After an 0-2-1 mark last week and four days off to reset and recharge for a busy stretch run, the Hurricanes are back on the ice in Philadelphia to start a five-game road trip.
With only 18 games remaining and the Hurricanes on the outside looking in, righting the ship after a tough week last week and having at least a treading water road trip is obviously critical to the team’s playoff hopes. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe asked and tried to answer, “What does it take?” to make the playoffs. That starts in earnest tonight.
The opponent is a tough one. Right now, the teams could not be more opposite in terms of trajectory. The Flyers have won seven straight including an impressive 5-2 win over the division-leading Capitals last night, consecutive wins over the Rangers who were red hot prior and two more wins over the Blue Jackets who are also in the Metropolitan Division playoff picture. The Flyers are suddenly a point out of the top spot in the division.
The hope for the Canes is that the Flyers are a bit tired from playing last night and/or have a bit of a letdown after the big win over the Capitals.
But the bigger thing right now is for the Hurricanes to regroup after losing three players to injuries and two to trades and added three via trade and two from AHL call up. Unfortunately, the timing is such that the team needs to refigure things out and find a higher gear quickly to stay in the playoff hunt.
My watch points follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Philadelphia Flyers
1) Alex Nedeljkovic
After a tough first NHL start for the 2019-20 season, Alex Nedeljkovic was sharp and solid in relief in Saturday’s overtime loss to Montreal. He stopped a perfect 18 out of 18 shots in regulation before being beaten off the rush from point blank range in overtime. With a tough opponent on the road, the Hurricanes will need a strong effort in net to hang with the Flyers. I will be watching to see if Nedeljkovic can pick up where he left off on Saturday.
2) Ability to rise to the level of the competition
Recent play would suggest this game is a mismatch. The Flyers are playing incredibly well and dispatching of even good teams rather easily right now. And at least recently, the Hurricanes have not been a good team. But perhaps a tough match up will be exactly what the doctor ordered for the Hurricanes to find the focus, determination and whatever else is needed to find a higher gear. I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes look to be overmatched or instead are able to rise up a couple levels for a big game.
3) Attention to detail
The intermittent Achilles’ heel all season and regular one of late has been the Hurricanes propensity to make too many costly mistakes managing the puck and defending in their own end. Against good hockey teams that is a recipe for disaster. On Tuesday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can clean things up a bit and at least force the Flyers to earn their chances and goals.
4) Heroes rising up
It is that time of year when a team’s best players must lead the way. Sebastian Aho and his line have been doing exactly that offensively. The team could use a few more underperformers to kick things into home gear for the stretch run. On Tuesday, I will be watching to see who rises up.
The puck drops at 7pm on on NBC Sports for the Canes lone nationally televised game.