After another long offseason that has become all too common in these parts, the Carolina Hurricanes will take to the ice at PNC Arena for the 2018-19 season opener against the New York Islanders.
With a new coach, five rookie forwards in the lineup and ten new players in total, to call the path ahead uncertain seems fair. But at the same time, the volume of promising young talent combined with the coaching change cannot help fuel opening day optimism.
Earlier this week, I offered an assessment of the team’s offseason in terms of improving upon the team that ended the 2017-18 season. But with so many changes, the real assessment of that begins when we see this team in action which starts tonight.
Adam Gold from 99.9 The Fan reports the forward lines and defense combinations from the morning skate as follows:
Here’s how the @NHLCanes will line up for the home opener against the Islanders…
— Adam Gold (@AGoldFan) October 4, 2018
With no further ado, here are my watch points for tonight’s season opener.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the New York Islanders
1) Extension of pace, pressure and intensity from the forward group
Over the course of the team’s strong 5-0-1 preseason, the single biggest driving force in my opinion was the pace, pressure and intensity from the forward group. The forwards were consistently aggressive on the forecheck and hounding the puck in all three zones. The result was that the ice was often tilted into the offensive zone, and the volume of pressure on the defense and goalies was modest. With real hockey and full NHL-level competition, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can carry this strong foundational part of their preseason into the regular season.
2) Calm and confidence in goal
It is no secret that I consider the Hurricanes goaltending to be a bit of a wildcard just as it has been for multiple years now. Both Petr Mrazek and Scott Darling were solid in preseason playing behind a team that in total gave them a reasonable workload in terms of both volume and quality of chances. With Scott Darling on the shelf for a few weeks with a hamstring injury, Petr Mrazek will have the opportunity to seize the reins and never look back. More so than playing lights out, I think Thursday’s game will set an important tone for just offering a steadiness that enables a shell-shocked group of skaters to just play their game and not try too hard to overcompensate for issues in net. So on Thursday, I will be watching Mrazek closely hoping to see a soundness and steadiness.
3) Leaders leading
As noted above, the forward part of the roster is incredibly young and light on NHL experience. That group of players will inevitably have its moments because of their talent but also their mistakes and lulls because of their age and lack of experience. For this team to be good early, the leaders will need to lead. Jordan Staal and Justin Williams (with Warren Foegele) must be solid in their match up role. Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen (with Micheal Ferland) must drive the offense. And the defense which is rookie free must be the strength of the team. If those three veteran-led foundations are not strong, the situation will be a challenging on.
4) The power play
The power play was lights out in preseason. With NHLers in and out of lineups on both sides, it is hard to gauge how good of a read preseason is heading into the season. But good always beats bad even in preseason and legitimately offers reason for hopefulness. So in Thursday’s game, I will be watching for signs that the power play is in fact on track to be a strength in 2018-19.
The puck drops at 7:07pm at PNC Arena after a beautiful day for tailgating.
Canes hockey is back y’all!!!!