After what I consider the most impressive and complete win at least since the long road trip, the Canes now sit at 4-2 for the seven-game home stand. The ball is on the tee for a great weekend and conclusion to the home run with Whalers night at PNC Arena on Saturday night and a beatable opponent in the Los Angeles Kings.
With an 18-24-4 mark for the 2019-20 season, the Kings are on the outside looking in for the playoff race already. The Kings are 3-6-1 in their past 10 games, but their 5-2 win Thursday over the Vegas Golden Knights is a reminder that advantages on paper do not automatically convert to wins on the ice.
On the Hurricanes side of the ledger, the team is currently on another upswing on the roller coaster with consecutive home wins. Maybe more significantly the team is coming off what would probably be a top 5 win for the season in terms of playing a complete game and being sound and solid for a full 60 minutes instead of just winning via a burst or two of scoring.
The game is a big one in terms of trajectory. A loss makes for an okay but mostly treading water-ish 4-3 mark for the home stand, whereas a win finishes strong with a 5-2 mark that is even more impressive considering the level of competition that included Washington twice and also red hot Tampa Bay.
My watch points follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Los Angeles Kings
1) Continuation from Friday
For pretty much the entirety of the 2019-20 season, I have credited the Hurricanes with having much greater ability to win just by scoring goals and also for just finding a way. But pretty much since the beginning of the season I have noted the team’s struggle in terms of playing sound, clean games that more commonly lead to a repeatable formula as the season progresses. Friday’s win earned top marks for being a sound and complete effort. So on Saturday I will be watching closely to see if the Hurricanes can extend that level of play into the next 60 minutes.
2) Sebastian Aho
On a night when the team was good, Sebastian Aho was not on the score sheet, but I still noted in my game recap that I thought he had that higher gear that usually coincides with his scoring runs. It is more hunch than science, but I think Aho could be on the verge of another well-timed surge as the team enters the early stages of the playoff stretch run. On Saturday, I will be watching to see if Aho can again find that higher gear and hopefully be rewarded for it on the score sheet.
I noted before Friday’s game that the Canes goaltending had been ‘meh’ or worse in most recent games, even the wins. After being strong as a backup all season with only a couple tiny blips, Reimer had his worst outing of the season despite winning on Tuesday. Mrazek had not been great recently either. But on Friday, Mrazek was incredibly sharp in one of his best outings of the year. Best guess is that Brind’Amour does not deviate from the general plan of splitting starts, especially back-to-backs, still with 37 games to go in the long season. But as I said in yesterday’s game recap, if there was a case to be made for giving Mrazek an extra start, he made it. Regardless of who starts, goaltending is an interesting watch point. If Mrazek starts, can he build on a great outing Friday, or was that just a one-off? If Reimer starts, can he rebound in a game that looks favorable match up-wise against a struggling Kings team?
The puck drops at 7:07pm at PNC Arena. Wear your green for Whalers night!