On Thursday night in Arizona, the Carolina Hurricanes picked up a much-needed to continue the roller coaster ride of up and downs recently. In four games since the All-Star Break, the Hurricanes have twice posted poor efforts for losses but then been able to rebound and win the next game. Per my Daily Cup of Joe for Thursday, I think earning a playoff berth will require finding more consistency.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe takes a shot at identifying potential positive building blocks that could be used to build a more consistent brand of hockey.
Positive building blocks
The ability to cut losing streaks short
In the last 45 games of the 2018-19 season starting with a New Year’s Even win, the Hurricanes lost consecutive games in regulation only twice. Despite the team’s ups and downs, the Canes have posted two nice bounce back wins in two tries since the All-Star break. At some point, the team needs to string together more than one win, but the bounce back ability is a positive.
Maybe partly because Brind’Amour has been hesitant to give him the reigns to see if he can run a bit, it could be easy to miss how well James Reimer is playing right now. Since the beginning of January, he has collected at least a point in every start but still somehow has only started six of 14 games in that time frame. But my hunch (which admittedly has mostly been wrong so far in this regard) is that Brind’Amour will go back to Reimer on Saturday. Though nothing is ever certain with goaltending, the potential seems to be there for Reimer to give this team a boost when it needs it.
Trevor van Riemsdyk as a top 4 defenseman?
The sample size is incredibly tiny with a bit of time on Tuesday and then an impressive full game on Thursday, but after a slow start to the season following shoulder surgery, might Trevor van Riemsdyk be ready to take on a bigger role after for a long time being a steady third pairing defenseman? In my opinion, the core of the Canes success in 2018-19 was the solid play of the blue line. That has proven to be elusive in 2019-20 and became an even bigger question mark when Dougie Hamilton was felled by injury. The Canes desperately need two solid top 4 defensemen past Slavin and Pesce. If van Riemsdyk can be steady in a #4 slot, the team becomes sounder defensively. It will also be interesting to see if Don Waddell goes outside the organization to add help on the blue line as I suggested awhile back.
A scoring surge by top players
Andrei Svechnikov scored on an individual effort versus St. Louis while still playing on Staal’s line. He had a huge three-point night with two goals as the team’s best player on Thursday. Might be hitting a higher gear at the right time? Sebastian Aho has five goals and two assists in four games since the break. Similarly, might he be ready to put the team on his back offensively for a bit? Scoring in bunches from the top line is a great starting point for winning hockey games.
Other than the hoopla around the announcement of his return and his shootout heroics, Justin Williams has mostly been in the background since his return. But one can bet that he is playing a significant role in the locker room as the team again finds itself playing do or die type of hockey in February. Another related addition is the fact that many more of the players on this 2019-20 team have been through this challenge and emerged successfully in the playoffs.
Improved special teams
Both units have sputtered a bit of late, but in general the Hurricanes special teams have improved and overall been a strength in 2019-20. The penalty kill needs to readjust to opponents adjusting in that right now teams are capitalizing on the Canes propensity to pressure by swarming the puck in small spaces. Both St. Louis and Arizona were able to neutralize this by spacing the ice as wide as possible, moving the puck and having a low forward with easy access to the crease area. The result has been the Canes getting a bit focused and a couple passes finding an unmarked forward at the crease. But again, the Canes special teams have generally been a strength, so this should just be a matter of spending a bit of time with video to rectify a short-term issue.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What things would you identify as key building blocks for building a more consistent winner?
2) Of the building blocks that I listed, which do you think are most significant?