Through a roller coaster ride and 5 games on the road to start the 2016-17 season, the Hurricanes are 1-2-2. After a return to Raleigh and a couple days of home cooking, the Hurricanes will play the last of 6 road games to start the season on the road in Detroit. With a win, the Canes notch a respectable 2-2-2 record. With a loss, the 1-3-2 mark amounts to digging a hole through 6 games. The game will also mark the Hurricanes last trip to the iconic Joe Louis Arena.
After starting the season with 2 losses, the Detroit Red Wings have reeled off 4 straight wins and outscored their opponents by a total of 15-5 in those 4 games. The Hurricanes enter the game after a rough 6-3 loss in Philadelphia that saw the good guys mount a 2-0 lead in the second period only to then get blown out. If you are catching up you can find the recap/notes for the loss to the Flyers HERE.
If I had to name only the most significant aspects of the Hurricanes play through 5 games, my key points would be:
1) Signs of an improving offense and power play that is creating chances and finishing on a nightly basis.
2) A high volume of missed defensive assignments, horrible turnovers and other bad mistakes especially when leading in games.
3) Weak goaltending.
‘What I’m watching’ for Hurricanes at Red Wings on Tuesday night
Not surprisingly, ‘what I’m watching’ is heavy on the items noted above…
NOTE ADDED AFTER ANNOUNCEMENT PAIRINGS AT MORNING SKATE BY MICHAEL SMITH: Jeff Skinner is day-to-day and did not take part in the morning skate, so it is not clear if he will play on Tuesday night. Missing Skinner would obviously be a huge blow.
1) The Hurricanes netminding
After a strong outing in the Hurricanes only win on Thursday night in Calgary, Eddie Lack crashed back to Earth in a ball of fire on Saturday in Philadelphia. He gave up a soft goal when he wandered and lost track of the net he was defending to cut a 2-0 lead to 2-1, gave up another soft goal on an odd bouncing shot late and just did not stop enough pucks in between. I have not seen official word, but I would suspect that Lack’s rough outing on Saturday will mean that it is again Cam Ward’s turn. Regardless of who is in net, the Hurricanes goaltending situation continues to be something to watch on an every game basis.
2) Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce
On a more positive note, the emergence of Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce has been a high note amidst the defensive challenges. I wrote about the young duo and their development in this morning’s Daily Cup of Joe. The young combination has been the Hurricanes best defense pairing in the past couple games and an oasis of sound defensive play during some tough times as a team. Despite their young age, can Slavin/Pesce provide Coach Bill Peters with a defensive pairing that he can lean on heavily until enough other things fall into place?
NOTE ADDED AFTER ANNOUNCEMENT PAIRINGS AT MORNING SKATE BY MICHAEL SMITH: Expectation per the morning practice is that Peters will shuffle the D pairings and go back to Slavin/Faulk and Hainsey/Pesce. This might sound odd, and Peters would never admit it, but I actually think this is a move to spread out the ‘sound and stable’ of Pesce and Slavin to see if they can help settle things with the veterans who are sputtering a bit.
3) Sebastian Aho with Jordan Staal
For me, the greatest silver lining in an otherwise tough game on Saturday was the play of rookie Sebastian Aho when elevated to Jordan Staal’s line. For the second consecutive game, a heady passing play at the blue line by Aho led pretty quickly to a Hurricanes goal. This time he found a streaking Joakim Nordstrom who then found Jordan Staal for a goal. On Saturday, Sebastian Aho provided a playmaking element to what has traditionally been a checking line centered around Jordan Staal. Jordan Staal needs to be 1 of the Hurricanes 2-3 best players, but he needs some amount of help to get there. Is it possible that his help comes in the form of a 19-year old rookie?
4) A cleaner game defensively and taking care of the puck
Right up there with the goaltending issues has been the Hurricanes mighty struggles defensively and handling the puck in their own end especially when pressured by a desperate team who is down. The Hurricanes have jumped out the leads of at least 2 goals in 4 of their 5 games and more or less imploded in all of them. They did hang on for a win against Calgary, but otherwise are 0-1-2 despite multi-goal leads. When things should get simpler, safer and sounder with a lead, the Hurricanes have gone completely the other direction becoming careless and scrambling around. This condition right now is Bill Peters’ single biggest puzzle to figure out.
The puck drops at 7:30pm on Fox Sports Carolinas with John, Tripp and the first time for Mike Maniscalco in a new role as part of the TV broadcast team.