After a solid win over a good hockey team in the Florida Panthers for Hockey Fights Cancer Night, the Hurricanes are right back on the ice Sunday night in Detroit.
In a month that featured a favorable schedule to start but has yielded only a roller coaster version of treading water at 6-5-0, Sunday represents a chance to make a late push to climb further above the .500 mark and up the standings.
The Red Wings, at least as viewed through the lens of the teams’ first match up at the beginning of the month, are an interesting match up. On the one hand, they are a dangerous team to defend because of their ability to attack with speed and willingness to stretch up and out of the defensive zone a bit early. On the other hand, the Wings 115 percent forward approach tends to offer a high volume of counter-attacking chances of high quality. In the first game, the Hurricanes beat the Wings at their own game getting the better of a fast and loosely played hockey game. The downside was that the Canes were never really able to slow things down once they had a lead. The same winning result would obviously be fine, but ideally the Hurricanes can find a way to slow the Wings a bit to avoid a gambling for goals game on both sides.
My watch points follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Detroit Red Wings
One of the calling cards for the 2018-19 Carolina Hurricanes was the team’s ability to excel in the second half of back-to-backs. Thus far in 2019-20, the Hurricanes are 1-3 in the second half of back-to-backs with three straight losses. On Sunday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can play like 2018-19 and just ride momentum through another strong 60 minutes and a win. Or if instead they fall victim to the general wisdom that the second half of back-to-backs, especially with travel, put a team at a disadvantage physically.
2) Balancing act between seizing opportunities and avoiding shinny
As noted above, my (admittedly limited) impression of the Red Wings from the first match up was that in aiming to play a game that benefited its high-end speed. The Hurricanes got the better of it capitalizing on the loose back and forth play but giving up somewhat less in their own end. The balancing act for the Hurricanes is to take what the Wings give them but avoid entering into wild game of shinny that could go either way at 7-6. On Sunday, I will be watching to see if/how the Canes can strike this tricky balance and gain the upper hand.
3) A full 60
One of the biggest story lines of November on the negative side has been the Hurricanes inability to put together a full 60 minutes of sound and solid hockey. Too commonly the team has suffered short or sometimes even long stretches where it loses track of details in terms of defense and puck management and pays for it. The Hurricanes have been imperfect but somewhat better in this regard in recent games. The Canes were under siege a bit at then but generally played a solid game throughout in the win over the Blackhawks. The Flyers loss featured a costly lull after going up 2-0 but had some redeeming qualities. And the win over the Panthers featured much more good than bad in this regard. On Sunday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can continue making strides in playing a more consistent brand of hockey over a full 60 minutes.
The puck drops on Fox Sports Carolinas with John, Tripp and Mike.