Today’s Daily Cup of Joe took a fresh look at the Carolina Hurricanes schedule ahead. The return to action after the break finds the Canes in what will be familiar situation playing on the road. And the first of many road games through mid-February features a tough match up in the Washington Capitals. After a modest start, the Capitals have risen to the top of the Metropolitan Division and sport an 11-5-2 record at home.
But this is also the same Capitals team that the Hurricanes pounded on in the second period at PNC Arena only 13 days ago to build a 4-1 lead before falling in a shootout. The game at the same time showed that the Hurricanes could play with the Capitals but also that they had no ability to slow them down once they opened up the game and attacked aggressively. With the Canes likely to be without Jordan Staal again, the same problem could reappear.
On the Hurricanes side of the ledger, the solid win in the pre-break finale and then three days off hopefully present an opportunity for the Hurricanes to chart a new course in late December.
My watch points for Thursday’s game follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Washington Capitals
1) Pace and intensity after the layoff
These holiday week games can be odd affairs. Hockey players are largely creatures of routine and habit. So the holiday schedule with days off, relatives in town just a lack of routine can yield some ‘blah’ efforts. On Thursday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes are able to quickly dial their game up again after three days off.
2) Young leadership
A scoring surge by Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen led the way with four goals on the way to a 5-3 win. Without their production on the score sheet, the game becomes another light scoring loss. I will be watching to see if Aho can again lead the way and also to see if Jaccob Slavin and/or other young leaders can take the lead and drive the team to another win.
One would reasonably expect that against a strong Caps offense and after a layoff that the goalie could be called on to hold the fort for stretches and keep the Hurricanes in the game. The team’s goaltending has generally been a strength since it settled on Curtis McElhinney and Petr Mrazek as the NHL tandem. On Thursday, I will be watching to see if goaltending can again be strength.
The puck drops at 7pm with John, Tripp and Mike on Fox Sports Carolinas.