After a tough December, the Hurricanes used New Year’s Eve to start fresh in the new year. The result has been an impressive five-game winning streak that capitalized on friendly match ups versus the Flyers twice and the Senators but also included two wins over strong opponents in the Blue Jackets and the Islanders. On Thursday, the winning streak will be put to the test against the best in the NHL right now in a road match up against the Lightning.
I view this game as an opportunity to make up for one of the too many losses in December by winning or even collecting an overtime loss point in a game that figured to be a loss on paper.
From the Hurricanes side, the team mostly just needs to keep doing what it has been doing which is attacking offensively across more lines, being decent or better defensively and receiving strong netminding. If the team does that for a full 60 minutes, it has a chance despite the opponent.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Tampa Bay Lightning
1) The start and a full 60 minutes
One minor flaw with the Hurricanes streak is the tendency to have lapses in terms of intensity even in overall strong efforts. The team has had a few games in which they took the foot off the pedal and let teams back in it. Though the starts have been better in the past few, the early wins also featured sluggish starts. Against a Lightning team that can strike quickly, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can dial up the intensity and focus for a full 60 minutes.
Goaltending has been a strength for some time now. Against a potent Lightning offense, a win will likely require some timely saves from the Canes netminder (expected to be Mrazek).
3) Attacking style
The Hurricanes will not beat the Lightning by going into a shell and trying to keep the puck out of their net. Rather, the team needs to play an attacking, skating game that forces the Lightning to defend and play in their own end at least as much as the Canes do. In other words, the best way to defend the Lightning is not to have to defend them too much.
The puck drops at 7:30pm on Fox Sports Southeast tonight with John, Tripp and Mike.