After losing the first road game of the year on Saturday in Winnipeg, the Hurricanes will take their second try at road hockey in Edmonton on Tuesday night against Connor McDavid and the Oilers.
Bigger than the road loss on Saturday was that the game was the second in a row with minimal offense and only a single goal scored.
Monday at Canes and Coffee was focused on trying to spark the offense before the run of low scoring and the losses that inevitably come with it continued. Monday’s Daily Cup of Joe looked at four levels of options to try to boost the offense, and the Monday Coffee Shop featured reader polls and great discussion on the same topic.
And apparently Coach Bill Peters awoke Monday morning in Edmonton with similar thoughts on his mind, as Michael Smith reported in from practice that lineup changes seem to be in process for Tuesday’s game. Michael Smith’s game day article at CarolinaHurricanes.com will likely have more concrete lineup information by late afternoon following the Pacific time zone morning skate.
Based on what we've seen in practice, it looks as if Martin Necas, Josh Jooris and Trevor Carrick will all be in the #Canes lineup tomorrow.
— Michael Smith (@MSmithCanes) October 16, 2017
UPDATED (NEW COMMENTS IN ITALICS/CAPS) AT 3:30PM ET BASED ON LINEUP INFORMATION.
Against that backdrop, here is ‘what I’m watching’ for Tuesday’s match up against the Edmonton Oilers.
1) A noticeable desire to play hockey in front of the net in the offensive zone
One of the things that stood out in the two flat efforts offensively was how few time the Hurricanes had players and pucks in/around the crease at the same time. As happened at times during the 2016-17 season, the Hurricanes seemed content to get pushed to the outside and settle for moving the puck around the perimeter in low danger shooting areas and/or just fling low probability shots at the net without traffic in front.
I will be watching early to see how much the Hurricanes are able to play inside of the face-off circles in the offensive zone instead of out by the walls.
2) Martin Necas’ debut and line
If Martin Necas does in fact make his NHL debut, he is obviously worth watching. People like to talk about development time lines for young players, and I think that makes sense for middle of the roster type of players who round out their skill set over multiple years. But here’s the thing. Hockey is a young man’s game, and I think people overestimate the development aspect for top-tier or elite young players. Elite players in general rarely develop step-wise via a logical timeline. Rather, they get an opportunity, seize it, are difference-makers out of the gate and then build upon that. They have that ‘it’ factor such that they rise to and above the level of competition quickly.
Could Martin Necas be such a player who defies any kind of logical development schedule? I think the raw skill and potential is there which makes his debut on Tuesday something to watch closely.
Past Necas as an individual player, Monday’s practice suggests that he could be centering two other good young players which would make it even more significant if he could hit the ground running and instantly outplay his experience level.
On the one hand, I like the idea of playing Necas at his natural center position. On the other hand, I dislike the idea of pushing another game deeper without trying out the player who most has the potential to be an offensive catalyst from the middle of the ice – Sebastian Aho. Regardless, kudos to Bill Peters for showing a sense of urgency. Here is hoping that his moves yield results.
Per the morning skate, Necas is more or less confirmed for Tuesday night and expected to center a scoring-capable line with Sebastian Aho and Elias Lindholm on his wings. For me, Necas very much has the skill set of the playmaking center that the Hurricanes need. The burning question is whether he is ready to perform in that role as an 18-year old parachuting into his first NHL action.
3) The third defense pairing
After a couple tough games from Klas Dahlbeck trying to play on his off side, Trevor Carrick seems destined to draw into the lineup. Interestingly, Carrick is another left shot which means that either he or Haydn Fleury will need to play on his off side. The third pairing playing a significant role in Saturday’s loss and must rebound to provide the defensive balance needed on the road.
In the past couple years, the Carolina Hurricanes have been able to muster desperation only at the point where things were truly desperate which more or less means it was too late. A two-game losing streak is not cause for panic, but for a good team that expects to make the playoffs, it should be enough to dial up a greater level of intensity and hunger.
Good teams use losses to find a higher level of motivation and play better. Weak teams struggle with the self-doubt which its hard to right the ship quickly.
With multiple options available, the Hurricanes opted for a formal leadership structure of two co-captains in Jordan Staal and Justin Faulk. I think Tuesday represents a first small test to see if they can help the team rally to cut its first losing streak short at two games.
5) Cam Ward’s debut
I think people can underestimate the difference between being a starter and a backup NHL goalie. As a starter, it is possible to find a rhythm and get in a pretty steady every other day routine with a day of practice and game day alternating with an extra day of rest here and there. That rhythm and momentum can be incredibly powerful. But as a backup, the routine is more like practice, practice, practice and try to stay sharp to play a single game before the routine restarts with another 4-7 days of practice. This is unfamiliar territory for Ward who has more or less been a full-time starter since the start of the 2006-07 season. I think the positives could be that he is physically rested and ready every time he steps onto the ice and also that he no longer has to carry the weight of the team on his shoulders. But the challenge is a significantly different routine. As a backup, he gets one game at a time to make a difference and minimal game time to work through any issues or find a rhythm. Ward last started a preseason game roughly two weeks ago, so I will be watching on Tuesday to see how his first turn goes in a new role.
The puck drops at 9pm on Fox Sports Carolinas with John, Tripp and Mike and our first installment of late night Canes hockey. For those of you that have them, get your Canes and Coffee cups ready with Bailey’s ready just in case we need it. 🙂