Chronological Blog List

‘What I’m watching’ — Gm50 Wpg: Canes aim to empty the tank versus Jets in pre-break finale

After a mostly ‘meh’, even ugly but somehow still exhilarating and productive weekend, the Hurricanes have arrived at the last game before what looks to be a much-needed break. The team garnered an OTL point on home ice against a struggling Anaheim team on Friday and followed up by grinding out a shootout win on Sunday to make for a product three out of four points despite a low volume of high-end hockey. Tuesday represents a chance to put an exclamation point on the three-game home stand before a long layoff that seems to be incredibly well timed. The Winnipeg Jets also enter the game desperate for points. The team sits below the playoff cut line by a couple points and has been sputtering of late with losses in four of their last four games including two straight losses by ugly 5-2 and 7-1 margins. Will the Jets look desperate and defeated or hungry and determined? On the Hurricanes side, can they find one good game? Or if not, can they muster another ‘just find a way’, ugly win maybe led by goaltending? My watch points follow.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Winnipeg Jets 1) James Reimer Recently, a regular theme in my game previews has been the need for a hero or two to step up, put the team on his/their back and help the team be productive even in a down stretch. James Reimer has been that timely hero. In his last three starts that coincided with the team seeming to hit a wall physically, he is 2-0-1. What is more impressive...

Rising up? — Player notes on Haydn Fleury and James Reimer

Today’s Daily Cup of Joe has notes on a couple players   Haydn Fleury With Dougie Hamilton out of the lineup, Haydn Fleury is set to receive an extended run in the lineup. The next couple months could be pivotal for Fleury’s career. Fleury is now 23 years old, in his third season at the NHL level (with AHL stints in both of the first two seasons) and has logged 113 games in the NHL. If he has a next level up, he should be making the transition from acclimating to the NHL to finding a higher gear. His second half of the season will likely determine where he slots for 2020-21. With Trevor van Riemsdyk and Joel Edmundson set to become unrestricted free agents this summer, strong play could put Fleury at #5 on the depth chart heading into the off-season and have the team only looking for a depth defenseman complement. If instead Fleury struggles down the stretch, he likely gets pegged as a #6/#7 defenseman again, and the team could add a player or two to slot above him. His play has been good in both games since Hamilton’s injury. Hopefully, that is Fleury seizing the opportunity and not just a short upswing that is part of the ups and downs of a long season. That said, I still see the same couple limitations with his game. He still has too great of a propensity to make simple plays to get the puck off his stick. No doubt there are times when chipping the puck off the boards to the neutral zone is the best play,...

Current Canes trends

Happy Martin Luther King Day! “The time is always right to do what is right.” –MLK   Today’s Daily Cup of Joe has a short list of Canes trends both positive and negative.   Positive Where it matters First and foremost, after a generally tough week and rough stretch that reaches back even farther, the Hurricanes now have a one-game winning streak and two-game point streak. The NHL season is a long one that has its ups and downs even for good hockey team. Being able to scratch out a few points to stop the bleeding and make progress points-wise despite the recent struggles could prove to be huge come April.   James Reimer James Reimer is 3-0-1 in 2020 for a four-game point streak. He has recently been the duct tape holding the team together such that it has not just exploded recently. As noted in my game recap yesterday, Reimer is 2-0-1 in his last three starts for five points in the standings despite receiving only a single goal for support in each game (not counting an empty-netter).   The blue line minus Dougie Hamilton The Hurricanes continue to struggle a bit offensively which is definitely an area where Dougie Hamilton could help, but defensively the blue line has been pretty solid in two games minus Hamilton. The breakdowns that the Hurricanes have had in the two games minus Hamilton have been more by the forwards. The sample size is tiny, but so far the blue line has been competent even if maybe light on offensive help.   Negative Scoring woes Since winning a wild 5-4 game...

Gm49 vs. NYI: James Reimer leads and Justin Williams finishes in 2-1 shootout win over the Isles

Stylistically, Sunday’s game against the New York Islanders was little different than Friday’s loss to Anaheim or a couple other recent losses. The Hurricanes struggled to generate much for good or better scoring chances, and the only goal that they scored was a random deflection off a defenseman’s stick from an odd angle for a goal that almost certainly was not finding the net otherwise. And on a couple really good chances with Brock McGinn’s goal mouth miss and a Sebastian Aho partial breakaway topping the list, the team seemed to be pressing a bit and missed. Had an unlucky bounce or even worse a Canes miscue led to a late goal against and a regulation loss like in the Columbus loss last week, this game would have been another dismal and disappointing loss that plunged the team further into despair. But the outcome plays a huge role in painting an NHL game as positive versus negative, and that painting turned out beautiful in the end despite not at all being a work of art getting there. The single biggest factor in the game was again James Reimer’s play. As I said on Twitter right after the game ended: Justin Williams will garner the headlines, but the biggest hero right now as @Canes try to gut it out has been James Reimer. Canes have scored exactly 1 goal in each of his last 3 starts (not counting empty-netter), and he has converted that to a 2-0-1 mark for 5 big points. — Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) January 20, 2020 Somewhat similar to Curtis McElhinney during the down stretch in...

‘What I’m watching’ — Gm49 Vs. NYI: Canes try to salvage week with game versus the Islanders

Very recently, the Carolina Hurricanes were in the first wild card slot with a multi-point gap above the playoff cut line and were looking to move up the Metropolitan Division standings. Fast forward to today, and the Hurricanes suddenly sit in tenth place in the Eastern Conference needing to leap frog a couple teams to move back into playoff position. More significant than the place in the standings which is more or less right at the cut line is the team’s current trajectory with three straight losses mostly in lackluster fashion. The All-Star break is now only two games away, but much better would be to stop the bleeding by winning a hockey game instead of being rescued by the schedule. Sunday’s match up pits two wounded teams against each other. As noted above, the Canes enter with three straight losses and the potential for a four-loss week with only a single consolation point. The Islanders enter with two straight regulation losses and losses in four of five games. Both teams enter the game not playing particularly well and desperately needing a win. For the Canes, I feel like it is mostly about finding a positive rhythm and finding a way. Pretty counts for nothing. Two points mean everything. The story heading into Friday’s game was the blue line minus Dougie Hamilton. By no means was the defensive play perfect, but the real issue continues to be the team’s lack of jump and ability to generate much offensively. My watch points follow.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the New York Islanders 1) Jump! Starting with...

Gm48 Vs. Ana: Canes collect consolation point in 2-1 overtime loss to Ducks as struggle continues

Against a struggling Anaheim Ducks team that has given up 18 of 22 points on the road since the beginning of December, the Hurricanes collected one of two points. Against a backup goalie with a 3.20 goals against average and against a Ducks team that has allowed 3.7 goals per game on the road since the beginning December, the Canes scored once to get to three goals in three games for the week. Needless to say, the Carolina Hurricanes are struggling right now. What started in a lackluster second half of last Saturday’s game that thankfully was converted to a win courtesy of James Reimer has snowballed since then. With two games remaining before the much-needed All-Star break, the Hurricanes need desperately to dig down before digging a hole. As I said Twitter shortly after Friday’s game ended: Will be shocked if we do not see Justin Williams on Sunday. Team needs a jolt of energy and could use more offense after scoring 3 goals in 3 games this week. #LetsGoCanes — Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) January 18, 2020 Oh how the optics for the ‘need’ for Justin Williams have changed in just a few short weeks. Coming out of the 4-0-1 road trip and riding high, the team seemed fine for leadership. Then a couple tough losses introduced a bit of adversity. But an up and down 5-2 home stand had the team riding high again. Since then three straight losses have the team sinking. The jolt of energy should be a positive, as the team tries to find a way in two final games before the break....

‘What I’m watching’ — Gm48 Vs. Ana: Canes try to dig in against Anaheim after tough Thursday

After twice coming back from down a goal and seemingly having at least a point in hand, a return of the defensive breakdowns gifted Columbus two point blank chances, two goals and a win. Far worse than the loss of the game was the loss of Dougie Hamilton to a broken leg. Details with schedule have yet to emerge, but it seems like the minimum is 8-12 weeks. But as I said on Twitter this afternoon, injuries are the norm in the NHL and good teams find a way to overcome. Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets have been literal MASH units this year with both quantity and key player injuries. Yet the Penguins sit in second place in the Metro and the Blue Jackets are right there with the Canes. Excuses count for nothing mid-April. Good teams find a way to overcome. That starts tonight with the Hurricanes back on home ice and really needing a win after an 0-2 start to the week. The opponent is an Anaheim Ducks team that has entered the draft lottery race already but enters with a win in their last game over Nashville that is a reminder that outcomes are decided on the ice not by looking at the standings. On the Canes side, this game is about finding a way to get back in the win column and simultaneously take a first positive step forward without Dougie Hamilton. My watch points follow.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Anaheim Ducks 1) The blue line Minus Dougie Hamilton, best bet is that Brind’Amour balances things...

Five positives for the Carolina Hurricanes

After a disappointing loss on Thursday, the Hurricanes are off to an 0-2 start for the week and have extended their struggles against the Metropolitan Division. Paired with the cloud of what could be bad news on Dougie Hamilton’s injury, and Canes fans will likely wake up with a bit of a negative hockey feeling on Friday. While there is some merit in those feelings, there is actually a legitimate set of positives too. That is the subject of today’s Daily Cup of Joe.   1) The standings Even with the consecutive losses, the Carolina Hurricanes still sit in the first wild card spot. The standings shows a tie with Columbus and Philadelphia, but the Canes have a game in hand which when I adjust is the equivalent of a point. And if they need it, the Canes also have the tiebreaker in hand. There is nothing for cushion, but being on the right side of the playoff cut line through 57 games is a perfectly good place to be.   2) This team still has untapped upside This team has significant upside in two forms. First, simply in terms of cleaning things up a bit defensively and taking too many penalties, this team can be better. Further, despite being in playoff position, a number of players have the potential to do more for the remainder of the season. That topic was the subject of my Daily Cup of Joe earlier this week.    3) The team is about to add another good player in Justin Williams In addition to the possible upside for existing players, the Hurricanes just...

Gm47 @Clu: Canes suffer disappointing 3-2 defeat to Columbus and maybe worse with Dougie Hamilton injury

After posting an article entitled, “Playing Brind’Amour” on Thursday morning, the coach himself verified that he is still trying to find combinations that he likes long-term. The forward lines were completely thrown in the blender for Thursday’s game with the most interesting move being Sebastian Aho to wing. And Joel Edmundson slotted back up into the #4 slot on defense after a run of Jake Gardiner mostly playing in that slot. The headlines from Thursday’s game are abysmal. The Hurricanes came back twice only to allow two goals on defensive breakdowns to lose 3-2. And to make matters potentially much worse, Dougie Hamilton left the game putting no weight on his left leg after an awkward fall after getting his skate tied up with a Blue Jackets player. Those top two bullet points will justifiably leave Canes fans feeling yucky about Thursday’s game, but in total the game was more of a mixed bag with significant positives.   Recap of the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets Columbus had the upper hand early and scored less than two minutes into the game on a blast off the rush that beat Petr Mrazek. But despite not scoring, the Hurricanes used a strong first period power play to reverse momentum and mostly road that momentum through the rest of the game. The Canes dominated the game in terms of most measures like shots, shots on goal, possession time, offensive zone time, etc. But the Canes lost two key measures. First, they had a couple of bad defensive breakdowns. And more importantly they lost on the score board. Columbus...

‘What I’m watching’ — Gm47 @Clu: Canes continue busy stretch versus Columbus

After closing out the five-game home stand strong with two wins to finish 5-2, the first road game and also first of five before the break was a dud in a 2-0 loss to the Capitals on Monday. The concern right now is that this team is out of gas about 10 days early. The Canes had nothing but James Reimer in the latter half of Saturday’s win over Los Angeles, and once down 2-0 had trouble finding a higher gear on Monday. Hopefully two days off will help because the team is now on the tracks for a quick run of four games in six days before the break arrives. Thursday’s opponent is no help either. The Canes face a Columbus team that is playing well right now and has climbed the ladder to just below the Canes in the playoff chase. The Blue Jackets have won four their last five and have points in 16 of 18 games for an impressive 12-2-4 run. On top of that, the Blue Jackets’ aggressive straight line style of play that tries to eliminate transition play has been challenging for the Canes. But more so than the opponent, this game is about the Hurricanes finding a higher gear again. Can a couple days off be enough to recharge? Is it a matter of just digging down and leveraging determination to get through four more? Can a goalie steal a win? At least based on the past two games, the team has entered the ‘just find a way’ zone that happens here and there during the course of a long 82-game NHL...

Playing Rod Brind’Amour

Suddenly, we are 46 games into the 2019-20 NHL season. Though I still feel like the Hurricanes are still a work in progress in many ways, Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour has a good amount of run time with the current group. The team is in much better position than it was at this time last season, but with the Metropolitan Division’s success, it does not appear that the Canes will be exempt from another dog fight down the stretch. And with the stretch run right around the corner, the time is now to figure out how to get the most from this group in the final 36 games. No doubt, priority one will always be to win the current game, but I also think Brind’Amour has some work to do sorting things out in the coming weeks. Below is a short list of things that I think Brind’Amour is considering right now.   Goalies James Reimer has done an admirable job in the backup role spelling Petr Mrazek regularly and being productive in the process. But as the season progresses, I have to think Brind’Amour will be watching to see if Mrazek can find a rhythm, hit a higher gear and take on a greater share of the starts just like he did in 2018-19 when the team surged up into the playoffs. By no means are we at the point, where one goalie can just run the schedule, but at the point where Mrazek gets hot (if he does), Reimer could be shifted to only playing in back-to-back sets.   Defense The big watch point on defense continues...

Carolina Hurricanes players potentially with more to give

Through 46 games, the Carolina Hurricanes have 56 points. That is good enough for the first wild card position and is a pace for 100 points at the end of the season. Unlike 2018-19 when the Hurricanes dug an early hole and need to make up for it in the second half to challenge for the playoffs, the 2019-20 Hurricanes likely just need to keep place to return to the playoffs. But despite being in pretty good position, the Carolina Hurricanes actually have a number of players with more to give. That is the subject of today’s Daily Cup of Joe.   Martin Necas To be clear, Martin Necas is having a fine rookie season. After having trouble acclimating to the NHL initially in 2018-19, his second try has been successful. Even with missing a few games due to injury, Necas is on target for a solid mid-40s for points. And shifting to wing with a bit less responsibility in terms of sorting things out defensively has enabled him to just leverage his skating ability to try to make things happen. So if he continues at his current pace, I would consider 2019-20 a successful rookie season for Necas. That said, I think he is one of the players who could have more to give in the second half. He looks increasingly comfortable with the puck on his stick which could see him on the brink of a break out as a playmaker/scoring chance generator. He has also scored a few pretty goals lately. Could he be on the brink of finding an even higher gear after building a...

An early look at the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline for the Carolina Hurricanes

Today’s Daily Cup of Joe builds on two specific items from yesterday’s random notes, so if you did not already read that, it is probably a good starting point. That article touched on two things, but in the process identified Jake Gardiner as a key player on the blue line and Erik Haula as a key player among the forward group. Aside from random injuries which are unpredictable, I think those two players more than any other could dictate what if anything the Hurricanes do between now and the February 24 trade deadline.   The financial situation for 2019-20 By signing Justin Williams to a league minimum $700,000 contract with $1.3 million in incentive-based bonuses the Hurricanes maximized the amount of salary cap potentially available to add another player. The $700,000 salary counts against the salary cap (so roughly $350,000 for half of a year), but the team has the option of counting the performance bonuses against the 2019-20 season or deferring them to next season. With the Hurricanes likely to have some spare salary cap next season that it cannot really use because it needs to be saved to re-sign Andrei Svechnikov and Dougie Hamilton the following summer, the downside of deferring the bonus cap hit to next season would something between minimal or actually nothing. As such, though the Hurricanes do not have virtually unlimited cap space available as in years past, the team should be able to squeeze in one more player at significant cost if it chooses to. Right now, CapFriendly shows the Canes having room to add $2.7 million of salary cap today. But...

Gm46 @Was: Old mistakes haunt Canes in early, lack of energy finishes them in 2-0 loss to Capitals

In round 3 in about two weeks time, the Hurricanes fell victim to old bad habits early and seemingly were limited in their ability to recover by just being out of gas. The Hurricanes took four penalties in the first period with at least three being the avoidable variety. Washington scored once but maybe equally significantly, the first period was disjointed for the Hurricanes and saw them on their heels for much of it. A pair of Alexander Ovechkin goals, one on the power play and one at even strength, staked the Capitals to an early lead that held up heading into the first intermission. The Hurricanes had the upper hand for at least the first 15 minutes of the second period but converted that to very little in terms of scoring chances. Svechnikov almost had a breakaway, and Aho whiffed on a pass to him in the slot. But in terms of actual shots through 15 minutes including three power plays, the list of best chances included only five shots from out including three from Hamilton, one from Aho and one from Gardiner. None were really screen, and none were really dangerous. Despite not even registering a shot through more than ten minutes of the period, what the Capitals did well was defend between the face-off dots. Per my first watch point in the game preview, after clearly being out of gas in the second half of Saturday’s win over Los Angeles, I think that likely also played a role in the Hurricanes inability to generate much for chances even when having the upper hand. The second period...

‘What I’m watching’ — Gm46 @Was: Canes return to the road against familiar foe in the Caps

After wrapping up a successful 5-2 home stand on Saturday, the Hurricanes return to the road with a quick turnaround against a familiar foe in the Washington Capitals. The match up will be the third meeting between the two teams in about two weeks time and is also the last regular season match up for 2019-20. The game also starts a busy stretch run of five games in nine days leading up to the layoff for the All-Star break and bye week. Despite the Canes recent success including a 2-1 regular season mark against the Capitals, the Caps are a tough match up especially on the road such that picking up two points or even one would be a great start to the busy stretch. The Capitals enter the game on a bit of a down note having lost two games in a row in regulation for only the second time this season, with a meager 4-5 mark in their past nine games and on the heels of a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of the last place Devils. It is hard to say if the Canes are lucky catching the Caps during a down streak or unlucky catching them when they should be determined/hungry for a win. I guess we will see tonight. On the Canes side, the past month or so has been a bit of a roller coaster ride, but with three straight wins, the current trajectory is upward. The burning question coming out of Saturday’s game is what the Canes will have for energy level after grinding out a win despite a lackluster effort by...
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