Saturday night’s 10pm Eastern Time start against the Los Angeles Kings marks the third game of six in the current road trip. Thus far, the big winners have been the Canes fans who are not late-nighters and therefore have not had to endure the first two games.
The first game in Vancouver saw the Hurricanes unable to carry forward the extra juice that they had when they ground out a win on Saturday. Lackluster is the term that comes to mind for Tuesday’s 3-0 loss to the Canucks.
The second game saw the Hurricanes have every bit of what they needed to claim a much-needed road win. The Hurricanes sprinted out to a 3-0 lead in the first period and did a decent job of making a couple big plays late in the second period to defend the lead. But when the San Jose Sharks pinned their ears back and went from broke in the third period, the Hurricanes wilted under the pressure. Implosion is the word that comes to mind for Thursday’s 5-4 overtime loss.
On Saturday in Los Angeles, the Hurricanes will take a third try for a first win on the current road trip. The opponent is a good one in the Los Angeles Kings who currently sit atop the Western Conference standings and are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games.
But at this point in time for the Hurricanes, it is not about looking outward at the opponent. Rather, it is about looking inward to see if the team can stop the bleeding before the 2017-18 season rides off into the cold December nights.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Los Angeles Kings
1) Heart, determination, resiliency, etc.
The team has clearly reached the point when the Xs and Os, match ups, statistics and other analytical angles take a back seat to the mental state of the team.
When pressured in the third period on Thursday, the team collapsed in every way imaginable – defensive break downs, puck management errors, ‘meh’ goaltending, etc.
The first check point for Saturday’s game is to see whether the Hurricanes can put Thursday’s late-game collapse behind them and immediately get back to what they did in the first period that was actually a very good one.
2) Special teams
Thursday’s loss was a 100 percent debacle in terms of special teams play. The penalty kill allowed two goals on three tries for the Sharks power play, but somehow were topped by a power play that also allowed two shorthanded goals on three tries. In total, that is a nearly impossible minus 4 on special teams.
On Saturday, I will be watching to if the Hurricanes can right the ship in terms of special teams play.
3) A sounder brand of hockey
No doubt, the Sharks pushed desperately with all they had trying to play their way back into the game in the third period. But a key ingredient in the comeback was shoddy defensive play and decision-making. ‘Iffy’ defense that has been a problem in other recent losses too reared its ugly head in a massive way on Thursday.
On Saturday I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can tighten things up defensively.
We have reached the point where I have absolutely no idea what to expect from the Hurricanes especially in a game like Saturday’s. But with coffee ‘additives’ and Dramamine in hand, I will be ready to board the roller coaster at 10:30pm on Saturday for the opening puck drop with John, Tripp and Mike on Fox Sports Carolinas.