The Canes enter NHL action on Tuesday with a mixed bag recently. The positive spin is that the team just won three out of four for a home stand. The negative spin is that the team lost its last game at home to a beatable New Jersey Devils squad.
That brings two themes to a Tuesday match up against the Philadephia Flyers.
First, the game represents a chance to cut short a losing streak at one. Being able to rebound quickly like that was integral to the team’s successful push up into the playoffs last winter and spring. The team has been decent at doing similar so far in 2019-20. After a 5-0 start the Hurricanes are a treading water 4-4-1. But over the course of a long NHL season, being able to tread water and avoid losing streaks is everything.
The other theme is capitalizing on a friendly schedule in November. After a 8-3-1 October, the Hurricanes are 1-1 to start November. Tuesday represents an important chance to go positive and begin earning points above .500 for November.
The opponent is a Flyers team that is a very respectable 6-5-2. The team seems to be at a crossroads with a decent core of veterans but maybe waiting on young goalie Carter Hart to emerge. Ideal would be for the Hurricanes to play a part in ushering them toward ‘next year’ if possible.
My watch points follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Philadelphia Flyers
1) A better effort defensively
A regular Achilles’ heel during the bad of the 4-4-1 stretch has been lack of attention to detail defensively. The issue has pretty much been across the roster including the forwards and the defense, but I specifically noted Slavin/Hamilton’s struggles in recent games. Hidden behind continued offensive production has been more than their fair share of issues defensively. The duo has been on the ice for six of eight goals against over the past two games. On Tuesday, I will be watching Slavin/Hamilton and the rest of the team to see if they can dial up the focus defensively.
2) Andrei Svechnikov and Sebastian Aho
Since being united, the top line featuring two young stars has been incredibly productive. Interesting is that I really do not think we have so much seen a chemistry effect yet. It is more than both players have capitalized on individual opportunities. I will be watching to see if each player can continue his hot streak individually but equally so if they can gain a multiplier effect yet.
3) Seeking an identity
If I had to characterize the Canes wins so far, I would say that in most of those games, the Hurricanes were just better than the opponent especially in the area of finishing/scoring. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. After roughly a decade of winning most statistical battles but losing too much on the scoreboard having a team that can just win by being good at hockey is incredibly refreshing. That said, I think the higher gear and longer-term success for this team still likely rests with developing more of an identity and formula that helps the team win at a decent clip on nights when the goals do not flow. That identity likely rests we re-establishing the forecheck that has had its moments but been less of a consistent going concern in the early going of the 2019-20 season. I will be watching for signs of more consistent 60-minute efforts in this regard.
The puck drops at 7pm on Fox Sports Carolinas with John, Tripp and Abby Labar doing a great job filling in for Mike.