After wrapping up a critical five-game home stand with a solid 4-1 mark, the Hurricanes move forward to another challenging chunk of schedule with consecutive games against the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. The first game of the home and home series is Tuesday night in Washington, D.C.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe has the more detailed version, but the short version has two points. First, the Hurricanes are in VERY good position at least in terms of making the playoffs as a first or second wild card, but every game is still critical. Second, with consecutive games against Washington and then another against Pittsburgh later this week, if the Hurricanes can win out, they will push themselves into contention for the division title.
The Capitals have had some ups and downs during the 2018-19 season but are playing some of their best hockey at the right time down the stretch. The Caps sit atop the Metropolitan Division standings and are 6-3-1 in their past 10 games. Interestingly, the Canes have an identical record in their past 10 games and are also playing well. To the broader hockey world, maybe this still looks like a titan versus underdog match up, but the reality based on what has been happening on the ice is that it is a game between two very good hockey teams with a lot at stake.
My watch points follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Washington Capitals
1) A repeat of Sunday’s 60-minute effort
More than anything, the Hurricanes just keep finding different ways to win right now. But Saturday’s 5-1 win over the Minnesota Wild was in a different category as a complete 60-minute effort. That game is the closest to a model for what the Hurricanes can hopefully do consistently down the stretch. On Tuesday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can muster another start to finish effort like Saturday’s win.
2) Special teams
Despite the team’s success of late, the team’s power play and to some degree special teams in total have been negative. A couple futile efforts on the power play on Sunday when the team really needed a goal were nearly the difference. Though the Capitals power play has not been lights out at only 10th in the NHL, the team possesses plenty of top end scoring power. Best would be if the Hurricanes could clean up their recent sloppy play in terms of taking too many ill-advised penalties to decrease the impact of special teams. But if and when special team opportunities arise, I will be watching closely to see if the Hurricanes can right the shift in this one area that has been sub-par of late.
3) The Canes blue line
Against a Capitals team with high-end scoring power and pretty good depth, the Canes blue line needs to be solid defensively and ideally chip in offensively as well. The group of six on the back end has become a significant strength. Games like Tuesday’s are when it needs to rise up and lead the way both defensively and offensively. Simply looking for more of the same, I will be watching to see if Pesce/Faulk can help keep the Caps in check, and I will be watching to see if the group, led offensively by Hamilton, can also chip in offensively.
The puck drops at 7pm with John Forslund doing the national call for NBCSN and Tripp and Mike manning the Canes radio call.