After a few days off to pause and exhale after a wild seven-day stretch for Carolina Hurricanes hockey, the team is back at it on Saturday. Last Wednesday saw Ron Francis ousted from the general manager position. Just when things seemed to settling back into a less dramatic routine, the team blew all four tires in imploding and converting a 4-1 third period lead into a 6-4 loss on Tuesday. The aftermath featured post-game interviews flabbergasted players with befuddled expressions and a lack of words to explain what happened and an agitated and verbally confrontational Bill Peters. The next day included more soul searching and a wait for what happened next. The answer was not much. An odd three-day layoff offered fans the possibility of just fleeing the scene of the 2017-18 season for the greener pastures of the NCAA basketball tourney. And the team had a day off and then a couple rounds of practice to try yet again to reset.
And that takes us to Saturday’s home match up against the Philadelphia Flyers. The game represents another potentially treacherous challenge against a good hockey team. But coming off of Tuesday’s debacle, this game is not about the opponent. Rather, it is about the Carolina Hurricanes and how it responds after yet another bad loss.
That search for what the Hurricanes are made of and how the team and individual players respond to another bout of adversity is the theme for my watch points for Saturday.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Philadelphia Flyers
1) Intensity or self-doubt at the starting gate?
Maybe most interesting will be seeing what the vibe is to start the game. With three days off to digest a late-game collapse, will the team come out with its hair on fire looking to aggressively leave last Tuesday behind? Or will some amount of self-doubt be evident as the team carries but tries to leave Tuesday behind?
2) Individual player responses
Past the broader team response, Saturday’s game will also be one to watch how individual players, especially the leaders, respond. Do players wearing letters play with a noticeable physical edge and level of agitation? Or do they instead look like they are just ready to be done for 2017-18?
3) The response to adversity
There is no guarantee that it will happen on Saturday, but also worth watching is how the team responds next time it possesses a lead, especially a big one, and responds when scored upon.
For those who are still engaged and eager to get a read on character and a response to adversity, the high drama unfolds at 7:07pm Saturday night at PNC Arena.