After three impressive wins against top-tier competition at home coming out of a COVID-induced break, the Hurricanes took to the road again this week. In the first game away, the Hurricanes took a significant step down in terms of level of play but still pulled out a fun 4-3 shootout win. First a slight negative is that Hurricanes did return to Earth and play a lesser game. The Hurricanes were sloppy handling the puck and a bit error prone defensively. But the flipside that is maybe more significant is the team’s ability to make a few big plays and win even on lesser nights. For pretty much a decade, the Hurricanes were quite regularly on the wrong side of the ledger in games where they maybe outplayed another team but did not convert enough and were beaten by a handful of plays by the opponent.
My watch points for Thursday’s game follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Chicago Blackhawks
1) Refinding a higher gear
Maybe partly from a few players returning a bit rusty after their COVID-induced layoffs, the Hurricanes were sloppy on Tuesday. The volume of errors was much higher, moving the puck cohesively was a struggle at times. On Thursday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can quickly re-find the higher level of play from the weekend. Part of that will be watching to see if the COVID returnees can shake off some rust. Warren Foegele had a goal and an assist in his return, but Jaccob Slavin and Teuvo Teravainen uncharacteristically struggled a bit. Jordan Martinook did not have direct negatives but maybe was not as noticeable physically on the forecheck as he usually is.
2) Second line rising
Vincent Trocheck is leading the team in scoring and goals (tied with Svechnikov). Martin Necas has collected points in recent games too. I keep watching to see if the Hurricanes are on the verge of finally being two lines deep offensively.
3) Peak Jordan Staal
As I said in yesterday’s game recap, since returning from COVID protocol, Jordan Staal has been the team’s best offensive player. He has collected six points in four games and the plays have been unanimously great playmaking plays. Right now even among a talented group, he is the player to watch, and watch I will.
4) Just win baby!
If it turns out that the Hurricanes cannot immediately return to a higher level of play, I will be watching to see if the team can again just make enough plays and find a way to win. In some ways (and due to the scars of some difficult years), the best thing about the Hurricanes being better is the newfound ability to just make a couple great hockey plays and pull out a win sometimes when maybe it is not even deserved.
The puck drops at 8pm on Fox Sports Carolinas with Tripp, Mike, Abby and Shane.