After following up a good win on Friday with a loss on Sunday, the Hurricanes three-game home stand is at 1-1 entering Tuesday’s finale against the Boston Bruins. With a win, the Hurricanes meet the two-thirds pace required at home for my playoff hockey formula. With a regulation loss, the stretch is a disappointing 1-2. The series of these small situations is what ultimately defines the long NHL season.
The opponent is a tough one in the Boston Bruins. The Bruins come in at 6-3-2 and in the thick of a heated race in the Atlantic Division. The game looks a little like the Colorado Avalanche match up in that the Bruins have one of the juggernaut first lines in the league in Marchand/Bergeron/Pastrnak. Against Colorado MacKinnon’s won the day, and the Avalanche won the game.
My watch points for today’s game follow…
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Boston Bruins
1) Marchand/Bergeron/Pastrnak versus Foegele/Staal/Williams
As noted above, the Hurricanes did not fare well when faced against a similarly powerful line against the Avalanche and in general have struggled against teams with high-end scoring in losing to the Lightning and Jets. (San Jose would also qualify, and the Hurricanes did win that one.) Is it possible that the Hurricanes match up better against teams that are more balanced and less top-heavy and struggle against teams with top-end talent? That is worth watching with a division schedule featuring a bunch of games against Pittsburgh, Washington and Philadelphia that lies ahead. So on Tuesday I will be watching to see if Staal’s line can slow Bergeron’s and also to see if Aho’s line can offset them scoring-wise.
2) Scott Darling?
One had to figure he might jump right in and start on Friday. Then when that did not happen, he seemed certain to start Sunday. Now here we are with Scott Darling absolutely certain to make his 2018-19 debut on Tuesday. In today’s Daily Cup of Joe entitled “Five hard truths” I asserted that there was no way around sub-par goaltending in terms of 2018-19 success. Petr Mrazek has been okay but not great thus far. Darling arguably has the highest upside of the two but is probably also the most uncertain after his rough 2017-18 campaign. Needless to say, each and every time Darling mans the net near-term, he will make the watch list.
3) Special teams
After a special teams led win in Detroit early last week, the team was right back to its struggles and giving up points in the standings because of it. Monday’s outbreak in Detroit boosted the Hurricanes off of dead last for both power play and penalty kill proficiency, but a week later, the team is back at 30th for each. Until they improve, special teams will continue to be an every game watch item.
4) Playmaking from the bottom centers
Through 11 games, the Hurricanes have registered exactly one assist from their bottom two centers. Sure there is an element of the wings just not getting it done either, but offense starts with the center position. The latest report on Victor Rask makes his return sound like December which is encouraging, but that still leaves four to six weeks before he possibly helps. With a couple games to settle in, I will be watching to see if Nicolas Roy can make things happen and also to see if Lucas Wallmark can find a higher gear in terms of generating some offense for his line mates.
The puck drops at 7:07pm at PNC Arena.