Along the way to struggling out of the gate to a 2-6-0 start, the Carolina Hurricanes are 1-1 against the Detroit Red Wings. Even that is an understatement as the 5-3 loss to Detroit in the home opener was actually a dominant effort by the Canes that somehow went astray when the good guys could not finish or hold the fort in net in the second half of the game. In the end a couple of good scoring plays by Henrik Zetterberg seemed to trump 60 minutes of good Canes hockey.
With the 2-game track record thus far and a Wings team that is depleted by injuries right now, this seems to be a favorable road match up for the Canes if such a thing exists for a team that is 2-6 and struggling to score.
The Hurricanes enter the game with an assortment of ‘broken’ things but at least a couple things working.
From the broken list:
- Power play. The Canes power play has yet to find its way and has been a negative thus far.
- Scoring in general. Despite respectable Corsi and fancy stat numbers, the Canes are not putting the puck in the net enough, and it is not just bad luck that will surely turn when math luck cooperates. The Hurricanes do not get enough ugly goals from getting bodies to the net. The Hurricanes do not get enough grade A chances. And the Hurricanes top players are struggling to convert when they do get the chance. Only the last of those is subject to regression upward without a change in quality of play.
- Too many ‘big oopses.’ With a young blue line, I think this is inevitable. Right now, the Canes are making a couple too many of the mistakes that lead immediately to an odd man rush or breakaway or a point blank chance where the goalie has little chance if the shooter hits his spot.
From the working, or at least potentially working list:
- Cam Ward. Along the way and despite much success in the win-loss column, Cam Ward has settled in nicely and has been doing all he can to give his team a chance. He stole a win last Wednesday in Colorado and has been decent if not better in each of his last 3 starts plus in relief against San Jose.
- Skinner/Nash/Versteeg? The trio has been reunited for only a single game, so it is premature to call it working – hence the “potentially working.” But the game was promising. I thought Riley Nash was the best Canes forward on the ice in Saturday’s game with a nifty individual effort for a goal but more importantly in jump starting his line. I thought Saturday was Jeff Skinner’s best game of the season in terms of buzzing around, finding or creating scoring chances and just being dangerous through a full game, and I think Nash played a part in that too.
With that, here is my ‘what I’m watching’ list for the Carolina Hurricanes at the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night:
The Hurricanes desperately need to get something clicking offensively. Even with just 1 line going, it will offer every third shift hope for scoring and would actually relieve pressure just a bit on everyone else who is pressing. This trio had 1 phenomenal game in preseason before being separated and looked pretty good in being reunited on Saturday. Could they be ready to bust loose for 2 goals and a bunch of momentum-building shifts in the offensive zone? The team could sure use it right now.
2) The young D in tough match ups on the road
Per my comments above, the Wings are a bit undermanned right now due to injuries, but the team will still build a strong line around leader Henrik Zetterberg and at home will look to get it on the ice against favorable match ups. That puts Hanifin/Murphy and also Brett Pesce (hopefully with Liles) in the cross hairs.
Pesce was not so much a positive difference-maker in his debut Saturday, but he was not at all a negative either. That is exactly what you want from a rookie defenseman jumping straight into the top 4 on the road in his NHL debut. With Wisniewski lost for the season and no other working options, the Canes are looking for a long-term replacement not a 1-2 game adrenaline rush of wonder. Can Brett Pesce continue to chug forward without incident and mostly with nightly solid play that is atypical for his level of experience?
3) Eric Staal
He was good and also physically dominant in both Detroit games. Detroit’s puck possession style and personnel is not as heavy as a few of the more recent opponents. And with the Canes suddenly at 2-6 and sinking below the leel of play from the dismal 2014-15 start, can the captain help lift the team up? With 2 days rest, is this game set up for Eric Staal to play strong game especially behind the goal line to drive possession and create chances for himself and his line mates?
4) The same game?
As bad as the Canes have looked in some other games, the team was clearly the better team in both tries against Detroit. Was that random luck, or is it just a good match up at this point in the season that has the Canes personnel and style of play a notch higher than Detroit?
The puck drops about 7:30pm with John and Tripp on Fox.