falling’ that could be triggered by another loss will be way overdone. But that said, the unique 2020-21 schedule that offered an unprecedented four-game regular season set does offer a good evaluation point on many fronts. There are many possible individual watch points including if/how the Canes top players rebound, how James Reimer looks in net, if the Hurricanes can play a more cohesive game in terms of moving the puck, etc. But at the end of the day, I my watch points boil down to do broader things:   1) A response and measure of character When the Hurricanes beat Tampa Bay soundly in the first game of the set, the Lightning responded in game 2 by dialing up the intensity and aggressiveness. The Bolts dominated the first period of that next game and were the better team throughout. Coming off a similarly decisive loss on Wednesday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can use it as motivation to find a higher gear.   2) Adjustments The story of game one was sound defensive play in both directions actually in terms of managing the puck at dangerous transition points and also mostly eliminating chances gained from flying 180 feet up the ice on the rush...
‘What I’m watching’ — Gm18 @Tam: Evenly-contested series continues in Tampa

‘What I’m watching’ — Gm18 @Tam: Evenly-contested series continues in Tampa

Note that today’s game is another early 5pm start.   After a downright impressive 4-0 win over the Lightning in the first of four games, the Hurricanes fell to a Tampa Bay team that rebounded for a 4-2 win. To the Hurricanes credit, the team survived a slow start and scratched and clawed to hang around, but in the end the Lightning were the better team and picked up a deserved 4-2 win including an empty-netter. For me, the two biggest story lines exiting that second game are the Lightning’s ability to find a higher gear and push back and the dialed up animosity as the second game wore on. Both of those feature in my watch points for game 3.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Tampa Bay Lightning 1) Can the Canes counterpunch After being defeated handily in the first game, the Lightning responded by picking up the pace and aggressiveness to start the next game. The result was a pretty dominant first period by Tampa Bay despite the oddity of a scoreboard with a 1-0 Canes lead. But to their credit, Tampa Bay stayed the course and were ultimately rewarded with the win that they deserved. On Wednesday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can similarly use the loss to find a higher gear for the next game.   2) Actual punches Another theme from the second game was the increased level of animosity, physical play and extra jawing both during play and after the whistle. I suggested on Twitter that Andrei Svechnikov and Erik Cernak were on the...
‘What I’m watching’ — Gm17 Vs. Tam: Checking if this is for real versus the Lightning

‘What I’m watching’ — Gm17 Vs. Tam: Checking if this is for real versus the Lightning

Playing the defending Stanley Cup Champions on Saturday in the first of a four-game set, the Hurricanes probably showed exactly what peak Canes hockey looks like for 2020-21. The 4-0 final was maybe inflated a little bit by an empty net goal and the fact that the the Lightning did not catch a break netting a random bounce goal or similar. But nonetheless, the game was one of the Hurricanes two best games thus far in the season. The other game that I have bookmarked as comparable is the Hurricanes similarly one-sided 4-1 win against a Dallas Stars team that entered the game playing well and sporting a perfect 4-0 mark. The Canes scoring goals in bunches has been a regular feature throughout the 2020-21 season in both better and lesser games, but what stood out in Saturday’s win over the Lightning was the suddenly sound defensive play. The Hurricanes gave up very little in terms of grade A chances and/or odd man rushes caused by puck management or defensive coverage issues. The result was the Lightning entering the offensive zone all night with no advantage or great opportunities to attack. From that came a reasonable chance to see stop pucks on nearly all Tampa Bay shot attempts. Alex Nedeljkovic was obviously very good in notching his first NHL shutout, but he was not required to be a savior or stand on his head to do so. He only needed to be solid. Meanwhile in the other direction, Tampa Bay was similarly pretty good not giving up a ton when the Hurricanes were forced to move the puck 200...
‘What I’m watching’ — Gm16 Vs. Tam: Four-game measuring stick series starts versus the Lightning

‘What I’m watching’ — Gm16 Vs. Tam: Four-game measuring stick series starts versus the Lightning

Through 15 games which is just past the quarter mark of the 2020-21 season, the race for the Central Division title is between three teams — the Florida Panthers, Tampa Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes. The situation is subject to change over the course of the long and winding NHL season, but as of right now those the three best teams. With some COVID schedule effects, the Hurricanes have played Tampa Bay and Florida only once each thus far. Both games finished regulation as ties and were decided in overtime with the Hurricanes picking up a great 1-0 win over the Lightning despite missing a bunch of players because of COVID protocol and the more recent overtime loss to the Panthers. On Saturday, the Hurricanes will start a run of four straight games against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The series will have something to say about the Central Division standings but maybe equally importantly the games could serve as a good early opportunity to measure just where the Canes are against the team that is arguably the slight favorite to emerge from the division in the playoffs. My watch points for tonight’s game follow.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Tampa Bay Lightning 1) Ability to play up to level of competition Despite the Hurricanes impressive 11-3-1 record, the team has at times played to the level of its competition but been able to emerge victorious because of the ability to score in bunches. The four-game set against the Lightning will likely not offer as much margin for error and therefor will challenge the team to...
‘What I’m watching’ — Gm14 Vs. Fla: Canes pitted against Panthers for first place at 1/4 mark

‘What I’m watching’ — Gm14 Vs. Fla: Canes pitted against Panthers for first place at 1/4 mark

After a fun of games seemingly against the same teams all the time, the Hurricanes will try something new in the first match up against the Florida Panthers. Season metric math makes the game an interesting one. With Tampa Bay sitting in first place with 14 games played and Carolina and Florida tied for second only a point back having played 13 games, the game will decide who is first in the Central Division at exactly the 1/4 mark of the 56-game season (if in fact COVID does not shorten that). A win for the Hurricanes would also stake the team to a winning record against every team through the first fourth of the season. Mini-milestones aside at the quarter point of the season, the game represents another chance to measure up against a good team. Florida enters with a 9-2-2 mark and like the Hurricanes has shown an ability to score in bunches when required to win. On the Hurricanes side of the ledger, the game represents an odd combination of trying to continue on the current path of generating offense broadly, scoring in bunches and of course winning but at the same time trying to clean things up in terms of puck management, defense and to some degree goaltending. My watch points follow.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Florida Panthers 1) More of the same offensively With Teuvo Teravainen belatedly joining the scoring group in a big way on Monday, I do not think it is an overstatement to say that the Hurricanes are firing on all cylinders offensively. Counting the extra...
‘What I’m watching’ — Gm13 Vs. Clu: Despite winning ways, Canes seek higher gear starting home stand versus Columbus

‘What I’m watching’ — Gm13 Vs. Clu: Despite winning ways, Canes seek higher gear starting home stand versus Columbus

After a successful 4-2-0 road trip, the Carolina Hurricanes return home to start a five-game home stand with an uncommon single game against the Blue Jackets. It seems odd to say it with the 4-2 road trip and 9-3-0 record overall, but the Hurricanes enter the week trying to re-find a higher level of play. The road trip featured three wins where the Canes mostly just outran sub-par efforts defensively and/or in net and another win that saw a short burst of scoring push the team to overtime and ultimately a shootout win. The 4-2 results were also swayed by the team’s newfound success in the shootout which accounted for two wins in games that were essentially played to a tie. But as I said in a recent game recap, the ability to win regularly on lesser nights is in itself a testament to how good this team can be. Against that backdrop, my watch points for tonight’s game follow.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Columbus Blue Jackets 1) The new guy – Cedric Paquette After a long drive down from Ottawa, Cedric Paquette is expected to make his Hurricanes debut on Monday night. I wrote about that trade for today’s Daily Cup of Joe.  Paquette figures to center a fourth line with Jordan Martinook and Jesper Fast on the wings. The line is maybe a bit lighter on offense and a throwback to to hockey of old with a rugged, physical group at the bottom of the forward group. The biggest thing for a line like this is seeing they can be disruptive...