After a three-game skid that included two completely lackluster efforts, a Bill Peters’ tirade in a post-game press conference and an all too familiar feeling that the season was ending early, the Hurricanes rebounded this past weekend with a pair of wins. And just like that the Hurricanes are back in playoff position and the outlook for the 2017-18 is at least potentially bright.
I would not categorize the two wins as dominant, but they were impressive because of the high level of play pretty much across the board. Both goalies played well. The defense righted the ship and was sound. The compete level returned after a few games off during the previous weekend. And the offense suddenly looked capable even if not dynamic. More significant than ratings on level of play is the simple fact that the team really needed to right the ship and collect points before the season slipped away.
So after entering last week with a feeling of despair, the team concluded the week with a solid 2-0-1 record and now enters the current week with a positive vibe and some momentum.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Los Angeles Kings
Against that backdrop, here is what I am watching for the Carolina Hurricanes battle against the Kings on Tuesday.
1) Foot still on the gas
Even though the Hurricanes lost in overtime on Tuesday, the game did offer a much-needed change in terms of pace, intensity and compete level. That higher gear carried forward into the weekend and resulted in two wins. After a couple days off to digest the wins, will the Hurricanes return with an understanding for how to reach that higher gear? Or will they instead pause to exhale and in the process let their game slip just a little with some pressure relieved? Through 56 games, the Hurricanes have won more than two games in a row only three times. I really think that this sets up to be a ‘Justin Williams game.’ After Friday’s win, Williams was quick to point out in post-game interviews that Friday’s win meant nothing if the team did not follow it up on Saturday. I think it falls on Justin Williams and the captains to rattle the saber a bit in the locker room either after the morning skate or before the game on Tuesday to make sure players enter the game with the same hunger they had when they were sputtering. I will be watching closely on Tuesday, especially early, to make sure the Hurricanes arrive with the same intensity level that they finished with on Saturday.
There were many positive trends to come out of the set of weekend wins, but not being distracted, I continue to think that getting at least league average goaltending is a critical component for a playoff push. As such, I will be watching on Tuesday to see if the positive trajectory for Canes’ goaltending continues.
3) The offense against a big challenge
After a run of sluggish offensive play, the Hurricanes broke through a bit over the weekend with seven goals combined in two games. A more balanced set of four lines played a role, but more than anything the team just managed to finish a few. Tuesday represents a big challenge offensively. The Kings are second stingiest team in the entire NHL in terms of goals allowed and maybe more significantly present a style of play that has the potential to leave the Hurricanes frustrated. The Kings can play a physical game on the forecheck and also limiting chances off the rush. With Jonathan Quick having a strong season, if the Hurricanes settle for being pushed outside and fall into the trap of trying to play ‘beat the goalie’ without traffic to the front of the net, the game sets up to be the variety where the Hurricanes fare well in terms of shot totals but very predictably come up short in terms of grade A scoring chances and ultimately goals on the scoreboard. On Tuesday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can play between the face-off circles in the offensive zone and also show a willingness to compete for ice space at the top of the crease.
The puck drops at 7:07pm at PNC Arena.