After a long offseason, the Hurricanes are opening the 2018-19 season with a busy first weekend playing three games in four nights. The team looked a bit gassed in the third period on Friday, so I will be curious to see if a day off recharges them. The Rangers played in Buffalo on Saturday night and traveled, so at least relatively speaking, the Hurricanes should be the fresher team.
After a good effort but disappointing loss on opening night on Thursday, the team rebounded with another strong performance and a well-deserved win. The team’s 1-0-1 mark puts them in the top part of the standings entering play on Sunday.
Against that backdrop, here are my watch points for Sunday.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the New York Rangers
1) More of the same in terms of pace, pressure and intensity
Through six preseason games and now two regular season games, the team has been a model of consistency in terms of bringing the intensity level. By no means has the team’s play been perfect, but there has been no lull, slow start or anything else negative in the effort category.
The trend is obviously a good one and the consistency is even better, but with the first three games in four nights stretch, I will be watching closely to see if there is any impact on the Hurricanes’ pace and pressure.
2) Leaders leading
Jordan Staal was absolutely phenomenal on Thursday. Sebastian Aho did the heavy lifting offensively with a goal and an assist in Friday’s win. With a young group still finding its way, I will be watching to see if the veterans at the top of the lineup can continue to be catalysts and lead the way. With two young centers behind them, Aho and Staal will need to continue to be good. On Sunday, I will be watching for a similarly high level of play from these two players and other veteran leaders.
I am on record as not being overly impressed with Petr Mrazek’s play on Thursday even though he only gave up two goals. Curtis McElhinney was great in Friday’s win, but I will be surprised if Brind’Amour does not go back Mrazek. He needs to give him an opportunity to seize the reins. If Mrazek is in net as expected, I will be watching to see if he can play a calmer and steadier brand of hockey in his second outing of the season. If I am surprised with McElhinney in net, I will be watching to see if he can add another strong outing to his short Hurricanes resume.
The puck drops at about 5:07pm at PNC Arena.