With consecutive wins over the struggling Philadelphia Flyers, the Carolina Hurricanes are tracking toward a winning week for the first time since Thanksgiving week. On Friday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Canes will try to reach a perfect 3-0 and also extend the current run against better competition. It takes only an OTL point either Friday or on Sunday versus Ottawa to finally push above hockey .500 for a week of hockey.
And that to me is the story of Friday’s game. The Hurricanes get a chance to build on a winning streak, and they also get the chance to prove they can win against a good hockey team. The situation is not ideal in that the Hurricanes played and traveled on Thursday while Columbus was resting in Raleigh, but suddenly nine points out of a playoff spot, the Hurricanes will need to collect a win here and there that maybe was not expected and that extends a streak.
My watch points for Friday are as follows:
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Columbus Blue Jackets
1) Pace out of the gate
Buried underneath a couple wins is the fact that the Hurricanes started slowly in each of their past few games. Good goaltending, generally sluggish play by both teams and perhaps level of competition enabled the Hurricanes to stay in both games until they found a higher gear. That is a risky formula against better teams like Columbus, so on Friday I will be watching to see if the Canes can find the ignition switch when the opening face-off happens.
2) Winning with Sebastian Aho
As I noted in yesterday’s game preview, the vast majority of the Hurricanes wins this season have featured Sebastian Aho leading the way offensively. He did that again on Thursday with two pretty power play assists. Against a good team that can be pretty stingy defensively, another big night by Aho would be welcomed. So I will be watching to see if he can continue his production on Friday night.
3) Winning without Sebastian Aho
At the same time, this team needs to find more scoring from other sources if it is going to put together any kind of run. The team did win on Monday without a score sheet contribution from Aho which was encouraging, but if you look at a longer stretch depth scoring has been an issue. On Friday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can get another line or two clicking offensively such that it is not a one man attack.
4) A different course
As noted above, the two consecutive wins were obviously a good thing, and a team can only beat the opponent on the schedule, but for the streak to become meaningful or at least potentially meaningful would require a win or two against better competition. So on Friday, I will be watching anxiously to see if maybe the Hurricanes can use the pair of wins over the Flyers to build something more or if they were simply taking advantage of a friendly stretch of schedule before resuming a tough middle part of the season.
The puck drops at 7:30pm at PNC Arena.