The Hurricanes played reasonably well on Sunday but did not get the results they wanted in their 3-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday. With the season hanging in the balance and results being all that really matters, the team needs to quickly push back into the win column on Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild.
The Wild represents another challenge against a Western Conference playoff team. As playoff teams often do, the Wild have started to round into form since the beginning of February with a 10-4-2 record. The team is led by former Hurricanes captain Eric Staal who leads the team with 65 points and is on pace to reach 40 goals. What a difference a couple years and a change of scenery has meant for him.
On the Hurricanes side of the ledger, the game is about staying the course but finding a way to convert it to a win. Unlike a couple of recent clunkers, Sunday’s loss was a strong effort overall. Scoring/finishing continues to be a challenge but more players are starting to join the group, and though the bad version of goaltending has been briefly dormant, the level of play in that regard continues to be mostly ‘meh.’
‘What I’m watching for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Minnesota Wild
1) Same compete, intensity level and consistency
As noted above, the level of play was fine on Sunday. Despite the fact that the effort did not garner the desired results on Sunday, it is still the starting point for any and all winning hockey. On Tuesday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can bring that level of compete across four lines, three defense pairs and 60 minutes of hockey again on Tuesday.
Here lives goaltending. Cam Ward was not horrible in Sunday’s loss, but he did manage at least one ‘what was that’ goal against when he never reacted or moved after having a shot clang off the pipe behind him. Regardless of that one fluky play, the goalie a the other end was slightly better arguably the difference in an even game in which the Hurricanes had the shot advantage. The game represented the third start in four nights for Ward which was a first diversion from Peters splitting back-to-backs. My guess is that Peters continues to ride Ward at this point, but we will not know for certain until the morning skate. Regardless, goaltending continues to be an every-game watch point.
3) Jeff Skinner and Sebastian Aho
I had both offensive leaders clicking as a necessary item for a Hurricanes playoff push. Both players have been contributing, but I would not say that either is truly hot. Skinner is goal-less in his past six games but has been really close on multiple occasions and did have six goals in six games prior to that. Aho has two goals in his last four games but a five-game goal-less stretch before that. To find the winning streak that the team needs right now, I think it takes both of these players clicking offensively at the same time. On Tuesday, I will be watching for signs of life from these two offensive leaders.
The puck drops at 8pm with John, Tripp and Mike on Fox Sports Carolinas.