After playing 9 of the first 12 games on the road, the Hurricanes return home for a run of 5 straight games at home. The home part is obviously favorable. The Hurricanes side of the slate is nicely spaced out with no back-to-back games, but the Canes fortuitously catch 3 of the 5 opponents after playing and traveling the night before. The downside of the run is that the Hurricanes will see teams primarily from the top echelon of the league.
It is far too early to pull out the ‘do or die’ saying, but I actually think what we see in the next 5 games could be an indicator of how the 2016-17 season will end up.
This is the road that the 2015-16 season died on
First off, this is exactly where the 2015-16 season went awry. The Canes struggled but survived the usual road-heavy October and emerged from that month at a treading water 5-6-0 only to fall flat on their faces going 3-6-4 in November. The team then spent 3 months playing great hockey but sadly only proving that it is nearly impossible to reemerge from a deep hole dug in October and November.
Road run is indicator of Peters’ ability to pull levers on home ice to win
The run of 5 consecutive home games will also provide a measure of how well Peters can use match ups and strategies to boost his team’s chances at home. A key ingredient of the strong winter run in 2015-16 was Peters’ ability to dictate games with Jordan Staal’s line at home. Back together again, Nordstrom/Staal/Nestrasil played well on Tuesday. Could they provide the centerpiece that Peters can derive match up-driven success at home again in 2016-17? I feel like it is going to take some maneuvering by Peters to be part of the boost that this team needs to add about 10 points to the 86 that it earned last season.
Competition will measure how this team stacks up
The 5 games are a tough group with perennial playoff team Anaheim first, followed by last season’s President’s Trophy winner Washington, followed by Stanley Cup finalist San Jose, followed by red hot Montreal (11-1-1), before wrapping up with Winnipeg. The series of games will show if the Hurricanes can rise to the occasion against higher-level competition or if they are easy fodder for these teams. If the Canes cannot compete with these teams, the task of collecting enough points to make the playoffs becomes challenging.