Through three games on a western roadie, the Hurricanes are an impressive 2-0-1. My math suggested that a 5-4-1 mark for nine points in ten games starting with the Nashville game after Thanksgiving would be acceptable. The Hurricanes already have that with two games remaining. But with the inevitability of ups and downs over the course of a long NHL season, a hot streak is not something to rest on but rather something to ride as long as possible.
What is maybe most impressive about the 2-0-1 mark is that the Hurricanes are beating good hockey teams. Edmonton is near the top of the Western Conference. Vancouver is better than expected. And Calgary entered the game against the Canes with a seven-game winning streak. Winnipeg is the same. Winnipeg is firmly in a playoff spot and has won five in a row at home dating back to November 12.
As I said above, for the Hurricanes it is about riding the positive vibe as long as possible and continuing to build a gap above the playoff cut line such that when the calendar flips it makes more sense to look up the standings for playoff position than worry about falling below the cut line.
My watch points follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Winnipeg Jets
1) The defense and goaltending
Goaltending, special teams and defense have led the way through three games on this road trip. The Canes attention to detail, sloppiness and propensity to take too many penalties were actually problems in the Edmonton and Calgary wins. In both cases, the goalie and penalty kill stood tall converting what could have been big problems into minor issues. Brett Pesce and Joel Edmundson have been especially good with both also playing on the penalty kill. On Tuesday, I will be watching to see if the defense and goaltending can continue to lead the way.
With Foegele rising and Svechnikov maturing, this line has been somewhat quietly very good when playing together awhile back and then again recently. Jordan Staal has been better after a slow start. Despite not having a playmaker in the middle, can this line also become a regular scoring threat? Both of Foegele’s goals on Tuesday came shorthanded, but the line did have a strong night too. I will be watching to see if this line can continue to play a strong puck possession game that drives the puck to the offensive zone and keeps it there and equally importantly if it can convert that to scoring.
3) Cleaner game (or yet again maybe not)
A weird dichotomy of the current version of the Carolina Hurricanes is that this team is not incredibly sound in terms of consistency and playing a clean game mostly minus unforced errors, but because of the ability to opportunistically score in bunches, it often does not matter. That was the case against Edmonton and also Calgary when the Canes took too many penalties early in the game during a slow start and then with a lead gifted a chance to get back into the game starting the third period. So far a wonderful combination of a top notch penalty kill and ability out-run or out-gun mistakes has been the difference. But the part of me that has seen numerous seasons unfold fears that such a formula is not sustainable as teams tighten up in the second half of the season. So again I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can keep the good offensively and add a bit more soundness with attention to detail.
The puck drops at a less late 8pm on Fox Sports Carolinas with John, Tripp and Mike.