After a successful 4-2-0 road trip, the Carolina Hurricanes return home to start a five-game home stand with an uncommon single game against the Blue Jackets.
It seems odd to say it with the 4-2 road trip and 9-3-0 record overall, but the Hurricanes enter the week trying to re-find a higher level of play. The road trip featured three wins where the Canes mostly just outran sub-par efforts defensively and/or in net and another win that saw a short burst of scoring push the team to overtime and ultimately a shootout win. The 4-2 results were also swayed by the team’s newfound success in the shootout which accounted for two wins in games that were essentially played to a tie.
But as I said in a recent game recap, the ability to win regularly on lesser nights is in itself a testament to how good this team can be.
Against that backdrop, my watch points for tonight’s game follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Columbus Blue Jackets
1) The new guy – Cedric Paquette
After a long drive down from Ottawa, Cedric Paquette is expected to make his Hurricanes debut on Monday night. I wrote about that trade for today’s Daily Cup of Joe.
Paquette figures to center a fourth line with Jordan Martinook and Jesper Fast on the wings. The line is maybe a bit lighter on offense and a throwback to to hockey of old with a rugged, physical group at the bottom of the forward group. The biggest thing for a line like this is seeing they can be disruptive as measured by making things difficult on the opposition when they are on the ice. That type of shift can sometimes help change momentum and tilt the ice. So in our first look at Paquette, I will be watching to see how the newly-minted fourth line looks.
2) The sort of new-ish guy – Jake Bean
Michael Smith’s regular ‘projected lineup’ shows Jake Bean drawing into the lineup in place of Haydn Fleury. Fleury has been ‘meh’ so far. More significantly, with Jake Gardiner playing his best hockey in a Hurricanes uniform, I think the opening is there to take a small step away from ‘safest possible’ for the second half of the third pairing. Bean did not stand out in his three previous games, but in many ways that is a positive. On Monday, I will be watching to see how Jake Bean fares as he continues to settle in and work past the weird off-season transition at the same time as still being very green in terms of NHL experience.
3) James Reimer
After a couple shaky starts, James Reimer seemed to take a step forward in the 5-3 win on Thursday. In my opinion, he still seemed to be struggling a bit to track the puck at least early, regularly guessing early on shots and goind down versus staying upright longer to read shots. With Mrazek practicing and Nedeljkovic 1-1 in two starts, the urgency has maybe decreased, but I will still be watching to see if Reimer can build off Thursday’s win.
4) Higher quality of play
As fun as outrunning a bunch of mistakes on the way to a high-scoring win is and as fun as FINALLY being able to win in overtime and shootouts is after years of extra hockey misery, at some point the Hurricanes need to clean things up and play a more solid brand of hockey. Only a dozen games into the season, there is not incredible time urgency, but sooner is always better than later. On Monday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can find a higher gear in terms of playing sound hockey in terms of puck management and defensive play.
The puck drops at 7:07pm on Fox Sports Carolinas with Tripp, Mike and Shane (I believe). Hoping to see Abby back on the broadcast really soon too.