Through nine games the Carolina Hurricanes are a perfect 9-0-0. Two more wins would set an NHL record for wins to start a season which would be an impressive record to claim.
But standing in the way are two games against the cream of the of the crop (along with the Hurricanes) from the 2020-21 Central Division. First up on Saturday is a match up against the Florida Panthers who were the second to last team to lose this season. The Panthers are 9-0-1 and second only to the Hurricanes with a plus 19 goal differential. In the second half of October, Florida has notched impressive wins over the Islanders, Avalanche, Lightning and Bruins all by at least three goals with the only blemish being an overtime loss to the Bruins. Though the Hurricanes enter as the undefeated team, the Panthers might actually be playing better hockey than even the Hurricanes right now.
Then next up is a match up next Tuesday against the two-time defending NHL champion Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning are not firing on all cylinders yet but still enter with a respectable 5-3-2 mark and will no doubt aim to find a higher gear for the marquee match up.
To be honest, I would not be surprised by either end of the spectrum in these games.
On the one hand, the Hurricanes showed in 2020-21 with the divisional schedules that they could hold their own and even better these two strong teams. Despite entering with a perfect record, these are not games that the Hurricanes will take lightly. And with a run of a few ‘meh’ performances despite victories, maybe a bigger challenge is just what the doctor ordered to help the Hurricanes re-find a higher gear. If the Hurricanes can do that, winning two more to set the record is easily within reach.
But on the other hand, the Hurricanes play has been trending slightly downward over the past week. A heavy helping of puck luck, continued stellar play by Frederik Andersen and just finding different ways to win has maybe made the results better than the quality of late. If the Hurricanes bring some of the recent sloppiness and ‘meh’ level of play, I would not at all be surprised to see the team get drubbed once or even twice. In an odd way, that could be a good thing in the long run. In no way do I get a sense of overconfidence or complacency with the Hurricanes, but a quick reminder that it takes being at the top of your game to beat good teams could still be beneficial.
Regardless, I think the timing is great for a pair of games against other teams with Stanley Cup aspirations to see just where the Hurricanes stand entering the second month of the 2021-22 NHL season.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Do you buy my opinion that it is totally within the realm of possibilities that the Canes get a wake up call in one or both of the next two games? Or do you think the 9-0-0 record shows this team to be better than that?
2) Who has the guts to venture predictions for the two-game set in Florida?