After a fun of games seemingly against the same teams all the time, the Hurricanes will try something new in the first match up against the Florida Panthers.
Season metric math makes the game an interesting one. With Tampa Bay sitting in first place with 14 games played and Carolina and Florida tied for second only a point back having played 13 games, the game will decide who is first in the Central Division at exactly the 1/4 mark of the 56-game season (if in fact COVID does not shorten that). A win for the Hurricanes would also stake the team to a winning record against every team through the first fourth of the season.
Mini-milestones aside at the quarter point of the season, the game represents another chance to measure up against a good team. Florida enters with a 9-2-2 mark and like the Hurricanes has shown an ability to score in bunches when required to win.
On the Hurricanes side of the ledger, the game represents an odd combination of trying to continue on the current path of generating offense broadly, scoring in bunches and of course winning but at the same time trying to clean things up in terms of puck management, defense and to some degree goaltending.
My watch points follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Florida Panthers
1) More of the same offensively
With Teuvo Teravainen belatedly joining the scoring group in a big way on Monday, I do not think it is an overstatement to say that the Hurricanes are firing on all cylinders offensively. Counting the extra one in the shootout in three skills competition wins, the Hurricanes have scored four or more goals in eight of their past nine games. And the offense is coming from just about everywhere. On Wednesday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can continue the scoring surge.
2) But tighter defensively
Maybe buried a bit between the fun high-scoring wins is the fact that the Hurricanes are struggling defensively right now. The goaltending has been ‘meh’ since Petr Mrazek’s injury, and the defense and puck management has been plagued by fits of loose play. Unexpectedly, the struggles on the blue line have come from the Slavin/Hamilton pairiang that was the team’s best in 2019-20 with Hamilton especially being in the photo for too many goals against. I will be watching to see if progress can be made on the defensive front.
3) Jake Bean
In what was his first start driving by ‘coach’s decision’ not ‘injury fill in’, Jake Bean collected two assists and was steady defensively aside from one medium variety ‘oops.’ I will be watching to see if he can build on that effort and make a claim to keeping his current spot in the lineup.
The puck drops at an odd 5pm on Fox Sports Carolinas with Tripp, Mike and Shane, so be sure to set your DVR if the early dinner start time does not fit your schedule.