The Canes enter action on Monday two points below the playoff cut line (adjusted for games played) and toting a four-game losing streak. The gap is small enough that it is fair to claim that the team is right in the hunt, but after a 5-0 start, the team’s 4-7-1 record is obviously problematic. The urgency to turn things around is increasing game by game.
But more than any long-term fixes, the Hurricanes just need to push through and find a way to get back into the win column to stop the bleeding. A home game against a team in the bottom half of the standings could help, but obviously Saturday’s loss to the same Senators shows that the schedule will not do the work.
My watch points follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Ottawa Senators
1) Team defense
Per my article today, arguably the biggest problem right now is the team’s struggles on defense. The volume of odd man rushes against right now is through the roof. That problem showed its ability to convert any kind of game into a loss. Last Thursday against the Rangers the Canes had the upper hand but gifted away a few grade A scoring chances on the way to losing 4-2 when they deserved much better. On Saturay, a horrid first period defensively more or less decided the game before the Canes could try to play their way into it. Regardless of effort and numerous other things, the team needs to clean things up defensively. I voted for top-loading the top 4 with ‘steady’ (Slavin, Pesce and van Riemsdyk) to try to build a base, but with only one day off, I would be surprised to see Brind’Amour make wholesale changes.
2) Leadership and heroes
Quite often a break through game like this requires a player or two or a line to find a higher gear and put the team on its back for a game or two to help get things going. Can the Hurricanes find a hero or two who can step up and help the team grind out a much-needed win and hopefully change the momentum and outlook going forward?
3) Intensity and determination
One might suggest based on recent results that the team just cannot find the compete level and intensity necessary to play a brand of hockey closer to what worked for the second half of the 2018-19 season. But the Rangers game only four days ago suggests otherwise. The team does have the capability to dictate play with a skating, aggressive style of play. Can they find that gear again on Monday and ride it to a much-needed win?
The puck drops at 7:07pm at PNC Arena.