After an eventful day Tuesday with a wild win over the Flyers and the announcement that Justin Williams (his return date is uncertain but will not be Friday) was returning, the Canes are back to less exciting but still very important daily work closing out the long seven-game home stand. Sitting at 3-2 with a back-to-back set against the Arizona Coyotes on Friday and the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, the productivity of the long set hinges on this weekend. With two wins, the Canes finish a solid 5-2 and climb three games more above .500. With two losses, the home stand would finish a disappointing 3-4 and swing the roller coaster right back to down.
Needless to say, Friday’s game is an important one especially for trajectory.
The opponent is an Arizona Coyotes team that is having a strong 2019-20 campaign so far. The Coyotes enter the game in first place with a narrow lead in a tightly-bunched division. Arizona’s strength has been defense and goaltending. Arizona ranks second in the entire NHL in fewest goals allowed per game. The Coyotes were thumped 4-0 by Tampa Bay in their last game (like everyone else recently), but had four straight wins prior to that.
On the Hurricanes side, the Canes seem to be more in ‘find a way’ mode than having any kind of rhythm and repeatable formula. On the positive side, the 2019-20 Carolina Hurricanes have shown the fire power to out-run/out-gun sloppy efforts and too many mistakes. On the negative side, the volume of mistakes is high for this point in the season. My match points consider that current state of the team.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Arizona Coyotes
The Hurricanes netminding duo is in a bit of a funk of late. Petr Mrazek has managed to collect some wins but really has not been great for some time. James Reimer has similarly stumbled after generally strong play in the backup role. Despite winning 5-4 on Tuesday, Reimer’s effort was a porous mess with three goals finding their way through him and into the net and two more shots leaking through him and somehow not finding the net. I would expect Mrazek will take his regular turn on Friday unless the coaching staff has a preference for splitting the games and Mrazek playing against Los Angeles on Saturday. Regardless, the Hurricanes’ netminding has become a regular watch point because of its recent struggles.
2) A cleaner game
On Tuesday, the offset to the Canes tough outing in net and to some degree defensively at least early in the game was a Flyers team that was having the exact same struggles. The result was a game with a high number of chances and a great setup for a high-scoring outcome that has generally been favorable for the Canes. Arizona is the type of team that can be opportunistic if you gift them offensive chances and can then lock things down a bit on the wait to a 3-1 win. On Friday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can tighten things up a bit and play the type of game that can win or push to overtime with two goals if they have to.
3) Top players leading the way
We are quickly approaching the stretch run and the time of year when a team’s best players need to pick the team up and lead the way. Increasingly, it is go time for players like Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, Dougie Hamilton and Andrei Svechnikov to lead the way offensively, and for players like Jordan Staal, Brett Pesce, Jaccob Slavin and Petr Mrazek to lead the way defensively. On Friday, I will be watching to see how these top players fare as the team tries to close out the home stand successfully this weekend.
The puck drops at 7:30pm at PNC Arena.