Living in the here and now, after starting their six-game road trip with a 0-2-2 mark, the Hurricanes rebounded strong to finish the trip at 2-2-2 and then added a home win on top of it on Saturday night. But even with the small burst the Hurricanes are on the outside looking in on the playoff chase thus far and need to keep winning.
They will carry that short-term “win now” mentality into a game that carries 100 years of history. The team will be part of a game against the Maple Leafs that marks 100 years of both Maple Leafs and NHL history.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Toronto Maple Leafs
Against that backdrop, here is what I will be watching for Tuesday’s 2pm match up against the Toronto Maple Leafs…
1) A continuation in net
In a back-to-back set on November 18, Scott Darling and Cam Ward took turns playing lights out and winning games that the team maybe did not deserve against the New York Islanders and the Buffalo Sabres. As promising as the goalie situation looked then, it immediately reversed course and became a regular Achilles’ heel for the latest Hurricanes’ swoon. In the three weeks that followed the Hurricanes’ netminding was ‘meh’ at best and on many nights much worse. But again in a back-to-back set this past weekend, Darling and Ward took turns putting up stellar performances helping win games that the team in front of them maybe did not deserve.
I am on record as believing that it will take more consistent and average at minimum goaltending for the Hurricanes to put it together and push up into the playoffs. In Tuesday’s game, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes netminding duo can run its streak of strong outings to three.
2) Weathering an early storm if necessary
Ceremony type games can be challenging. The routine and schedule are often thrown off with whatever on-ice festivities happen after warm ups and before the start of the game. And usually the home team doing the celebration of ceremony rides an adrenaline rush in flying out of the gate. For Tuesday, there is also the issue of the odd 2pm start.
I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can weather any early burst of energy from the Maple Leafs and play their way into the game without digging a hole.
3) The defense
Like the goaltending, the team defense has had its share of issues lately. One could even argue that they were not great in Friday and Saturday’s wins but rather were bailed out by stellar netminding. The Maple Leafs young guns represent a defensive challenge as a team that an attack with skill and pace.
On Tuesday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes defense can bring a sound and solid effort that pushes back to playing a style that keeps them in games game in and game out.
The puck drops at 2pm…yes 2pm…on Fox Sports Carolinas with John, Tripp and Mike.