A quick assessment of November
As we flip the calendar to December, we will mostly look forward, but I did want to take a second to look back on November in total results-wise.
I tried to sum it up in one tweet yesterday.
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) November 30, 2017
Some of the lows were so low, that I think the mood coming out of November probably falls short of what was actually achieved. No, the Hurricanes did not blow doors off and surge up the standings, but despite ups and downs, the month was a positive on the whole.
Starting the December slate
One of the low points in November was a 6-1 drubbing at home on Thanksgiving Eve by the New York Rangers. December kicks off tonight with a chance for the Hurricanes to avenge that loss at Madison Square Garden.
Because the loss in Raleigh last week was such a throwaway game for the Hurricanes, I am not sure there is much carry over in terms of analysis. The Hurricanes simply need to play much better across almost all areas of the game.
The game also represents another all-important four-point Metropolitan Division game. It is too early to say for sure which teams will be clustered around the playoff cut line come late March, but I think there is a decent chance that the Rangers are one of them. Thus far in Metropolitan Division play, the Hurricanes have treaded water. The Canes are an impressive 1-0-2 against Blue Jackets, 1-1-0 against the Islanders and have just the one loss against the Rangers for a 3-3-2 record in total.
Focused more narrowly on the here and now, the New York Rangers are the team directly above the Hurricanes in the standings. With a regulation win the Hurricanes would pull within a single point of the Rangers for sixth place in the Metropolitan Division but with two games in hand. With a loss, the Hurricanes would fall five points behind the Rangers and suddenly be three wins away from catching them. Such is the math for these all-important in-division four-point games.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the New York Rangers
1) The start
The problem that snowballed in the first meeting was the Hurricanes’ lack of readiness to play from the opening face-off. The team in total was sloppy early, and Scott Darling’s glove whiff just compounded matters. By the time the Hurricanes got the smelling salts out, the game had already gotten away. Especially against the Rangers and especially on the road, playing even or better hockey early can decide the game. The Rangers have had a knack for gaining a lead and then mostly relying on sound play and goaltending to patiently wait out a couple mistakes to opportunistically add a second layer of scoring. With a lead, the game changes and the Hurricanes can instead be the team who plays patient and opportunistic while the opponent presses. So on Friday night, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes ‘start on time’ and if they can mount an early lead.
2) The blue line
After a run of games in which I declared the Hurricanes defensive play to be sub-par starting right at the top with Jaccob Slavin, I thought the group was much better in Tuesday’s overtime loss against Columbus. On Friday, I will be watching closely to see if the Hurricanes defense can carry forward its sounder play and again keep the ‘big oopses’ to a minimum.
Like the blue line, the netminding has had its share of rough patches in recent games. After a couple tough outings, Scott Darling was better on Tuesday. Cam Ward’s most recent start was also his worst of the year. Regardless of which goalie plays on Friday (I expect each to start half of the Friday/Saturday back-to-back.), I will be watching to see if he can find his game early and help build the confidence of team in front of him.
The puck drops at 7pm on Fox Sports Carolinas with John, Tripp and Mike.