Chronological Blog List

‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm67 Vs. Wpg: Difficult stretch of schedule continues with Jets at home

Tuesday’s game in Boston was a mixed bag. On the positive side, the Hurricanes overcame a third period deficit and picked up a point against a team that has not lost in regulation in 17 games. On the negative side, the Hurricanes blew a two-goal lead and lost a point in the process. I actually think whether Tuesday was a positive or a negative hinges on the rest of the week. If the Hurricanes lose to Winnipeg and Nashville, Tuesday could be seen as the start of a losing streak and a much-needed point that got away. If the Hurricanes are productive in the upcoming back-to-back, then I think Tuesday gets categorized as a solid road point. That determination starts with a game Friday at PNC Arena against the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets are one of the teams in the Western Conference who figure to have legitimate Stanley Cup hopes. But the Jets come into the game sputtering a bit with only a 4-5-1 mark in their past 10 games. On the Hurricanes side, the team now has points in five straight games and an 8-1-1 record in their past 10 games. With another strong opponent, the Hurricanes need to tidy up their attention to detail and rebound on special teams to keep the good and improve the bad from Tuesday’s overtime loss. My watch points follow.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Winnipeg Jets 1) Greater attention to detail Against a Boston Bruins team that is among the best in the league right now, the Hurricanes showed they could not only hang with them...

Checking the competition: Columbus Blue Jackets, Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens

In an ideal world, the Carolina Hurricanes will just keep winning at a torrid pace and ultimately win a playoff spot going away such that the first week of April is low stress preparation for the playoffs that follow. But having a decent memory, my expectations are that the road from here to the end of the season and hopefully into the playoffs will be more like a roller coaster ride. Yes, the primary factor in a playoff berth will be to what degree the Hurricanes can sustain their winning pace since the beginning of January. But with the Hurricanes facing a tough stretch of schedule, how the competition fares is likely to also play a role. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe takes a look at what is ahead for the three other teams also battling for the last three playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. (I recognize that catching the Capitals or Islanders is not impossible, but that would just be a bonus.)   Columbus Blue Jackets On Twitter on Thursday afternoon, I tweeted the following: Can next stretch of schedule kill #CBJ and boost #Canes into a sure playoff spot?. Blue Jackets have #LetsGoPens X2, then #Isles, then 2X #NHLBruins sandwiched around game versus #TakeWarning. Hate to wish bad on anyone, but we NEED playoffs. Here is hoping they stumble mightily. — Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) March 7, 2019 I really think Columbus’ season is in jeopardy right now. The Blue Jackets played and lost to Pittsburgh on Thursday and must again on Saturday play a Pens team that has had their number in big games. If...

Then and now — Jaccob Slavin, Sebastian Aho, Brett Pesce, Brock McGinn, Teuvo Teravainen and Haydn Fleury

The current Carolina Hurricanes roster saw a major personnel changeover last summer but still includes a group of young players who were with the team as rookies only a couple years ago. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe takes a ‘then and now’ look at these players and how each has grown over the past couple years.   Jaccob Slavin His game, strengths and style of play are pretty similar to his starting point as a rookie a couple years ago. But what jumps out at me with Slavin’s play is how infrequently he gets caught out of position and is beaten given how aggressive he is jumping up on the puck at the defensive blue line or in the neutral. As a rookie, he played the same way and had success with it, but he did have occasional ‘oopses’ as he adjusted to NHL speed. Fast forward to today and he ranks as one of the most aggressive defenders on the puck in the NHL yet rarely sees the puck get behind him because of it. Though he is still a defense-first defenseman, his offensive game has grown step-wise as well. He has not had as many of late, but his ability to slow the game down with the puck on his stick in his own end and find an occasional stretch pass for a breakaway was not part of his game as a rookie.   Sebastian Aho His game has grown by leaps and bounds in just two years since his rookie season, but what jumps out to me most is his gains in his straight line speed...

Rise of the Carolina Hurricanes blue line

With a somewhat disappointing but also mostly positive overtime loss in Boston on Tuesday, the Carolina Hurricanes forged another game deeper into the season still in playoff position. With only 16 games to go, the team is in territory not seen since prior to the Bill Peters era. Obviously, there are multiple contributing factors. FINALLY getting at least league average goaltending (the Hurricanes are 12th right now but have been even better than that in the second half of the season) has been a huge boost. The change in attitude with Brind’Amour and Williams leading the way should not be discounted. The significant change in the roster during the summer played a role. The addition of Nino Niederreiter has had a larger effect than I think anyone could have anticipated.   A summer restart on the blue line But when I way the various choices, I think that the single biggest factor is the emergence of a top of the league blue line. Since the emergence of Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce and the drafting of Noah Hanifin, the young blue line had been touted as the strength that would lead the team back to the playoffs. But though the potential was always there, the blue line had never quite materialized to be more than potential. Slavin and Pesce were fine as a shutdown type pairing, but neither scored much which is not ideal for a top pairing. Faulk was capable offensively but seemed to be in decline defensively. And for as much potential as Noah Hanifin had, he had yet to become more than a third pairing defenseman....

Gm66 @Bos: Canes collect point in spirited Whalers/Bruins battle to 4-3 OT loss

Carolina Hurricanes game recap For the second time this season, the Carolina Hurricanes donned Hartford Whalers jerseys in and old school match up against the Boston Bruins. And lo and behold, the game almost immediately turned into a throwback with physical play, chippiness and even some fisticuffs. The game started with decent pace and intensity anyway but was amped up when Micheal Ferland completely annihilated Marcus Johansson with a clean shoulder to shoulder check. Johansson was down on the ice and left the game favoring that shoulder. The Bruins proceeded to spend the next two shifts running around trying claim retribution. Then on his next shift Ferland fought and won against David Backes. That seemed to keep things from boiling over completely, but the physical intensity stayed near a peak level throughout the first period. In between the rough stuff, Sebastian Aho won a battle for position in front of the net against Zdeno Chara which resulted in a Calvin de Haan point shot deflecting off of Aho and then Chara and into the net. Jaccob Slavid did the heavy lifting at the other end with a spectacular period that saw him separate Brad Marchand from the puck on what seemed like breakaways. In total, the first period was spirited, physical and pretty evenly played with the Hurricanes emerging with a 1-0 lead. Out of the gate in the second period, Aho scored a more common skating and skill goal. The play started with Justin Faulk making a quick pass up to the offensive blue line where Nino Niederreiter received the puck and quickly put it on Aho’s tape...

‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm66 @Bos: Tough stretch of March schedule starts in Boston

After a couple days to recharge, the Hurricanes start an odd stretch of schedule that has a good number of off days but also sets of back-to-backs and primarily playoff caliber opponents. The remaining schedule was the subject of today’s Daily Cup of Joe. The current five-game winning streak coupled with some favorable scoreboard watching has the Hurricanes above the playoff cut line entering action on Tuesday. The Hurricanes are currently third in the Metropolitan Division and are up one point on Penguins, one point with a game in hand on the Canadiens and a big three points over Columbus. Needing to beat only one of those teams to make the playoffs, the gap is the three over Columbus. But the order of the day is simply to keep winning. Tuesday represents a good challenge in that regard against a Bruins team that is firmly in playoff position and has a massive 16-game point streak (12-0-4) coming into the game. But the Hurricanes are a good hockey team too and of late have a seemingly magical ability to just find a way to win regardless of the course to get there. The Canes will almost certainly need an effort better than Saturday’s lackluster affair in Florida on Saturday, but perhaps some of the same cape-wearing heroics will be a necessary carry over. My watch points for Tuesday’s game are here.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Boston Bruins 1) A much higher gear As much fun as the ending and related highlights were for Saturday’s win, the game in total was an absolute clunker and...

Breaking down the remaining Carolina Hurricanes schedule

With only 17 games remaining, today’s Daily Cup of Joe breaks down the rest of the Carolina Hurricanes’ 2018-19 regular season schedule.   Two weeks of recharge and road trip (5 games) Coming out of the road win at Florida on Saturday, the Hurricanes have an odd stretch of schedule with a healthy helping of off days but also two pairs of back-to-backs. The teams plays only four times in 12 days from March 3 to March 14. But the level of competition dials up. Three of the the opponents (Boston, Nashville, Winnipeg) are certain playoff teams, and the fourth (Colorado) is still in the hunt.  The stretch has three different runs of two or more off days which is odd in March. A fifth game also on the road against Columbus finishes off this stretch. After lacking energy and any kind of jump against Florida in the second half of a back-to-back and having four more back-to-back sets for 8 out of the 17 remaining games, the lighter stretch of schedule over the next two weeks could be critical to recharging for the stretch run.   Home sweet home with a bunch of four-point games (8 games) After the stretch of five out of six on the road, a long home stretch starts with the second half of a back-to-back. The Hurricanes then play four straight and seven out of eight at home. In that mix are four Metropolitan Division games including a home and home against the Capitals. There is also a game against fellow wild card contender Montreal. The first game is the second half of...

Carolina Hurricanes (simple) statistics and the Sebastian Aho effect

I started but unfortunately did not finish another stats-oriented article that has a bit more depth to it. That article will have to wait until I find time to finish writing it. Instead, today’s Daily Cup of Joe takes a quick tour of some simpler statistics.   The Sebastian Aho effect Sebastian Aho, who has 73 points in 65 games, is on pace for 92 points. That is a HUGE number in Hurricanes history. Eric Staal hit 100 in the magical 2005-06 season, but his run of good seasons in his prime were tightly in a 70 to 82-point range. The Sebastian Aho effect also has powerful reach to the players on the ice with him. Nino Niederreiter who has played almost exclusively with Aho has 18 points in 19 games for a 78-point pace. His career high is 57 points, but he has scored at a mid-40s pace otherwise throughout his career. Micheal Ferland had 11 goals in the first 24 games of the season playing primarily with Aho. After returning from a layoff due to a concussion, he has scored only 6 goals in 32 games. The first stretch represents a 38-goal pace over 82 games, whereas the second stretch is only a 15-goal pace. Justin Williams scoring change is not as pronounced, but I think many would agree that he too is thriving playing with Aho. The commonality between Niederreiter and Ferland is that both are power forwards who can skate and finish around the net. Both are exactly the type of player who most benefits from Aho’s ability to carry and distribute the puck in...

Gm65 @Fla: Un-Canes continues; team stumbles but pulls out 4-3 OT win after Petr Mrazek OT heroics

After a run of three impressive wins, Saturday night in Florida was a return to fun heroics. As I said on Twitter shortly after the game: #Canes score 2 early, proceed to lay an egg, somehow climb into overtime and then ride Petr Mrazek OT heroics to an improbable win. Roller coaster in full effect! Post is open for reader comments; recap will follow later=> https://t.co/TeDEpjjmfU #TakeWarning — Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) March 3, 2019 But the result was the same, and the fun matched any of the more impressive hockey from the last week. And with Columbus losing in the afternoon and Pittsburgh beating Montreal, the Hurricanes gained two points on two of the three teams that they are battling right now for the last couple spots. (Never mind that the top of the Metropolitan Division is also coming into range.) Hurricanes fans who check the standings on Sunday with only 17 games remaining in the 2018-19 NHL regular season will find the Hurricanes in the third playoff spot for the Metropolitan Division and now up a point on Pittsburgh and two on Columbus and Montreal (all adjusted for games played).   Game recap This game was very much like the back-to-back wins against Dallas and Edmonton a couple weeks back. The Hurricanes pounced on goalie Sam Montembeault who was making his NHL debut. First, Brock McGinn swiped a puck from a Florida defenseman and quickly squeaked it through a short side opening for a soft goal. Then Lucas Wallmark fed Greg McKegg in the slot for a bang-bang attempt and a 2-0 Hurricanes lead only 2:05 into...

‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm65 @Fla: Canes ride 4-game winning streak into Florida

On the heels of another solid win over a good hockey team at PNC Arena on Friday night, the Carolina Hurricanes are right back on the ice Saturday night against the Florida Panthers. The game is the first of four straight sets of back-to-back games (so roughly 40 percent of the last quarter of the season) on the weekend in March, so being able to play well, travel, rebound quickly and do it again will be important down the stretch. The opponent is a Florida Panthers team that is on the outside looking on the playoff chase. But right now, the focus for the Hurricanes is simply to keep doing what they have been doing for some time now. My watch points for Saturday’s game follow.   ‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Florida Panthers 1) The battle of Finland’s best In total, Florida has struggled to find a higher gear this year, but like many teams that does not mean that they are without talent. The Panthers top line led by Finnish center Aleksander Barkov is a very good one. In the teams’ last match up Barkov and company burst out for three quick goals in the second period when the Hurricanes ever so briefly paused after building a two-goal lead. Aho’s line also chimed in on the score sheet that game courtesy of Justin Williams’ face and a power play game-winner late. In that game, Florida chose to play best against best much of the night. If that happens again on Saturday, who wins between Aho and Barkov could well determine who wins the...

Gm64 Vs. StL: Canes post solid 5-2 win over Blues to maintain playoff position

Another day. Another home Canes win. And yet another fun storm surge at PNC Arena. Life is incredibly good as a Carolina Hurricanes hockey fan right now. After drubbing a downtrodden Los Angeles Kings team at home on Tuesday, the Hurricanes faced a tougher test against a St. Louis Blues team that like the Hurricanes has been playing incredibly well since the beginning of the new year.   Game recap The game started with a plodding pace with both teams playing a steady but seemingly conservative style of play. Early on, shot totals piled up slowly and most of the chances were grade B or lower. St. Louis struck first on the scoreboard on sort of an odd transition point. Brock McGinn challenged and nearly won the puck at the defensive blue line. But when he failed to get the puck and fell down in the process, the Blues defenseman had a gap to step into with the puck while the Hurricanes tried to re-sort things out defensively. The result was a shot from the top of the face-off circle and a tip in front for a St. Louis goal. But the Hurricanes struck back quickly when Brett Pesce and Justin Williams played catch at the top of the face-off circle before Williams fired a laser into the far side top corner to tie the game at 1-1. The Hurricanes would score again when Faulk followed Williams’ lead and fired glove high on goalie Jake Allen as he dropped a bit early. The result was another goal and a 2-1 lead for the Hurricanes which is how the first...

Quick hitters on blue line injuries and the upcoming schedule

Today’s Daily Cup of Joe offers a set of quick hitters.   1) Jake Bean versus Haydn Fleury In case anyone missed it, both Calvin de Haan and Justin Faulk are day to day with injuries sustained in Tuesday’s game against the Kings. Haydn Fleury and Jake Bean were recalled from Charlotte and will be with the team on Friday. If the Hurricanes need only one defensman for Friday, I lean toward Haydn Fleury. While I think that Bean’s upside could be higher especially longer-term, this decision is made not based on who has the highest ceiling but rather who has the highest floor. When you drop a young player into the lineup this time of year, you are not looking for him to win a game. Rather, you are just looking for him to be sound and steady such that the higher-end players can drive a win. With significantly more NHL experience, I think Fleury is the safer play.   2) More minutes for the remaining top 4 The Hurricanes had two days off before this game and after playing a back-to-back on Saturday again has a couple days off. With the looming Saturday follow up, Brind’Amour cannot complete empty the tank, but if the game is close in its second half, I would fully expect Brind’Amour to lean really hard on the defensemen. If the game is close, I could see a couple of the defensemen being up in the 25-minute range.   3) Friday/Saturday combinations Speaking of the Friday/Saturday back-to -back set, the Hurricanes have back-to-back set in either of the five weekends in March. Seeing...

‘What I’m Watching’ — Gm64 Vs. StL: Canes face rising Blues aiming to keep pace in playoff chase

On Thursday night, Columbus squeaked out an overtime win against the Flyers. The win boosted them back to one point ahead of Carolina and Pittsburgh with each team having played the same 63 games. From here out, it is pretty much a white knuckler from game to game. But the Hurricanes are handling it well right now. The team finished up February with an impressive 10-3 mark and current possesses a three-game winning streak. Right now, the Canes are riding momentum that saw them win a week or so ago almost exclusively because of goaltending. But the two most recent wins were much more impressive and well-rounded. First, the Hurricanes beat a good Dallas Stars team on the road. Then, the Hurricanes dismantled a beleaguered Los Angeles Kings team. With completely different challenges, the Hurricanes met the challenge in both cases. Timing for dialing up the quality level of all-around play is well-timed with a difficult March schedule kicking off on Friday night. The first in a tough month of games is a St. Louis Blues team that is surging right now. The team that seemed on the brink of blowing things up in the fall have righted the ship and is playing well right now. The Blues are only 2-2 in their last four games but prior to that had won 11 straight. The game is the first of many against good teams, and the Hurricanes could be short on the blue line (see watch points below).   ‘What I’m watching’ style preview for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the St. Louis Blues 1) Injuries on the blue line...

Handicapping the Carolina Hurricanes’ competition

Who else was thrilled to wake up on Wednesday morning and see the Hurricanes not in a wild card slot but instead up to third place in the Metropolitan Division? The standings can and will change quickly with even a short winning or losing streak given how close the teams are, but that is still a great position to be in after game #63. In that vein, today’s Daily Cup of Joe takes a look at the situation and competition for winning a playoff berth.   The situation/standings In the Atlantic Division, the Lightning, Maple Leafs and Bruins have built a fairly sizable gap over the next group which is led by the Canadiens. In addition, the Sabres are still on the fringe of the playoff chase but are now 7-9 points back and trending in the wrong direction. Certainly the Sabres could climb back into it, but for right now I am counting only the Canadiens among the teams competing for the wild card slots. In the Metropolitan Division, the gap is smaller. The Islanders and Capitals are the top tier right now though they are only up 4-5 points which makes them vulnerable to being caught by the pack with any losing streak. But for right now, I will count them as the top tier for the division. Below them, the Hurricanes, Blue Jackets and Penguins are in the thick of the playoff hunt. Below them, the Flyers are 6-7 points back. At least for right now, I am going to group the Flyers with the Sabres as a team that is not quite in the hunt...

Teuvo Teravainen as Ray Whitney or Cory Stillman?

The first star in Tuesday’s 6-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings was Teuvo Teravainen. Despite the fact that numerous Canes players had strong games in the lopsided win, Teravainen was easily the best playing Tuesday’s win. First, he read a pass and intercepted it. The result was Aho’s breakaway goal. Then in the second period, Teravainen put the puck in Staal’s wheelhouse three times. The result for the third of those three plays was Ferland’s goal deflecting Staal’s shot. Teravainen added another assist and also a goal of his own. Teravainen was the offensive catalyst for the team’s best line on the night. As much as any other current trend or development, Teravainen’s success playing with Staal and Ferland caught my attention. With the goaltending and defense playing so well right, the potential exists for the Hurricanes to achieve success by grinding out tight-checking 2-1 type games. But the Holy Grail for this team if it can simultaneously keep the defensive strength but at same time dial up scoring. In that regard, Teravainen is in my opinion the single most important player. The reason is because the team and its scoring balance could greatly benefit from Teravainen becoming the catalyst/driver for a scoring line.   Hurricanes history Watching Teravainen distribute the puck from the right side of the ice brought back fond Canes memories. On the Stanley Cup Championship team roster were Ray Whitney and Cory Stillman. Stillman played wing but was the primary play maker/puck distributor for a scoring line that featured two power forward forwards. Stillman’s role was to put the puck on the sticks of...
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