After an impressive three-win start to the current five-game road trip, the Hurricanes faced their first setback on Sunday against New Jersey. A rough first period led by continued struggles on the power play dug an early hole and ultimately doomed the result to be a loss.
With a 3-1 mark through four games, Tuesday’s match up in Ottawa is pivotal. With a win, the Hurricanes go 4-1 on the road trip which is easily acceptable. With a loss, what started out so well ends with a treading water-ish 3-2 mark.
On paper, the match up looks favorable. The Senators are in last place in one of the Eastern Conference divisions. But remember that so was New Jersey on Sunday, and remember also that the same Senators beat the Hurricanes by a 4-1 margin in Raleigh only three weeks ago.
This might sound odd, but I actually think the Senators are a tough match up. Even in Raleigh where Brind’Amour could dictate match ups, the Hurricanes really had no answer for the Sens top line led by Matt Duchene. Trying to subdue that line could prove even more challenging on the road where Ottawa can dictate match ups.
But following Brind’Amour’s lead that he learned from Peter Laviolette, the focus should be more inward than outward. The Hurricanes need to rebound from Sunday’s loss in a big way and take care of business against a beatable opponent.
My watch points follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Ottawa Senators
1) Stopping the Duchene line
As noted above, the Hurricanes have struggled to contain Ottawa’s top line. With the defense pairings balanced on the road, Brind’Amour has the lineup set to avoid significant mismatches. On Tuesday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can do a better job of controlling Matt Duchene and company.
2) Special teams
The Carolina Hurricanes power play which has seen high highs and low lows during the 2018-19 season has bottomed out again. The failure to score or at least maintain momentum through two first period power plays on Sunday are what started the game on a downward trajectory. On Tuesday, I will be watching to see if the team can find a significantly higher pace. I will also be watching to see if the coaching staff can make some kind of quick changes to help boost the power play.
3) Sebastian Aho and Jaccob Slavin rising up
Though there will be veteran leaders like Justin Williams in the mix, the resurgence of the Carolina Hurricanes will also be led by youthful rising leaders. Jaccob Slavin has been phenomenal on the current road trip. Sebastian Aho continues to lead the way offensively and score at a 90-point pace. On Tuesday, I will be watching to see if these young leaders can continue to lead the way up into the playoff chase.
The puck drops at 7:30pm on Fox Sports Carolinas with John, Tripp and Mike.