One would never guess it if Thursday’s game was used for evidence, but the Carolina Hurricanes have actually been a pretty good hockey team at home in PNC Arena during the 2016-17 season. With a win in the home finale on Saturday, the Hurricanes could finish as high as eleventh in the NHL on home ice. And the season has offered a number of exhilarating home wins (many of which were included in Andrew Schnittker’s article on February 15) including Skinner’s hattie/no hattie in the home opener, a wild 8-6 win over Vancouver, a big 5-0 win over Philadelphia led by an Aho hat trick and many more.
After laying an egg on Thursday night against the Islanders, it would be nice to see the Hurricanes rise up and send its fan base into the off-season on a good note.
The game will also feature another round of evaluations aimed at getting a head start on next fall’s training camp. The latest recall is Sergey Tolchinsky. The undersized, skilled puck magician has had a mediocre 2016-17 season in the AHL that has included time missed due to injuries, so Saturday and Sunday at the NHL level could be an opportunity for Tolchinsky to make a positive impression heading into to summer.
The St. Louis Blues have already clinched a playoff spot but still have something to play for. With a win on Saturday in Raleigh, the Blues would clinch the #3 slot in the Central Division and in the process steer clear of a first round match up with the Blackhawks.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the St. Louis Blues
1) Sergey Tolchinsky
Tolchinksky’s story is a bit like Derek Ryan and Andrew Poturalski’s. Tolchinsky’s strengths are his skill, creativity and ability to create offense. To become an NHL player, he will need to leverage those strengths to be an above average offensive player while at the same time being adequate defensively. With the Islanders-heavy schedule over the past few months, we have had a couple rounds of watching Josh Ho-Sang and seen the good and the bad in his game. Ho-Sang sparkles here and there with a skilled play, but at this stage of his career he often tries to do too much with the puck on his stick and does not yet understand how to pick his spots. That is likely the same challenge that Tolchinsky will face – trying to use his skill and creativity to generate offense but also understanding when the risk/reward is not good and the time is right to make a simple play. On Saturday, I will be watching Tolchinksy to see if he can find the time/space/situations to dazzle and create but also if he can understand when to play simple.
2) A better effort
The Hurricanes started slow and then sleepwalked through an ugly 3-0 loss on Thursday. The game was not nearly in the same category in terms of heart break, but it was bad enough to prompt me to write about the team’s 2 worst regular season losses for my Friday Daily Cup of Joe. The loyal part of the Hurricanes fan base who will make up the vast majority of Saturday’s crowd deserve better. And after a good season at home, the team itself deserves better in terms of the last impression it makes at PNC Arena for the 2016-17 season.
3) Chasing milestones
With 2 games to go:
- Jeff Skinner needs 3 points to beat his career high.
- Justin Faulk needs a hot streak and 3 goals to reach 20.
- Sebastian Aho needs 2 points to reach 50.
I will be watching to see if any of the 3 can push closer to their milestone.
The puck drops at about 7:07pm at PNC Arena. Get your hockey fix now. Next chance not counting prospect camp is about 5 months away.