When the 2017-18 schedule was published, who would have figured the Vegas Golden Knights for being in a playoff spot and the Carolina Hurricanes again being toward the bottom of the NHL standings? Not I. But the Vegas Knights are currently in second place in the Pacific Division and well above the playoff cut line. Even more impressive is that the team has played mostly without starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, has used five goalies already and has played most of the season in front of Maxime Lagace who in early October was fourth on the team’s depth chart (behind Marc-Andre Fleury, Malcom Subban and Calvin Pickard who was traded to Toronto). Hailing from a city where odds and betting are the central point of the economy, the odds of Vegas making the playoffs suddenly look incredibly good and true to Las Vegas form so do a number of other interesting side bets.
But Cinderella story and surprise aside, the Hurricanes have reached the point where none of it matters. Regardless of opponent, situation or anything else the team just desperately needs a win to snap the current losing streak and try to build some semblance of momentum before it is too late.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes against the Vegas Golden Knights
With the expectation that Ward will get the start in the second half of the back-to-back set, Ward’s play is worth watching. He has not been stellar by any means, but at least in terms of recent play, he has been the better of Hurricanes two goalies. In his last start against San Jose, Ward did not have much for answers when he played the third period under constant duress after the team in front of him quit early. But his prior start was a solid outing and the team’s most recent win on December 2 against the Florida Panthers.
I will be watching on Tuesday to see if the Hurricanes netminding can improve and at least match the level of play at the other end of the ice.
2) The right kind of desperation
In both of the past two losses, the Hurricanes have actually played a decent hockey game only to fall in defeat. In both games, the team seemed to find a higher gear in the third period when they pulled out all stops. A burning question continues to be if the team can learn to make the good version of desperate an every-game part of their play or if it is solely reserved for intermittent use when things truly get desperate.
As measured by physical play and winning one on one battles and making a concerted effort to go to the front of the net, I will be watching on Tuesday to see if the Hurricanes can dial up the intensity level right out of the gate and for the full 60 minutes.
3) The best of both worlds
After a really tough outing defensively last Thursday, the Hurricanes rebounded on Saturday. Monday’s game was a mixed bag. For the vast majority of the game, the Hurricanes were better defensively, but then the team had to toss in intermittent fits of ‘big oopses.’ Offensively, the offense has been ‘meh’ in the past two games expect in the third period when they dial up the intensity level.
Can this team put it all together and cut out the egregious mistakes, bring the offense from the third period and keep the defense (except for the break downs) in general?
In the last 10pm start for the current road trip, the puck drops on Fox Sports Carolinas with John, Tripp and Mike.