After a perfect 4-0 week last week, the Hurricanes start a week of tougher competition against the Islanders. Whereas last week two of the wins came against the Flyers who are currently riding a seven-game losing streak and another win came against another division bottom dweller in the Senators, the stretch of games ahead dials up the level of competition. And the starting point is an Islanders team that has been a tough match up for the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes are already 0-2-1 against the Islanders and have scored only a single goal in each of the three losses against a stingy Barry Trotz-coached defense.
The game kicks off a challenging week against four good teams and will provide a quick measure of whether the Hurricanes have truly found a higher gear or whether they just benefited from a soft patch of schedule last week.
Even with the winning streak the Hurricanes still have a sizable gap of six points (adjusted for games played) to reach the playoff cut time. If the Hurricanes are going to push back up into the playoff chase, the upcoming stretch of games to start the second half of the season is critical.
Against that backdrop here are my watch points for Tuesday’s game.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the New York Islanders
1) Sound play from wire to wire
A couple of the Canes recent wins have featured surges that propelled the team to victory and maybe overshadowed a few pauses in intensity level. Against an Islanders team that is perfectly comfortable playing a tight game and collecting enough opportunistic scorin to pull away, the Hurricanes will need to bring an even effort throughout. So I will be watching to see if the team can replicate its strong start from the past few games and also avoid momentary letdowns and lapses.
2) Willingness to do the work to score ugly
For whatever reason, Thomas Greiss seems to play at a Vezina level against the Hurricanes. Part of that is the Islanders defensive style instilled by Barry Trotz. The team is not averse to giving up shots, but it makes a point to defend the middle of the ice. The combination is a perfect storm for arguably the most traditional Hurricanes losing formula that sees the team pepper the opposing goalie with plenty of shots, Tripp on TV rambling on about the opposing hot goalie, but the Hurricanes not doing the hard work to get bodies and pucks to the front of the net. On Tuesday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes make a concerted effort to do the dirty work to get a ‘crash the crease’ goal or two.
3) Special teams continuation
The penalty kill rebounded awhile back and has generally been solid ever since. The power play went through an abysmal stretch before the winning streak but has since magically rebounded. With the Hurricanes trouble scoring against the Isles in the previous three games and the high probability of a close game, I will be watching to see if the Canes current positive special teams trend can continue and possibly produce the scoring difference needed to win the game.
The puck drops at 7pm on Fox Sports Carolinas with John, Tripp and Mike.