If you missed it this morning, check out (pun intended) Jordan Futrell’s update on the Charlotte Checkers who picked up 2 big wins last week.
After a rough and 100 percent unproductive 4-game gauntlet run through the best in the Metropolitan Division, the Hurricanes look to rebound at home against the Los Angeles Kings.
The Hurricanes are still very much in the playoff hunt at only 3 points (adjusted for games played) behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the last playoff spot. But the team is also trending very much in the wrong direction on multiple fronts right now. Cam Ward started January up and down and has now hit a patch of just down. The defense in front of him has not helped much. And the sandwiched around 1 good effort, the Hurricanes have had 3 others where they seemed to pack it in early after digging a hole midway through the game.
The Hurricanes desperately need to find some kind of bounce back effort to stop the bleeding and start the next leg upward. A couple days to reset (again), a ‘light a fire’ kind of tough practice yesterday and home ice which has been very good to the Hurricanes this season could help.
I offered my thoughts on some possible adjustments for Bill Peters and the Carolina Hurricanes earlier this week, but step 1 is really about just being better across the board.
The opponent is the Los Angeles Kings who are also on the outside looking in on the playoff chase but still in the hunt. The Kings had limped to 4 straight losses before rebounding with a win in New Jersey on Tuesday.\
‘What I’m watching’ for the Hurricanes versus the Los Angeles King
Whether it is just an inevitable step down in level of play, mental and/or physical fatigue from 21 straight starts or the team in front of him, Ward has been every bit a part of the recent problem. He has allowed 21 goals in his last 4 starts and enough were either the soft or save-able variety that it is not as simple as pinning it on the defense in front of him. He needs to get back to at least ‘good enough’ for the Hurricanes to bounce back and start clawing upward again in the playoff chase. Based on that, I will be watching closely to see if Ward can re-find his level of play from November and December.
2) Bill Peters
In the middle of a short but vicious downturn, the magic that many great coaches possess is an uncanny ability to pull some levers to get the train back on the track at least good enough to grind out a few points until bigger improvements can be made and better days return. Can Bill Peters muster some combination of lineup adjustments, lighting a fire in terms of energy/determination and figuring out how to distribute ice time to squeak out any kind of win to relieve pressure and start the next trek upward? Or does he helplessly watch and wait out a slow process of trying to sort things out while the season drips away? The last 4 games were a buzz saw, but theoretically there are more winnable games in the near-term path where just maybe he can find enough quick gains to collect a few wins. Out of the gate on Thursday, I will be watching to see what Peters does lineup-wise, how the team responds to another attempted reset and what Peters can do to find something better.
Oftentimes to get out of a rut it takes a player or 2 rising up and leading the way. I will be watching to see who, if anyone, can get out front and lead the team forward.
4) The battle in front of the blue paint
The Hurricanes recently struggles offensively have included an intermittent willingness to to to the front of the net to win battles and score ugly goals on offense when pretty is not working. The power play has scored twice from pretty Elias Lindholm passing plays in the past 2 games but could use much more ugly in front of the net. In addition, 3 of the Capitals’ 4 goals on Monday featured Caps screening Ward with a Canes player mostly in the right place to defend but not doing enough to make sight lines for their goalie.
The puck drops a little bit after 7pm at PNC Arena.