An interesting starting point is figuring out what is acceptable points-wise for the upcoming stretch of road-heavy hockey. As of writing this, the survey in the Monday Coffee Shop article has the Hurricanes seeking a 5-4 or 6-3 mark in the nine games leading up to a return home for more than a single game. For me, 5-4 would do it. By no means is it lights out, and it could even see the team slip another point or two off the playoff pace, but I think it’s good enough for now.
So what does it take to accomplish 5-4 or better in the next nine games? In order of importance, I say these things:
1) The goaltending needs to find consistency
The netminders do not necessarily need to stand on their heads and steal games. But a hallmark of collecting enough points on the road is being sound defensively and in net such that most games are close. That benefits from the NHL’s unique scoring system that awards points for many losses and also can see a late bounce or two tilt a close game favorably. When the goal is to play .500 hockey or slightly better that is enough.
The problem is that the Hurricanes goalies have been anything but sound and consistent recently, so the goal is for a change in direction.
2) Same for the blue line
Hidden somewhat behind a few horrendous goalie highlights is the fact that the defense too was really shaky during the recent downturn. Break downs were plentiful and the volume of odd man rushes and other grade A chances resulting from mistakes by the defenseman was way too high.
Again, the best way to collect points on the road it to play sound and solid hockey that nets some overtimes that least collect a respectable OTL point and offer the chance to get another too. The blue line which was mostly better in Saturday’s win needs to regain its footing and be better defensively.
3) Multiple sources of offense
The Hurricanes most recent winning streak was fueled offensively by the TSA line scoring in bunches. Ideal for road success would be if the Hurricanes can get a few things clicking offensively and be more balanced. Jeff Skinner scored for the first time in nine games on Saturday, so hopefully that will ignite his next goal-scoring binge. The power has looked better and been reasonably productive of late, so there is greater hope on that front. And hopefully the TSA line can continue its scoring ways. Regardless of who it is, the team needs to get a few things clicking at the same time offensively.
4) A continuation of the compete and physical engagement level from Saturday
On Saturday when the hockey gods did not justly reward the Hurricanes for a dominant first period, the team just became more determined, forged forward and ultimately netted a win. The biggest question I have heading into Tuesday’s game is whether the team can convert that level of determination into an every game thing or if it is still reserved for the intermittent desperate game every few weeks.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Do you agree with these needs to be successful on the road?
2) Are there any that you would add?