If you missed the game and/or my recap for Saturday’s fun win over the Washington Capitals, you can find that HERE.
For those preferring to look forward, Canes 2019-20 hockey is coming fast and furious right now with the third game in four days scheduled for 5pm at PNC Arena against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
I exited Thursday’s game against Montreal feeling like pulling out a late win was critical with tough sledding ahead playing in the Capitals home opener after ending their playoffs last spring and then catching the defending Presidents’ Trophy winners in the Lightning in the second half of a back-to-back. But the Hurricanes enter Sunday’s game with momentum and a chance to run the table to 3-0 to start the season. In a long NHL season that will inevitably have some low points, best is to just keep winning in bunches when possible rather than taking the foot off the gas.
My watch points for Sunday’s match up follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Tampa Bay Lightning
1) Time for the top line
To be clear, I think Aho’s game has been pretty good through two games despite not cracking the score sheet yet, so this is not a story of panic or any kind of redemption or rebound. At some point, the Hurricanes will obviously need and get production from Aho’s line to be successful. With Tampa Bay and its high end offensive arsenal in town, Sunday could be perfect timing for the Hurricanes top line to kick off its scoring.
2) Best against best
Just like the 2018-19, the Carolina Hurricanes blue line is emerging to be a strength. The group was pretty good against a high-powered Caps offense on Saturday and the blue line is leading the way offensively right now with two goals and first assists by getting shots to the net on three other goals. Against an offensively talented Lightning team, the Hurricanes will again need the blue line to be a strength and lead the way.
3) Special teams
Heading into this weekend, best hope would been to avoid special teams altogether against two teams with a ton of power play fire power. But despite a sometimes disjointed effort, the Hurricanes power play produced a good number of high-quality scoring chances and a goal (sort of two with another just following a power play) against Montreal. And on Saturday, the Hurricanes penalty kill took center stage in the second period keeping the team in the game despite a run of penalties and then again in a successful scramble mode overtime penalty kill, and the power play chipped in a critical goal to pull the Canes back to within a goal in the third period. On Sunday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can continue their early season special teams success.
4) Putting it all together
Winning trumps all else, but in the long run the easiest way to do that is to build a reasonably consistent formula. Through two games, the Canes play has been more up and down than steady. The team and fan base will gladly accept another exciting win of any variety, but as the season wears on, I will be watching to see if the group can tighten things up a bit and build a repeatable formula.
The puck drops at 5:07pm at PNC Arena!