After 4-1 win over the Predators on Tuesday that was probably the most complete effort since the start of 2020 and one of the best games of the entire season, the Hurricanes return home with the goal of starting to climb the standings.
The standings show the Hurricanes tied for fifth place in the Metropolitan Division and the final wild card slot, but closer inspection shows the team with a chance to rise. The Canes are only one point behind a falling Columbus team and with three games in hand are only three points behind Philadelphia with two games in hand. Climbing the standings only requires converting games in hand into points. With only the Islanders in action tonight, the game is a chance to win and climb.
Like the standings, the opponent is one that looks different from deeper consideration than first glance. At first glance, the Rangers are a team that is currently a step or two out of the playoff fray. So they in theory are a lesser team and maybe one with less to play for. But as a young team that is playing well (7-3 in last 10 games is better than teams they are chasing), the Rangers are playing playoff games right now trying to catch the teams in front of them somewhat like the Hurricanes at this time last year. On top of that, Henrik Lundqvist (not sure if he will start) and the Rangers seem to have some strange curse over the Hurricanes of late.
On the Hurricanes side of the ledger, this game is about trying to repeat the effort from Tuesday. As noted above, the game was the team’s best in sometime and represents a great blueprint for playing winning hockey down the stretch.
My watch points follow:
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the New York Rangers
1) Continuation from Tuesday
The biggest thing coming into Friday’s game is trying to repeat Tuesday’s game. The game was one of very few recently in which the Hurricanes had a strong first period. And the game was way under the recent average in terms of what I have started to call ‘the bad 3’ — bad/unnecessary penalties, costly turnovers in the defensive zone and in transition and missed defensive coverage/assignments. So on Friday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can again start on time and if they can repeat the model from Tuesday.
2) The top line
The greatest show on ice right now in Raleigh continues to be the top line and its blistering scoring pace. Each and every night the trio of Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen and Andrei Svechnikov is worth the price of admission. I will of course be watching to see if they can continue to lead the offense and team.
3) The Rangers and Metropolitan Division curse
Courtesy of a new winning streak with the recent 5-2 win over the Devils, the Hurricanes are now 2-7-1 against teams below them in the Metropolitan Division. The Rangers represent arguably the greatest of the curse, hex or whatever you want to call it. Especially if Lundqvist starts, the Canes need to overcome the mental battle, bad luck or whatever and just beat a team that they should be better than on home ice.
4) Julien Gauthier
After being traded to the Rangers earlier this week, Julien Gauthier will make his next stop at PNC Arena wearing blue and not red. The timing of his return makes for good drama and is also worth watching.
The puck drops at 7pm at PNC Arena.