‘What I’m watching’ — Rd2 Gm2 @NYI: Canes seek command of series in game 2 versus the Islanders

‘What I’m watching’ — Rd2 Gm2 @NYI: Canes seek command of series in game 2 versus the Islanders

Playoff time is a time when results trump all else. So especially for a Hurricanes team that was trying to rebound quickly after finishing up a taxing seven-game series only two days earlier, any kind of was going to be a good one in game 1 against the Islanders. In that regard, Friday’s 1-0 overtime win was a thing of beauty. In addition, with the start on the road, the Hurricanes have already had a good trip to Brooklyn. Even with a loss on Sunday, returning home tied in the series makes it a five-game series with three games in Raleigh. Sunday’s game is also playing with house money in terms of trying to seize control of the series with a 2-0 lead on the road. So in all respects, the series is incredibly good looking backwards. At a high level, what stands out most about game 1 is that the Islanders pretty much had the game they wanted but still did not collect a win. The game was a grinding, defensive affair for the most part. And to plan, the Islanders did generate some opportunistic offense from Canes puck management miscues. And at least of the opening gate, the Isles leveraged their rest for a physical advantage. But largely courtesy of Petr Mrazek, the Canes stole an important game 1 win. Looking forward, the Hurricanes will need to elevate their play as the series progresses to gain three more wins. First, the Hurricanes should find a higher gear in terms of pace but maybe not until after a return home and an extra day off. Another key to...
‘What I’m watching’ — Rd2 Gm1 @NYI: Canes kick off 2nd round against another Cinderella in the Islanders

‘What I’m watching’ — Rd2 Gm1 @NYI: Canes kick off 2nd round against another Cinderella in the Islanders

After a truly special seven-game series win over the defending champion Washington Capitals, the Hurricanes are right back on the ice only two days later. Show me someone who claims that they predicted in October that there would be a Canes versus Isles match up in round 2 of the playoffs, and I will very likely be able to show you someone who is lying. But here we are. The opponent is another Cinderella story in the New York Islanders. The Isles were left for dead last summer and chucked into the rebuilding category last summer when John Tavares left. But what I have deemed the best free agent acquisition of the summer when the team hired Head Coach Barry Trotz paid instant dividends. The combination of a young and hungry team and one of the best system/tactics coaches in the game resulted in a strong start that never really faded. Part 1 of my series preview assessed the Islanders in more depth. For those hoping that round 2 would be prettier hockey with less of a grinding, war of attrition feel to it, your wish will not likely be granted. The Islanders were the #1 team in the entire NHL in terms of goals allowed and have a below average offense ranked 22nd in scoring. The Isles beat teams by making it difficult to exit the defensive zone, taking away any speed and cohesiveness through the middle of the rink by clogging up the neutral zone and then forcing everything to the outside for low-percentage shots in the offensive zone. To score on them often requires grinding station...
‘What I’m watching’ — Rd1 Gm7 @Was: Canes and Caps play game 7 for all of the marbles

‘What I’m watching’ — Rd1 Gm7 @Was: Canes and Caps play game 7 for all of the marbles

After many years together in the Southeast Division and then a few more after moving to the Metropolitan Division together, the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals have finally paired up for a long overdue playoff series. The physical, hard-fought series has met any and all expectations heading into game 7 on Wednesday night in Washington, D.C. One team will emerge from this battle and continue the chase for the 2019 Stanley Cup, but the more significant result long-term could prove to be the fuel for a natural rivalry that had yet to really reach its potential. As for the here and now, the series has been about as even as they come. Each team is a perfect 3-0 at home, and through six games each team has scored exactly 17 goals including one empty-netter each. The game has the Hurricanes still seeking the one road win needed at a minimum to win a playoff series as a lower seed. Game 7 also has some interesting mental aspects which could come into play. At a high level, game 7 is mostly about the transition to back to Washington. Due to match ups, home energy or whatever else, the Hurricanes forecheck has not been as consistently effective on the road. That difference has a domino effect in terms of the Hurricanes ability to generate enough offense without a big contribution by the forecheck and also has opened up the transition game for the Capitals. Those changes specific to playing in Washington are featured in my watch points for game 7.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Washington...
‘What I’m watching’ — Rd1 Gm6 Vs. Was: Canes face elimination needing to demonstrate resolve and will

‘What I’m watching’ — Rd1 Gm6 Vs. Was: Canes face elimination needing to demonstrate resolve and will

After getting thumped 6-0 in a pivotal game 6 in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, the Hurricanes return home for game 6 in what is now a potential handshake game. As one might expect based on the score, Saturday’s loss was bad in many respects but what jumps out at me most are two things. First was the Hurricanes inability to match the Caps in terms of intensity and physical play and therefore their complete inability to really push back at any point in the game. Second and somewhat related, the Hurricanes forecheck is very clearly the pillar upon which the team’s success is built right now. When the forecheck is winning, the Hurricanes are capable of smothering even good teams. But when the forecheck is ineffective, the Hurricanes are suddenly very light on offensive fire power and vulnerable on defense, especially off the rush. No doubt, the Hurricanes trajectory looking back only two days is not good and suggest an end to the series on Monday night in Raleigh. But that is also very short-sighted. Game 3 was one of the Hurricanes best all season, and the Canes were far and away better than the Capitals on that night. That was exactly seven days ago. And though not as dominant, the Hurricanes grinding 2-1 win in game 4 was also a solid effort that proved they could also beat the Caps with less than a perfect night. That was a mere four days ago. So anyone who feels like this series is over based on Saturday’s debacle needs only extend his/her memory by about five days. Shorter version: For...
‘What I’m watching’ — Rd1 Gm5 @Was: Canes try to take winning show on the road versus Capitals

‘What I’m watching’ — Rd1 Gm5 @Was: Canes try to take winning show on the road versus Capitals

After two rousing home wins in an electric atmosphere at PNC Arena earlier this week, the Hurricanes return to Washington, D.C. where they will try to solve the Capitals on the road. On the one hand, the Hurricanes are right where they want to be right now. On the other hand, the Canes still need to find a way to collect a win on the road. The shift back to Washington has a couple interesting story lines. Last night, I wrote in some detail about the call up of Aleksi Saarela and the Hurricanes depleted forward ranks. The Warren Foegele hit that injured T.J. Oshie continues to be its own side story. To what degree, if any, that will impact Saturdays’ game is yet to be determined. And I think the adjustments on the road are also very interesting. I really think that Saturday is a must-win for the Capitals. If the Caps lose a third straight game and yield home ice advantage, the ball is on the tee for the Canes to ride that momentum to a series win at home on Monday. On the Hurricanes side, the easier path to a series win definitely goes through a win on Saturday, but the possibility of winning again at home and then finding a way in game 7 on the road is also a very real possibility.   The transition to the road In terms of Saturday’s match up, I see three transition points as most important. First is the Capitals trying to regain momentum after two consecutive losses. Thursday’s game was much more even, but the Hurricanes still carry...
‘What I’m watching’ — Rd1 Gm4 Vs. Was: Pivotal game sees Canes with chance to even series versus Caps

‘What I’m watching’ — Rd1 Gm4 Vs. Was: Pivotal game sees Canes with chance to even series versus Caps

The past two Daily Cup of Joe Articles include additional thoughts on the transition from game 3 to game 4. Wednesday’s Daily Cup of Joe was entitled, “Setting up game 4 of the Hurricanes versus the Capitals.” And today’s Daily Cup of Joe has “Caps vs. Canes: Hurricanes players to watch.”   Setting the stage for what is at stake Monday’s win is already in the books as a playoff classic. Nothing can change that. But in terms of playing their way back into the series, the work is only half complete. Another win at home on Thursday will pull the Hurricanes even and arguably even give them the upper hand with the momentum heading into game 5. But a loss regains momentum for the Caps and puts the Hurricanes facing a sizable hill needing to win three straight games with two in Washington. The margin between winning and losing is tiny this time of year and single games can carry the fate of how and when the season ends. Shorter version — We have another HUGE playoff hockey game at PNC Arena in Raleigh tonight.   The two biggest questions entering game 4 (1) To what degree can the Hurricanes extend their momentum into game 4? The Hurricanes were by far the better team on Monday, but things can and do change instantly in playoff hockey. The question is to what degree that will carry over to game 4. (2) How do the Capitals respond/adjust? The Capitals enter game 4 obviously needing something significantly different than game 3. Will the Caps try to dial up the physical and at...