After playing competitive hockey and earning points in their 5 previous games with a solid 3-0-2 mark, the Canes laid an egg at home against Columbus on Sunday. The 5-1 loss was about as bad as the score indicated. After a strong first period, the remainder of the game was plagued by horrid defensive zone coverage and poor hockey overall.
Even good teams that are playing good hockey and still in the hunt for 2015-16 hardware have these games. A quick look back through the past few days finds the Lightning losing 5-1 to the Islanders, the Flyers getting trounced 6-2 by the Penguins and even the Capitals losing 3-0 to the Coyotes. The key is that good teams bounce back and avoid having a bad game gradually grown into a long skid.
In that regard, Tuesday is a good game to measure the Canes character. Facing a team desperate for points needed to get into the playoffs at home is a big challenge. Do the Canes have the mettle to rebound? Or are they playing out the string at this point?
My ‘what I’m watching’ for Tuesday includes:
1) The response after Saturday
Per my introduction, this is a game for which a response from the leadership and team in total would be great. It is less about winning versus losing and more simply about players standing up and saying ‘we need to be better’ with actions on the ice.
2) The try out shuttle bus from Charlotte
With the Charlotte Checkers short on healthy bodies and competing for the last playoff spot in the their division, there has been a regular flow of players back and forth from Raleigh to Charlotte to get 12 forwards in the lineup for both teams. Tuesday sees the recall of Sergey Tolchinsky and Patrick Brown. Tolchinsky will be playing in his second game in the NHL after picking up an assist in his debut. Brown will be playing his sixth NHL game in 2015-16. He had a goal and assist in earning the first star in the win against the Rangers for his only 2 scoring points.
For Tolchinsky, I have 2 evaluation points. First, can he be dynamic offensively. That is the strength of his game and his ticket to the NHL. Second, can he play a well-rounded enough game without the puck. This is not his bread and butter but is required to get regular shifts at the NHL level.
For Brown, he is trying to push his way into consideration for a depth role for 2016-17 like a collection of other players including Brody Sutter and Brendan Woods from the AHL and Riley Nash, Chris Terry, Nathan Gerbe and Brad Malone from the big club. So far I would give Brown the edge over the AHL group, but I am not sure that will be enough to position him as more than #14-#16 forward depth ready to be called up from Charlotte. He needs to finish 2015-16 really strong to push higher up the depth chart.
3) Scoring watch
Jeff Skinner now needs 2 goals to reach 30. Jordan Staal needs 1 goal to reach 20. Victor Rask is within 3 points of 50. Justin Faulk can set a Hurricanes defenseman goal-scoring record with 1 more tally. Jaccob Slavin needs 1 point to reach 20. With 3 games to go, the time is now for players to hit milestones.
The puck drops a little bit after 7pm on Fox Sports with John, Tripp and Michelle.