On Thursday, the Hurricanes collected an impressive win over the Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning. By no means were the Hurricanes dominant in the hard-fought 1-0 overtime win, but with a depleted squad minus four regulars in COVID protocol played even with the defending champions and ultimately prevailed.
Saturday’s tour of the 2020 trophy winners featured a match up against the Dallas Stars. The Stars were the other 2020 Stanley Cup Finalist, entered with a perfect 4-0 record and figured to be another tough test. In what was easily the team’s best game of the year, the Hurricanes dominated a good Dallas Stars team from start to finish. The Canes finished early to gain a lead and then squeezed the life out of the Stars for the remainder.
Coming off two impressive wins, the big question heading into Sunday is whether the Hurricanes can sustain such a high level of play or if instead this is just part of the normal ups and downs of an NHL season.
My watch points follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Dallas Stars
1) Is it for real?
Based on bounces, finishing and goaltending, winning by a nice three-goal margin is not that uncommon, but what stood out to me was how incredibly little the Hurricanes allowed the Stars offensively over the last two periods even though they were down and should have been pressing for offense. The game was a clinic in terms of how to use puck possession to mostly avoid playing defense under duress and then also how to defend well when needed. The biggest thing for me on Sunday is trying to get a read on if the Hurricanes have truly found a higher gear versus just playing a couple great games randomly strung together.
2) Svechnikov and Aho
The duo has been good together especially on the rush, and they could easily have more points than they do. But are they do for an even bigger breakout? Watching and wondering is easily one of the most fun things in Canes hockey right now, and something I will be watching for on Sunday.
3) The arrival of the second line?
Martin Necas just hit a mini-streak with three points in two games. Vincent Trocheck is coming off a big game with two goals and an assist. But there is subtle but significant difference between saying that players on the second line are producing versus saying that the second line is producing. In 2019-20, Erik Haula started the season like he was shot out of a cannon scoring in bunches mostly on the power play. Second line scoring looked good, but the scoring was not so much being driven by the line’s play on the ice together 5-on-5. The end result was that the line sort of faded and left a gap in the middle of the Hurricanes lineup. Fast forward to 2020-21, and the story might be the same. Of the five goals that Necas and Trocheck have been a part of in the past two games only one was was an every strength play involved the two. (Necas’ heady pass from behind the end line to feed Trocheck for a point blank finish.) Necas goal came 3-on-3 in overtime from Staal, and his other assist came on the power play to Dzingel. Trocheck’s other assist was on Svechnikov’s goal, and his other goal came on the power play. Both players are hot and playing together. Goal scoring of any variety is a positive obviously, but I will be watching to see if they can similarly break out as a line together playing 5-on-5.
The puck drops at an earlier 5:07pm on Fox Sports Carolinas with Tripp, Mike Abby and Shane.