The Hurricanes picked up a much-needed win on Friday night against the Vancouver Canucks. The victory stopped a tough losing streak at three games. But what it did not do, by itself anyway, was generate any meaningful success. What it did was put the ball on the tee for that to be accomplished on Saturday night.
With a win, the Hurricanes have a perfect 2-0 weekend. With a loss, Friday’s win is quickly converted to another treading water 1-1 weekend which just is not good enough during the current stretch with the team working through a run of home games.
Justin Williams succinctly said:
Justin Williams: "The game means nothing tonight if you don't win tomorrow. You've gotta follow up stuff and we need to string some wins together."
— Cory Lavalette (@corylav) February 10, 2018
The game represents a sizable challenge in two respects:
1) A back-to-back against a rested team. Last week, the Hurricanes faced a rested Detroit Red Wings team at home as the second half of a back-to-back set. The Wings skated circles around a sluggish Hurricanes squad and the game was never even close. The situation is the same tomorrow with Colorado coming into the game rested.
2) A match up against a good hockey team. In their last dozen games, the Hurricanes are 0-5-1 against teams with better than .500 records, and 5-1-0 in games against teams with less than .500 records. The Avalanche sit in sixth place in the lights out Central Division but are a good hockey team that has three more points than the Hurricanes with two games in hand.
On Saturday, the Hurricanes will seek to overcome both challenges and start to string something together.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Colorado Avalanche
1) Cam Ward early and as much as necessary
One way or another, the Hurricanes will need to find a higher gear than they did in last week’s back-to-back against Detroit, but it is also reasonable to think that the team might need to weather the storm a bit against a rested opponent. Cam Ward will need to be sharp and probably the better of the two goalies on the ice for the Hurricanes to pull out another win. I will be watching early to see if Ward looks sharp and also as the game wears on to see if he can be a difference-maker.
Excuses count for nothing this time of year. Somehow the Hurricanes need to find some jump on Saturday to keep up better than they did against Detroit last week. Early in the game, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can find their skating legs this time around.
3) Heroes stepping up
In a game like this, not everyone is going to be at the top of his game. The key is for a handful of the players who do have it to step up and lead the way. I have been harping on the need for Jeff Skinner to quickly find his next scoring outburst before it is too late. Sebastian Aho is going right now. If Skinner can join him, the Hurricanes suddenly have a couple capable scoring options going and hope of balancing the load. But that said, any and all heroes will be accepted right now.
4) The ability to be sound even if under duress
Much of the battle in games with a physical disadvantage is being able to be sound under pressure. Being hemmed in the defensive zone in itself is not a big problem. The problem comes when the team makes bad turnovers that lead directly to grade A scoring chances or when defensive break downs arise. In both the Detroit and San Jose losses, the Hurricanes played at a disadvantage physically and compounded the situation X5 with shoddy defensive play. On Saturday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can carry forward their sound and solid defensive play from Friday against a better team on Saturday.
The puck drops at about 8:07pm at PNC Arena.