On Thursday, the Hurricanes picked up a much-needed, fun, bounce back win against the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday. The game was significant following a rough loss in St. Louis on Tuesday, and this time of year anytime a team gets two points, it is a good day.
But buried beneath a good number of positives in my game recap, I was not as positive on the quality of the win as the general party line after a fun win. I wrote:
Not to be underestimated this time of year is the importance of getting two points any way possible. And that rings true even more so after a rough outing like Tuesday.
That said, I think that Caniacs will awake Friday possibly making more of Thursday’s win in terms of righting some wrongs. Unfortunately, I think this win was more about overcoming issues than correcting them. The Canes again dug a hole and had to climb out of it. The team also took multiple offensive zone penalties one of which proved costly with a power play goal against and the other which was late in the game and could have been catastrophic. And the third period once the team was up two goals was a bit of a mess despite ending well. Up 4-2, Jake Gardiner got caught watching the puck a bit, such that a Coyotes player ended up alone at the side of the net on his side of the ice for a goal against. Five minutes later Brett Pesce thwarted a 2-on-1 when Gardiner got caught up ice. Five minutes later Gardiner got worked over stopping and starting in the offensive zone by the speedy Garland. Then inside of five minutes Lucas Wallmark managed a boarding penalty on the forecheck to give the Coyotes another great chance late.
The result was a good one, and that trumps all else. And there is a chance that positive momentum comes from that result. But the part of me looking for improvement in quality of play is much less enthralled than the part of me counting points in the standings.
I view Saturday’s game as a chance to see if the win on Thursday marked progress and a more permanent step in the right direction or if it was just a good night being opportunistic against a struggling team. A quick glance at the standings might peg Arizona as a top-notch opponent, but counting the loss to the Canes on Thursday, the Coyotes have won only twice in regulation in their past 11 games.
Fast forward to Saturday, and the opponent is a Vegas Golden Knights team that is playing well. The team is 4-2-1 in its last seven games with the two regulation losses to Boston and Tampa Bay. The Golden Knights are also fresh off a 7-2 pasting of a Florida team that is pretty good. The game figures to be a bigger challenge and therefore maybe a good measure of if the Canes are in the process of putting things together or just destined to continue bouncing up and down.
My watch points follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Vegas Golden Knights
1) Teravainen/Aho/ Svechnikov
The newly-minted, top-heavy first line was lights out on Thursday with four goals. Andrei Svechnikov was easily the best player in the game and could have had another couple of points or even goals on top of his three-point night. Sebastian Aho chipped in two goals as well. And though in an understated way, Teuvo Teravainen had a strong game as well. I will be watching on Saturday to see if the top line can ride momentum coming out of Thursday and continue to lead the way offensively.
2) James Reimer
Shocked would be an overstatement given Rod Brind’Amour’s seeming bias on the verge of stubborness trying to ride Petr Mrazek to late season hot streak like in 2018-19, but I will be as surprised as possible if James Reimer does not start on Saturday and then get some runway if he continues to win. It is just a hunch, but I think the two games this week might finally be a tipping point that sees Brind’Amour lean more heavily on Reimer who has been the better goalie for awhile now. So on Saturday I will be watching to see if Brind’Amour does in fact shift in this direction. If so, I will be watching to see how Reimer reacts to receiving a start that suggests he is the 1A.
3) Still seeking a cleaner effort
Per my notes above from Thursday’s recap, my version of the win had the team much higher on ‘finding a way’ than ‘building a model’. That said, wins like Thursday’s can serve as a starting point an spring board, and there are some building blocks. Trevor van Riemsdyk looked good with Jaccob Slavin in the top 4. The top line will attract a ton of attention and maybe free up other lines against lesser match ups. And more significantly, I think it is necessary for this team to find a better path if it is to emerge from the ups and downs and seize a playoff berth.
The puck drops at 10pm on Fox Sports Carolinas with John, Tripp and Mike.