After consecutive wins to start the qualification playoff round series against the New York Rangers, the Carolina Hurricanes take aim at a quick three wins in four days for a sweep. The trajectory of the series suggests that the Rangers could head quietly into the off- season on Tuesday night. But while I do think the Hurricanes, when playing well, are the better team, a quick look at the regular season season provides a quick reminder of how small the margin for error is. If the Hurricanes show up expecting to coast, I would expect a disappointing setback on Tuesday. And though the Hurricanes won handily on Monday, I actually think there were stretches during which the Hurricanes let off the gas a bit.
My watch points for Tuesday’s game follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the New York Rangers
1) Continued commitment
More than anything else, I think Tuesday’s game is about not taking a deep breath to pause but rather keeping the pedal down. If the Hurricanes let up, the Rangers very likely run by them and climb back into the series. Between game 1 which I think was very close to peak Hurricanes forecheck and Tuesday which was much more intermittent, there was a drop off. So on Tuesday, I will be watching to see if the Hurricanes can again dial it up.
2) The road match up
Obviously the situation is no different in terms of location inside the bubble, but the switch to being a home game for the Rangers does give them the ability to dictate match ups a bit more and try to reach back to regular season success. Aho’s line has spent a ton of time attacking with the puck and has been good in both ends, and Staal’s line has quietly just been pretty sound and not given up much. I am not sure that there are really any sparks to be had match up-wise, but you can bet that the Rangers will try to find/exploit any to gain a spark.
3) Best against best
I said before the series started that one of the keys would be which team’s best players performed better (because it almost always is in the playoffs). Though Panarin and Zibanejad have cracked the sore sheet, the Hurricanes have had a decided edge here with Teravainen/Aho/Svechnikov being the best line in the series. On Tuesday, I will be watching to see if that upper hand continues.
The puck drops at a more normal 8pm on Fox Sports Carolinas.
The Canes first line is definitely playing like an elite threesome. They are making plays through the royal road—getting a goalie moving from side-to-side is the best way to score even if many pundits and announcers like to talk about net-front presence. The first goal was set up by a perfect pass from Teravainen and Svech’s hat trick goal was Aho taking Lundqvist out of the play. Aho also has 5 takeaways and no giveaways in the first two games. The first line is making a case for being in the conversation with Boston’s, Washington’s, Tampa’s and Colorado’s first lines—you could throw in Crosby’s and McDavid’s lines as well.
The D hasn’t had the number of lapses they had during most of the season. That has kept the games from being close once the Canes took the lead.