After a loss to the New York Rangers on Tuesday, the Hurricanes will look to rebound quickly against the Florida Panthers on Thursday. The team was not going to win out, so Tuesday’s loss is not debilitating. But at the same time, with a two-point deficit (adjusted for games played), the margin for error is small, and an extended losing streak would leave minimal time to recover and likely doom the currently alive playoff hopes.
Best is to rebound quickly, pick up a win Thursday and continue what has been a good run since the beginning of 2019.
The opponent is a Florida Panthers team that like the Rangers would need a massive surge to play back into playoff contention. But the Rangers loss shows very clearly that there are no gimmes against his type of team. And Florida’s three consecutive wins against Calgary, Montreal and Buffalo shows the same.
On the Hurricanes side, the team has been successful and productive in terms of winning games of late, but past the goalies who have been somewhere between solid and utterly phenomenal, the team is sputtering a bit.
What a time to be alive when the Hurricanes are struggling a bit but are 6-2 in their last eight games because of goaltending. But having a goalie stand on his head each and every night to keep winning is not sustainable, so at some point, the Hurricanes need find a second wind, a higher gear or whatever else to propel them into and through March.
My watch points for Thursday’s game follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Florida Panthers
1) Seeking a higher gear
As noted above, I think the Hurricanes 6-2 record in their last 8 games is a bit misleading. The team has been ‘meh’ and largely carried by its goaltending. Other than opportunistically pouncing on both Edmonton and Dallas before they seemed to wake up, the Hurricanes scored only a single goal in each of the three games of the home stand, but the effort against the Rangers was much better and deserved more scoring reward. On Thursday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can build on what was generally a better effort on Tuesday and couple it with enough puck luck.
2) Battle of Finland’s finest
Both probably underrated from playing in southern markets that have not made the playoffs recently, Thursday’s game features a match up of two of Finland’s best in Sebastian Aho and Aleksander Barkov. Aho leans skating and craftiness, while Barkov who has has his share of those also brings a bit more bull in a China shop too. I am not sure how Florida will play match ups at home, but Aho versus Barkov would be fun to watch.
3) Martinook, McGinn and Ferland
With the goal of dialing up the intensity early and maintaining it for a full 60 minutes, I will be watching Jordan Martinook, Brock McGinn and Micheal Ferland. Martinook has been notable for having a keen sense for when the team needs to a bit of a jolt early to make sure everyone is fully engaged. Ferland has on multiple occasions dropped the gloves early in games when the Hurricanes did not seem to be up and going. And McGinn also is a consistent contributor in terms of banging bodies. On Tuesday, I will be watching to see if the jam brothers can dial it up early and help the full team find a higher gear that stays for the full 60 minutes.
The puck drops at 7pm on Fox Sports Southeast with John, Tripp and Mike.