‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm32 Vs. Clu: Return home finds tough match up in waiting Blue Jackets

‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm32 Vs. Clu: Return home finds tough match up in waiting Blue Jackets

By no means has it been easy or pretty, but the Carolina Hurricanes return to Raleigh with a two-game winning streak in hand. Courtesy of a shootout win on Tuesday in Las Vegas and then an other side of the country overtime win in Buffalo on Friday, the Hurricanes will try to extend their winning ways. The game is a scheduling oddity on numerous fronts. First, it sees the team return from a 13-day, six-game road trip just to play a single home game before departing again. The game is also odd in the sense that it represents the fourth and final match up against the Blue Jackets despite being only game #32 of the season and prior to a single meeting with either other division foes New Jersey and Washington. I have said all season that the Blue Jackets are one of the toughest match ups stylistically for the Hurricanes in the entire NHL. They forecheck aggressively and push the game to the walls. If if they can force the Canes to the outside, the game sets up nicely for Vezina-caliber Sergei Bobrovsky to just make as many saves as needed on shots he tracks the whole way in. But despite the challenge, the Hurricanes are actually 1-0-2 through the first three games, so there is clearly hope. Here is hoping that the Hurricanes can find a burst of energy in what can be a challenging first game home after a long road trip.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Columbus Blue Jackets 1) Willingness and desire On any night, the Blue Jackets can...
‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm31 @Buf: Canes face pivotal game for road trip against the Sabres

‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm31 @Buf: Canes face pivotal game for road trip against the Sabres

By no means has it been easy, but the Carolina Hurricanes will enter the sixth and final game of a long and meandering road trip with the chance to finish up at break even with a win. Because of the minus status of the road trip thus far, the strong play by the rest of the Metropolitan Division and the beatable opponent who also played on Thursday and traveled, Friday’s game is the kind of game that the Hurricanes really need to win. ‘Must win’ for any single game in December is always an overstatement, but per today’s Daily Cup of Joe, I do think that the season slowly slips away for teams who do not capitalize on key games that are favorable match up-wise. In short, the Canes come in at 1-2-2 on the current road trip and gradually falling behind the rest of the Metropolitan Division. The Sabres enter the game ahead of only Arizona among the NHL’s 31 teams and having played and traveled last night. Per my article this morning, the game is the kind that the Hurricanes desperately need to win right now. Against that backdrop, here is ‘what I’m watching’ for tonight’s match up.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Buffalo Sabres   1) Seizing a physical advantage with pace and intensity The advantage from resting and playing a team that played and traveled the night before is not a gift that is granted but rather an advantage that must be seized. Whether things come easily or hard, the Hurricanes need to show up from the opening face-off and...
‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm30 @Veg: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again

‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm30 @Veg: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again

When the 2017-18 schedule was published, who would have figured the Vegas Golden Knights for being in a playoff spot and the Carolina Hurricanes again being toward the bottom of the NHL standings? Not I. But the Vegas Knights are currently in second place in the Pacific Division and well above the playoff cut line. Even more impressive is that the team has played mostly without starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, has used five goalies already and has played most of the season in front of Maxime Lagace who in early October was fourth on the team’s depth chart (behind Marc-Andre Fleury, Malcom Subban and Calvin Pickard who was traded to Toronto). Hailing from a city where odds and betting are the central point of the economy, the odds of Vegas making the playoffs suddenly look incredibly good and true to Las Vegas form so do a number of other interesting side bets. But Cinderella story and surprise aside, the Hurricanes have reached the point where none of it matters. Regardless of opponent, situation or anything else the team just desperately needs a win to snap the current losing streak and try to build some semblance of momentum before it is too late.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes against the Vegas Golden Knights   1) Goaltending With the expectation that Ward will get the start in the second half of the back-to-back set, Ward’s play is worth watching. He has not been stellar by any means, but at least in terms of recent play, he has been the better of Hurricanes two goalies. In his last start...
‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm29 @Ana: Canes continue western tour in Anaheim still seeking first win of trip

‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm29 @Ana: Canes continue western tour in Anaheim still seeking first win of trip

The negatives coming out of Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings were mostly related to broader circumstances and the team’s general trend. The Hurricanes pushed their win-less start to the current road trip to three games with the overtime loss. The team also missed out on the extra overtime/shootout point for the seventh time in 10 tries, leaving valuable points on the table. And with the Metropolitan Division still surging the Hurricanes lone point kept them battling the Flyers for the bottom spot in the division well below the rising pack that includes all of the other six teams in the division. But if one instead looks at Saturday’s game by itself, there are many more positives than negatives. The Hurricanes mostly righted the ship as compared to Thursday’s defense and special teams debacle. Despite not being rewarded past two-thirds of the game, the Hurricanes put forward one of their more consistent (even if not truly great) efforts in recent times. And most significantly, the team dug down and fought for the game in the third period despite being down two goals to the top team in the Western Conference on a night when their goalie seemed unbeatable. Against that context, collecting one out of two points was a good night that falls short only in making up for other recent shortcomings. But the other recent shortcomings do matter, and though Monday’s game is again just a single game, the urgency to win and then do it at least a few times more is increasing. Against that backdrop, the Hurricanes will play the first game in...
‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm28 @LA: Canes hope third time is a charm against Los Angeles Kings

‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm28 @LA: Canes hope third time is a charm against Los Angeles Kings

Saturday night’s 10pm Eastern Time start against the Los Angeles Kings marks the third game of six in the current road trip. Thus far, the big winners have been the Canes fans who are not late-nighters and therefore have not had to endure the first two games. The first game in Vancouver saw the Hurricanes unable to carry forward the extra juice that they had when they ground out a win on Saturday. Lackluster is the term that comes to mind for Tuesday’s 3-0 loss to the Canucks. The second game saw the Hurricanes have every bit of what they needed to claim a much-needed road win. The Hurricanes sprinted out to a 3-0 lead in the first period and did a decent job of making a couple big plays late in the second period to defend the lead. But when the San Jose Sharks pinned their ears back and went from broke in the third period, the Hurricanes wilted under the pressure. Implosion is the word that comes to mind for Thursday’s 5-4 overtime loss. On Saturday in Los Angeles, the Hurricanes will take a third try for a first win on the current road trip. The opponent is a good one in the Los Angeles Kings who currently sit atop the Western Conference standings and are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. But at this point in time for the Hurricanes, it is not about looking outward at the opponent. Rather, it is about looking inward to see if the team can stop the bleeding before the 2017-18 season rides off into the cold December nights. ‘What...
‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm27 @SJ: Canes take second try to successfully launch road trip against the Sharks

‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm27 @SJ: Canes take second try to successfully launch road trip against the Sharks

Stepping into familiar shoes, the Hurricanes will take to the ice on Thursday and again look to rebound. On Saturday in Raleigh, the Hurricanes ground out a spirited even if not pretty home win against the Florida Panthers. Many, including myself, thought had a different tone to it and that it had the potential to be a turning point. But Tuesday’s kick off of a six-game road trip fell flat with a 3-0 loss that continued the 2017-18 season on its path of ups and downs. Thursday night’s game in San Jose represents a second try to start producing on an all-important December road trip. Right now the Hurricanes are below the playoff cut line and chasing a large pack of teams in the Metropolitan Division who are gradually climbing above the .500 break even line that has mostly been the Hurricanes home. “Must win” for any single game in December is an overstatement, but the sense of urgency is clearly rising. Against that backdrop, here is what I will be watching for the Hurricanes 10:30pm “coffee special” against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night…   What I’m watching 1) A return of the fire from Saturday I do not think it is necessary for the Hurricanes to pick up two fighting majors to be engaged and play the right way, but I do think this team has yet to build the right level of hunger, desperation, heart or whatever else into their every-game formula. The team was different on Saturday. The fights might have been the visual, but it ran deeper. Heading into Tuesday’s game in Vancouver,...