If you break down the front part of the Hurricanes busy stretch of road hockey, the Hurricanes got the game that they needed to get out of the first couple by winning in Toronto on Tuesday. Montreal on the road and likely with Carey Price this time around is a tough assignment.
But over the course of a long NHL season that will inevitably see peaks and valleys, when things are going well, it is important to ride the momentum and win in bunches to compensate for the next lull.
The backdrop for this game includes the match up in Raleigh only 6 days ago that saw the Hurricanes pull out an impressive 3-2 win despite not having their best night of late. The game saw the Canadiens smother the Hurricanes at times in all 3 zones through 2 periods. But despite losing the possession and shot total game, the Hurricanes were solid defensively even under duress, showed patience waiting for an opening and then capitalizing on a couple good opportunities to quickly turn the scoreboard in their favor in the third period.
The game also flips the match ups a bit on the road this time around. I wrote about the changes and challenges of the road-heavy schedule in the Daily Cup of Joe for Wednesday.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Montreal Canadiens
1) Soundness and patience
The Canadiens can be stifling at times seemingly being able to go all in on the forecheck and still clog up the neutral zone. The Hurricanes managed it well in Raleigh by maintaining patience and also being sound defensively under pressure such that even when the Canes were losing, they avoided the early-season collapses. The same will be necessary for the Hurricanes to again challenge the Canadiens.
2) Cam Ward versus Carey Price
In a matter of a couple weeks, my “goaltending” point in the ‘what I’m watching’ has gone from just hoping for something close to adequate to actually matching Ward up against Price. What a long way Ward has come in the past few weeks. Ward has a history of playing well in Montreal and enters in a groove, so it is reasonable to hope that he rises to the challenge and is a strength on Thursday night.
3) Leaders rising up
It is just a hunch, but I think to win will require at least a handful of the Hurricanes top players to rise up and make it happen to beat a good team and goalie on the road. The Hurricanes lineup has been solid from top to bottom of late, so the list of potential candidates has expanded, but I will be watching Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal, Justin Faulk and Jaccob Slavin/Brett Pesce most closely.
If you do your Thanksgiving feast for lunch, grab some leftovers and set up in front of the TV. If you do your Thanksgiving feast for dinner, make sure you start early and hustle so you can make it to the couch in time for the 7:30pm start on Fox Sports Carolinas.