Through nine games, the Carolina Hurricanes are 6-3. That is a perfectly find start, and the 109-point pace is easily good enough for the playoffs. And results and points in the standings trump all else. So by no means is the sky falling on the Carolina Hurricanes after nine games. But at the same time, the team has now lost three out of four with two clunkers in three tries on the West Coast. Right now, I think the team is trying to transition from just being hot to having a repeatable formula. In the early going, the Hurricanes just looked like they were better than every opponent with an ability to score in bunches and outrun some stretches of poor play.
There is nothing wrong with playing successful ‘find a way’ hockey, but in the long run having an identity, a style of play and a repeatable formula tend to have more legs. In 2018-19, that formula was a relentless forecheck that set the tone in two ways. First, hampering opponents before they could even get out of their own end significantly decreased the pressure on the defense simply by minimizing the amount of time under duress. On the offense side of the puck, the forecheck could generate quality scoring chances across all four lines and was a catalyst for balanced scoring even if maybe the Hurricanes were light on pure scorers.
Fast forward to 2019-20 and I would argue that the forecheck was not a significant factor in most of the team’s early wins. The defensemen reeling off goals and a strong power play in the early games helped the Hurricanes win more with non-forecheck-driven offense. Images from the early going were heavy on the defensemen sniping goals and the Svechnikov-Hamilton-Teravainen triangle making things happen on the power play to the tune of Erik Haula goals.
While there was changeover in personnel that could affect the team’s style of play, I think more so correcting this is just digging in and getting back to work. The Hurricanes still have 70 percent of the 2018-19 roster that very well knows the recipe for success. And because of that success lingering in the players’ very recent memory, Brind’Amour should be able to get mind share with the recent losing trend also making the players receptive to adjustments.
As fun as just scoring in bunches was, I think the next leg up for the 2019-20 Hurricanes will come from getting back to their roots establishing a consistently strong forecheck that makes the team difficult to play against in addition to cleaning up some sloppiness that has manifested itself in the Canes recent play. With five days off between games, Brind’Amour should have time to drive home the need to push with the forecheck and also work to decrease penalties and improve both special teams units.
The Holy Grail would be for the 2019-20 Hurricanes to both find a higher gear in terms of raw scoring ability and at the same time re-find the 2018-19 forecheck.
What say you Canes fans?
1) How would you rate the 2019-20 forecheck compared to the 2018-19 version? Do you think I am correct in stating that it has been much less of a factor even in the wins?
2) How significant do you think the forecheck is to the team’s success? Is it possible that simply cleaning up penalty woes, special teams and puck management is all that is needed to find the next winning run?