After a perfect 2-0 start to the ongoing seven-game home stand, the Hurricanes now find themselves back at 2-2 after losses to Washington and Tampa Bay. As I wrote following the loss to Tampa Bay, the status is not horrible considering that three of the first four games were Washington twice and also red hot Tampa Bay. But the 2-2 mark does increase the importance of Tuesday’s game and the a strong finish in total for the home stand.
Game 5 on Tuesday features a seemingly run of the mill game against a good but not elite Flyers team, but given how much the Canes have struggled against Metropolitan Division foes, one has to wonder if there is something more than random math at play. The Hurricanes are without a win at 0-6-1 against Metropolitan Division teams including an 0-2 mark against the Flyers. People are touting the top to bottom strength of the division, and the Hurricanes have contributed significantly to that.
But more than history and math, today’s game is about getting back in the win column and in the process pushing down a team currently below (by only one point) the Hurricanes in the standings and closing out the home stand positively.
My watch points follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Philadelphia Flyers
1) Leaders rising up
Now is the time of year and this is the type of game for leaders to rise up and lead the way to wins. Players like Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen need to lead the way offensively. Jordan Staal needs to find his groove especially on home ice and do his thing shutting down the other teams’ best. And the core of the blue line in Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce and Dougie Hamilton need to help the team tighten up defensively. On Tuesday, I will be watching to see how the team’s top players fare.
Part 1 of my mid-season grades today offered mixed marks on the Canes netminding. I would figure James Reimer to get the start tonight, and with Petr Mrazek being ‘meh’ not great lately, a solid start by Reimer in a big game is important. If Mrazek starts, the game would be a re-vote of confidence by Brind’Amour and a chance to rebound against a slightly lesser opponent which would be equally important. Either way, I will be watching the goaltending closely on Tuesday.
3) Special teams
If this game is a close one, special teams always has a chance to be the difference. After holding the dam during a run of too many penalties on the road trip, the dam finally broke for the Canes penalty kill. The group seemed to do an about face from being impenetrable on the road trip to porous since then. Regardless of the level of play, cleaning up unnecessary stick infractions and offensive zone penalties is increasingly a necessary improvement. Hopefully with that included, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes gain or give up an edge with special teams play on Tuesday.
The puck drops at 7:07pm at PNC Arena.