The Carolina Hurricanes closed out a highly successful 2019 with a roller coaster ride down the stretch. A stellar 4-0-1 road trip was followed by a three-game losing skid with a horrible 8-6 loss in the middle. But just in time for holiday fun, the Hurricanes rebounded with a fun home win against the Capitals and a New Year’s Eve victory over the Canadiens.
What a difference a year makes. Almost exactly one year ago on December 27, 2018, the Carolina Hurricanes played the Washington Capitals in Washington, D.C. The Canes entered that game with a 3-6-1 record in December and were nearly left for dead in terms of the playoff race. And not surprisingly the Hurricanes lost that game 3-1 before starting their monstrous second half push a few days later.
Fast forward to tonight’s game, and the Hurricanes enter in playoff position, with a four-game winning streak (playoffs and regular season) against the Capitals and as a favorite in the game per SBD’s odds.
Rather than hoping for a minor miracle in scraping out a point or two against a superior foe, the Hurricanes are a team in playoff position trying to move up. Further, with four straight wins against the Capitals, Warren Foegele is officially in the Caps’ kitchen. Might another win to go to five straight officially put the Hurricanes in the Capitals’ heads?
Bigger picture, Friday’s tilt will be game three of seven straight at home. Per yesterday’s Daily Cup of Joe, the run represents a great chance for the Hurricanes to build a bigger gap above the playoff cut line such that they can focus more on looking up the standings instead of fighting to stay in the playoff picture.
Against that backdrop, my watch points follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Washington Capitals
1) The effects of dislike
The tail end of the Canes 6-4 win only a week ago featured a high volume of unpleasantries, angst and just general dislike. No doubt when these two teams collide, the intensity level climbs to a higher level and a growing hatred plays into the game. Warren Foegele, who I recently dubbed ‘Caps killer’ catches more than his fair share of attention from all of the Caps. In addition, Tom Wilson, who was out for the the previous game with an injury, should be back in the lineup. The question is how this impacts the game. Does either team take dumb penalties or become distracted by extracurricular activities such that one team gains an advantage?
2) Best against best
Dougie Hamilton and Jaccob Slavin had a stellar game in the 6-4 win. Hamilton netted another goal, but equally significantly, the duo was stellar defensively. Jordan Staal flanked by youngsters Andrei Svechnikov and Warren Foegele also had a huge game playing the majority of his minutes against Washington’s elite scorers. In a game that features many stars, can the Hurricanes best players again be better than the Capitals’ top players?
3) Running and gunning with the best
The best version of the 2019-20 Carolina Hurricanes is the one that looks like an offensive juggernaut, makes scoring look easy and mostly makes any number of errors, bad penalties taken or any other imperfections seem irrelevant. Though I continue to be skeptical of the long-term viability of this formula, being able to run and gun can come in handy against a Capitals team that also has its fair share of offensive firepower. On Friday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can again find their scoring mojo and out-run/out-gun any imperfections in the details on the way to another win.
The puck drops at 7:30pm at PNC Arena.