Only 3 games into the season, it is too early to hit the panic button. There are a number of teams that will ultimately do well who are still 0-something. But for a team like the Hurricanes that needs to build confidence after a rough 2014-15 season and also must battle the demons of last October, things are becoming desperate quickly.
That can be a positive or a negative. Sometimes a notch higher on the desperation meter can yield an extra effort and intensity level that pushes the team into the win column. Sometimes it can lead to players overthinking things, squeezing the sticks too tight and having a defeatist attitude with even small additional doses of adversity.
That is a good lead in to what I am watching for Friday’s game in Detroit:
1) What kind of desperation? Do the Canes come out on fire, push pace and play a bit angry right out of the gate after a sluggish loss on Tuesday? Or do they look hesitant and like they are trying too hard not to make more mistakes?
2) The new kid #1 – Brock McGinn. He seems pretty certain to drop into the lineup, and Thursday’s practice had him next to and offensively capable EStaal/Versteeg combination. With Coach Bill Peters wanting more intensity and with scoring-capable line mates, this is a very nice set up for McGinn to enter the NHL with a bang instead of a quiet lesser role. Can he capitalize?
3) The new kid #2 – Brett Pesce. This is the single most exciting possibility for me this weekend. I already went full man crush on his preseason play even before he was recalled. The short version of a bunch of stuff on Brett Pesce this week is that I loved his simple game and poise when that did not work and think that could translate well to jumping into the NHL a bit before truly ready. I do not think Francis would have recalled him if he was not going to play (would have gone with Biega, Lowe, Rissanen instead), so I figure he gets into at least 1 of the 2 games this weekend. I have not seen official word yet of if it will be Friday. If/when he does draw into the lineup, I very simply am looking for confirmation that the calm and poise that he played with in preseason does in fact carry over to the higher level of competition in the regular season. If it does, I think he, like Hanifin, may actually be good enough to develop (not play perfectly obviously) at the NHL level which is REAL exciting.
UPDATE after help from Twitter: Pesce is not expected to play Friday. I think that makes some sense as long as the intent is to get him in on Saturday. Otherwise, I would have voted to leave him in Charlotte and instead brought up 1 of the veteran prospects who are already >100 games into their AHL experience (whereas Pesce is only 2 games in).
4) Stars rising up. I actually do not think the play of all of the Canes star skaters has been that bad. I am on record as liking Eric Staal’s game. Even minus much playmaking help, Skinner is getting shots. But what is missing is the kind of ‘couple big plays with results’ that Zetterberg provided in these teams’ first matchup. The production and results across the entire Canes lineup (except Faulk I guess) is about nothing which looks eerily similar to the 2014-15 season.
5) Getting the band back together. I continue to vote for Skinner/Versteeg daily, but if not that, I like Skinner/Rask/Lindholm as plan B. The group has had some chemistry in the past, so hopefully it can help get Skinner going.
Puck drops about 7:30pm in Detroit. If you are DVRing the game, check your coordinates as this game is not on the usual Fox station.