After losing in overtime in game 1 of the mom’s trip, the Hurricanes will play game 2 in Nashville after what was certainly a fun Monday.
Aside from the family fun, another two points in the standings are available and obviously critical this time of year. In today’s Daily Cup of Joe, I handicapped the playoff competition in what is a crowded race for the last four playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. With the Blue Jackets and Flyers who sit just above the Canes in the standings going head-to-head on Tuesday and again on Thursday, the Canes can definitely climb the standings ladder if they can win this week.
The opponent is a Nashville Predators team that is also scratching and clawing for every point they can get. The Predators are currently three points out of a wild card spot but have three and four games in hand respectively over the two current wild card teams. The Predators are also trending upward with three straight wins.
On the Canes side of the ledger, the team continues to be up and down. Struggling to play sound games capable of squeaking out low-scoring wins on lesser nights, the Canes tend to be feast or famine right now. Either the team scores in bunches and wins in dramatic fashion, or the team gives up too much and loses.
My watch points for Thursday’s match up follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Nashville Predators
1) The top line
Regardless of the ups and downs, the best thing going right now in the Cania-verse is the line of Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen. The line continues to be a going concern on a nightly basis and the team’s primary source of offense. The trio is an every game watch point for three reasons. First is simply the fun. Second is their prominent role in trying to win hockey games. Third, unfortunately, is the possibility that Brind’Amour may at some point separate them trying to find more scoring balance, especially on the road.
2) Seeking soundness
The most obvious Achille’s heel for the Hurricanes lately has been the team’s inability to clean up ‘oopses’. The ‘oopses’ include bad turnovers, inattention to detail in terms of defensive zone coverage and unnecessary penalties. On Sunday when the Canes generally had the upper hand against an Oilers team that played the night before, the three regulation goals came from power play goals off two offensive zone penalties and a bad defensive zone turnover that found the net two seconds later. Maybe it is just is not in this 2019-20. Maybe the team is capable of rising above it. But the path to the playoffs would be much easier if the Canes were capable of grinding out a few wins that did not require offensive overdrive. In the eight games since the All-Star break, the Canes have held the opponent to less than three goals only once.
3) Seeking heroes who make plays
In a game where the margin of difference is often one or two, a couple heroes making a couple plays can often be the difference. The top line is the leading candidate to step up and lead the way, but anyone is welcome. I will be watching to see which Canes players can find a higher gear at the time of year when each game is critical.
The puck drops at 8pm on Fox Sports Carolinas.