With a solid 4-2 win over the Sabres before the three-day NHL break for Christmas, the current holiday week home stand is off to a better start than the Thanksgiving week that ended 1-2. But there is still work to be done, and that work starts with a Wednesday match up against the Montreal Canadiens.
The Canadiens come in as a middle-ish team at exactly .500 that has had at least as many struggles as successes thus far in the 2017-18 season. Montreal has been slightly better of late with a 5-4-1 record in the past 10 games, but they still set up as a beatable team on home ice.
But right now with the Hurricanes playing pretty well and being justly rewarded for their play, Wednesday’s game is more about the Hurricanes just continuing on the current track without being upset by the non-routine schedule this time of year.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Montreal Canadiens
1) Pace, intensity and attention to detail especially early
Hockey players are creatures of habit. Most players have a fairly set routine that they go through in preparation for a game that gets them into the right mindset just in time for the opening face-off. Just like with everyone else, most routines are disrupted (in a good way) during the holidays with relatives in town, holiday festivities and everything else. In addition, the team has also been away from practice for three days which happens only twice (the All-Star game is the other time) during the season. In some ways, I think there is an advantage to playing road games during the holidays such that the usual road routine from hotel to rink can be followed.
The Hurricanes are instead playing games at home during the holidays. The team comes in with a nice run of steady hockey except for the bizarre loss in Toronto. On Wednesday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can continue their hockey run uninterrupted by an impacts to the normal schedule.
2) More of the same from Cam Ward
Cam Ward seems to be finding a rhythm at exactly the time that the team desperately needs it. I will be watching to see if Ward can continue to be sharp and can erase any miscues if the team in front of him is not as solid as it has been in recent games.
3) The next wave of scoring
Before the Buffalo Sabres game, I noted Sebastian Aho and Jeff Skinner as two players capable of finding a higher gear offensively and in the process helping the team reach a higher level. Aho scored the game’s all-important first goal. Skinner did not score but continued to play hockey that would suggest his next goal-scoring binge could be on the way. But busting out in a big way was Justin Faulk who scored two goals to go with the lone goal that he had in the 35 games prior.
On Wednesday, I will be watching to see if Faulk and Aho can build on their scoring production on Saturday and also if Skinner can join the group and help boost the offense.
The puck drops at 7:07pm at PNC Arena with tickets still available if you do not have yours yet.