Before the the game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Carolina Hurricanes tonight, Rod Brind’Amour will be the 24th player inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame. Every team has its greats and players that they call their own, but it is fairly uncommon for a player to meet this criteria for 2 separate franchises. But it makes complete sense for Rod Brind’Amour who spent 9+ seasons with the Hurricanes and 8+ seasons with the Flyers after breaking into the NHL with the Blues.
These events rightfully include articles that detail a player’s statistical career and highlight all that he accomplished in numbers. Rod Brind’Amour obviously has an impressive bio in this regard, but Rod Brind’Amour’s greatness is less about the stats and more about who we was and represented. He was the kind of player that was a leader. He was talented but will always be defined by how he just worked harder, wanted it more and sacrificed the most compared to anyone else on the ice.
He won games and lost games. He was on good teams and bad teams. But on any given night during a career that spanned 1,484 regular season games plus another 159 playoff games, night in and night out he played the game the right way.
Then after all of that there is a hockey game. These pregame ceremonies can impact hockey game results. Most often there is a ‘win for ___’ incentive and intensity gained by the home team that can be an advantage. This is interesting in that the player being honored actually returns to the visiting team’s bench for the game, so it could actually be the reverse of the normal energy boost. In addition, the strange start that breaks from routine and features warm ups followed by 30-60 minutes of sitting through a ceremony also throws a wildcard into the start of the game.
When the puck does drop, the game will be a battle between 2 teams tied with 17 points and battling for sixth place in the Metropolitan Division.
After I enjoy the Rod Brind’Amour ceremony, here is what I will be watching for the game:
1) Who finds their legs and intensity first?
As noted above, the deviation from the routine combined with the ‘win for ___’ effect can lead to interesting starts to these games. The Hurricanes have been good out of the gate recently and have been consistently running out to leads early. Can they do the same on Monday and put themselves in the driver’s seat early?
2) Fending for themselves on the road
The newly minted Hanifin/Slavin pairing helds it own on Sunday, but Monday starts a stretch that is heavier on road games. This makes it harder to pick and choose match ups and shield players. As promising as both of these players’ future is, the part of their game that is still a work in process is defending without the puck. Reports from the morning skate suggest that Voracek and Giroux might be separated, but otherwise how the kids hold up when inevitably challenged with tougher match ups is something to watch.
3) Ability to make plays that win hockey games
A common theme during the Hurricanes November struggles has been playing hockey games that were winnable but not winning. Kris Versteeg has alluded to this in recent interviews with comments along the lines of ‘finding another way to lose.’ Good teams make a couple plays to win when they have the chance the Hurricanes have too often done the opposite of late. Even in a feel good win against the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday, the team turned a 3-0 lead into an adventure and a long bout of holding on instead of finishing the Kings when they were down. 3 of the Canes last 4 losses (all in overtime) featured the Canes leading, losing the lead and then losing in overtime or the shootout.
A key element in all of this has been the inability to finish when given the chance. Most night the chances are there, but the goal scoring does not follow. Can the Hurricanes ride a good feeling coming out of Sunday’s win to more calm with the puck on their sticks and finish scoring plays? If they get a chance to win a game with a couple big plays late, can they?
4) Eddie Lack
After righting the ship a bit after a real tough start on the west coast trip, Lack has been better in net, but he has yet to find any kind of rhythm, be a difference-maker or really win a hockey game with his play. With Ward trending at 3 goals against per game of late, Lack gets another chance tonight to try to seize more playing time. He is coming off a loss that saw a mistake early, a decent middle of the the game that saw him holding the fort well to give his team chance and then a disappointing soft goal against that sealed the deal. The Canes signed him to be a solid half of a 1A/1B tandem. Now about 6 weeks into the season, can he rise up and be that?
The can’t miss Rod Brind’Amour ceremony starts at 7pm, and from what I understand will be televised. This pushes the puck drop to somewhere in the neighborhood of 8pm.