Coming off a loss to the Rangers to open December, the Hurricanes have a chance to rebound quickly with a home game on Saturday against the Florida Panthers. For the second week in a row, the week’s finale represents a chance to salvage something after a tough front part of the week. Last week, a win on Sunday got the Canes on the board with a 1-2 record. This week, a win would net a break even 1-1-1 mark.
The game is what I like to call a fair back-to-back for which both teams played and traveled the night before. The opponent is a team in the Panthers that has failed to put things together in 2017-18. The Panthers are 3-2 in their last five games but only 10-13-2 in total for the season.
But this game is less about the opponent and more about the need for the Hurricanes to rebound. As I stated in my recap for Friday’s game, I really like the agitated, “it’s not okay” tone of Justin Williams’ post-game interview, and I hope that demeanor is contagious as the Hurricanes try to re-find a higher gear.
‘What I’m watching for the Carolina Hurricanes against the Florida Panthers
1) Cam Ward
Cam Ward has had a few other starts of significance following losses, but I really think that his (expected) start on Saturday will be his most important of the season thus far. The team needs a win to salvage the week before departing on a long road trip. The goaltending in total has really struggled of late and needs to right the ship. Ward himself is coming off by far his worst start of the season last Friday against the Maple Leafs. The game is an important rebound game on at least three levels and the kind of game that the Hurricanes really need to get to keep treading water and not begin to sink while much of the Metropolitan Division is swimming ahead.
This is the kind of game where a few leaders need to step up and set the tone. Ward is one possibility as are the three captains, Justin Williams and anyone else who feels the force and can step up. This is not the kind of game where you show up and hope for the best. Rather, it must be the kind of game where the team shows up with a not to be denied type of determination.
3) Attention to details
At least as concerning as the ‘iffy’ goaltending of late has been the degree to which the Hurricanes have been slipping in terms of attention to details. The volume of significant defensive break downs has skyrocketed over the past couple weeks. The team that was playing clean hockey early in the season has suddenly been taking many more penalties. In addition to just not playing great, the goalies have had a large number of ‘big oopses’ of late. And in general the Hurricanes play has just been sloppy in terms of the basics. The current level of play has been gifting away a goal or more pretty much every game which makes it really challenging to win in the NHL.
The puck drops at 7:07pm for Star Wars night at PNC Arena.