Note that today’s game is another early 5pm start.
After a downright impressive 4-0 win over the Lightning in the first of four games, the Hurricanes fell to a Tampa Bay team that rebounded for a 4-2 win. To the Hurricanes credit, the team survived a slow start and scratched and clawed to hang around, but in the end the Lightning were the better team and picked up a deserved 4-2 win including an empty-netter.
For me, the two biggest story lines exiting that second game are the Lightning’s ability to find a higher gear and push back and the dialed up animosity as the second game wore on.
Both of those feature in my watch points for game 3.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Tampa Bay Lightning
1) Can the Canes counterpunch
After being defeated handily in the first game, the Lightning responded by picking up the pace and aggressiveness to start the next game. The result was a pretty dominant first period by Tampa Bay despite the oddity of a scoreboard with a 1-0 Canes lead. But to their credit, Tampa Bay stayed the course and were ultimately rewarded with the win that they deserved. On Wednesday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can similarly use the loss to find a higher gear for the next game.
2) Actual punches
Another theme from the second game was the increased level of animosity, physical play and extra jawing both during play and after the whistle. I suggested on Twitter that Andrei Svechnikov and Erik Cernak were on the brink of having a bout all night. The two were the headline in terms of just constantly finding and hitting each other or taking an extra shot, but that theme was evident elsewhere too. On Wednesday, I will be watching to see how well each team manages the physical play within play for an advantage, if either becomes distracted or undisciplined and if we do in fact see a bit of old school hockey.
3) Best against best
The Hurricanes top players were outplayed by a fairly significant margin in Monday’s loss. Great goaltending early by James Reimer and some scoring heroics by Jesper Fast made the game look closer than it was. In general, the Hurricanes top players have been incredibly good in 2020-21, so I will be watching to see if they can rebound quickly in game three of the set.
4) Continuation for the youth
Jake Bean seems have to staked a claim to his ice time for the time being with significant contributions in the offensive zone and competent play defensively. Since hopping back into the lineup, he has not been part of the shuffle in. The most noticeable part of his play has been his contribution in the offensive zone where he has been making plays to generate scoring chances and collecting deserved assists for doing so. In addition, Alex Nedeljkovic will be back in net following his shutout on Monday. In Wednesday’s game, I will be watching to see if both can build upon recent success.
The puck drops in time for early dinner at 5pm on Fox Sports Carolinas with Tripp, Mike, Abby and Shane.