After a 2-0 loss against the Los Angeles Kings who are the bottom team in the entire NHL on Sunday, I think it is fair to say that the Hurricanes offense which has been struggling of late bottomed out. A couple stellar starts by Curtis McElhinney that stole wins decreased the level of adversity but the underlying problem has been there for some time.
After a couple days to practice and mull it over, the Hurricanes play the second of three games on the current road trip against the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks sit in a respectable third place in the Pacific Division but with a modest 13-10-5 record. The team has yet to really benefit from adding Erik Karlsson and is still figuring it out for the 2018-19 campaign.
On the Hurricanes side, Haydn Fleury has returned from injury and Brett Pesce could finally return to action against the Sharks. But more significant is that the team needs to find more sources of scoring from its forwards.
Here are my watch points for tonight’s match up.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the San Jose Sharks
1) An offensive spark from the lineup
After a run of lackluster outings offensively, the team desperately needs to find more offense. Can veteran leaders like Jordan Staal and/or Justin Williams help the team in its time of need? Can Sebastian Aho put the team on his back for a stretch? Can Wallmark’s line which has generally been good find the score sheet more? Does Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour have answers for how to get more from what he has?
2) More crease time
I have noted a couple times in recent articles that when the going gets tough offensively, the Hurricanes’ version of trying harder mostly is just firing more pucks at the net. Ironically, I think the chance of scoring actually decreases when the team goes into that mode. The reason is that the team starts to settle for whatever quality of shots it can get such that the volume generally creases but the volume of good scoring chances can actually fall.
This team needs to significantly change what trying hard to score means. It needs to start putting more bodies between the face-off circles where goals happen and it needs to be to a man not just a few players who specifically fill that role.
3) Mac is back
Petr Mrazek’s play in Sunday’s loss was encouraging despite the outcome. If it continues, the team will have two capable goalies which is an unheard of luxury in the land of Caniacs. McElhinney should be back in net after a decent break. With no margin for error behind a sputtering offense right now, I will be watching closely to see if McElhinney can continue his run of getting the team better results than it deserves.
#CanesAfterDark is on tap again. Get your coffee or adult beverages ready. The puck drops at a late 10:30pm on Fox Sports Carolinas with John, Tripp and Mike.