After a quick back-to-back set on Tuesday and Wednesday and arriving in California and then a day off, the Hurricanes will make quick work of a three-game trip with a finale against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday.
As is often the case, the last game of the road trip will have a huge say in its result. With a win, the Hurricanes will go 2-1 and climb even further above .500 after their first run of games away from home. With a loss, the Hurricanes will be negative for the trip and will also have lost three of four games.
Right now, the biggest theme for me is just cleaning some things up. The team continues to take too many unnecessary penalties and is increasingly struggling to kill them off. And in the past few games, the Hurricanes have had more ‘flat’ periods and some difficulty mustering a full 60 minutes of consistent play. And maybe most significantly, the forecheck that was the engine driving the train in 2018-19 has been very quiet even in some of the wins.
But at the end of the day, NHL hockey is a results business. And the Hurricanes results at 6-2 are very good so far. Another win, of any variety, would push the Canes up another notch and set up what should be a productive weak of practice with four days off before the next game.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Anaheim Ducks
1) A cleaner game
Fewer penalties. Better penalty killing. Better consistency across 60 minutes. Better puck management and defensive coverage in their own own. Coming out of the worst game of the season, the Hurricanes enter Friday’s game with room for improvement in terms of attention to detail. On Friday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can tidy things up a bit with will power and effort or if instead it might take next week’s run of practices to do so.
2) Petr Mrazek
Mrazek played his best game of the season in Tuesday’s shutout win. With the team in front of him being a bit of a work in progress right now, timing could not be better for Mrazek to find a rhythm and go on a bit of a run. The team also has a run of neatly spaced out games for the rest of October which could see Brind’Amour give him the reins a bit. On Friday, I will be watching to see if Mrazek’s strong play carries over from Tuesday.
3) A hero or two
With a quick burst of three games in four days after a long flight and two short flights to boot, the Hurricanes could be a bit road weary heading into Friday’s game. But with four days off afterward, the game represents a good chance for key players to empty the tank and find a way to boost the team up. Could this be the game that Sebastian Aho breaks out? Is new captain Jordan Staal the one to lead the way? Is there a limit to what a red hot Dougie Hamilton can do right now? I will be watching to see if a hero or two can emerge and drag the game and the entire road trip into the win column.
The puck drops at 10pm on Fox Sports Carolinas with John and Tripp at least. Thoughts and prayers go out to Mike Maniscalco for a fast recovery. (The team offered a few more details today.)