After a fun weekend with another storybook win courtesy of Morgan Geekie on Sunday over the Penguins, the Hurricanes return to the ice on Tuesday night in Detroit for game four of five for the road trip.
The two wins see the Hurricanes enter the game tied for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference but still very much in a crowded pack that will likely see three teams come within a couple points of a playoff spot but get sent packing at the end of the regular season.
The opponent is a Red Wings team that looks like an easy win on paper. The Wings are the bottom team in the NHL by a MASSIVE 23 points and have long been playing for draft lottery position. But in a league where parity reigns supreme, one need look no further than the Wings last two games that include wins over Cup contender Tampa Bay and a Chicago team that is trying to play its way into the playoff hunt. In the NHL, if you do not show up and put forward a strong effort nasty surprises linger.
On the Hurricanes side, this game is about continuing the current trajectory. Only two weeks ago, the Hurricanes posted a rousing, feel-good win with an emergency goalie only to fall flat with four straight losses. Aside from the utter debacle in terms of taking penalties (six in the first half of the game) which was buried underneath the win, the Hurricanes put forward their best 5-on-5 effort in some time. The goal Tuesday is to find that same gear. If the Canes do, they are a better team than the Wings and should ride it to a win.
Tonight starts the last of 15 regular season games. It is crunch time.
My watch points follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Detroit Red Wings
As noted above, the Hurricanes recently had what felt like a ‘stake in the sand’ game with the win in Toronto and then fell on their faces immediately afterward. On Tuesday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can start fast and aggressive and pick up where they left off in the sold win over the Penguins.
2) Cleaning things up
Sunday’s win very much had a chance to go a completely different direction. The Hurricanes took six penalties in the first 30 minutes of play. The Pens scored once, and constantly being shorthanded also interrupted stretches when the Hurricanes seemed to be gaining the upper hand. Throw in another Pens power play goal or two early and might the game have ended 6-3 the other way? I think that is more possible than many might think. So on Tuesday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can clean things up in terms of penalties but also avoid a relapse in terms of sloppy defensive play from the week before.
3) Morgan Geekie
Lost in the team winning 6-3 was how big of an impact Geekie had tilting the game favorably at a point when it was far from decided. He factored directly in all three of the first three goals as the Canes survived early and gradually climbed to a 3-2 lead. Did Morgan Geekie just have a tremendous debut? Or is it possible that he just has that ‘it’ factor of a player who was born to be an NHL player and is rising to the occasion when given the chance to do so? His scoring pace is obviously not sustainable, but it is still fun to watch as he takes next steps in the NHL.
4) Justin Williams leading the way
After a bit of a slow start (except for shootout heroics) while he was getting up to speed, Justin Williams is clicking right now with five goals in four games. The beauty of his game is its simplicity. (Paraphrasing) ‘If you want groceries, you go to the grocery store. If you want to score goals, you go to the front of the net.’ His scoring is well-timed, but I think the greater win here will be if a Canes team that can be pushed to the perimeter at times by good defensive teams follows Williams lead such that we start seeing more of the same throughout the lineup. Geekie did his damage following Williams’ lead. I will be watching to see how much the movement grows.
The puck drops at 7:30pm on Fox Sports Carolinas with John, Tripp and Mike.