After a sleepy and sluggish start partially doomed the Canes return to the ice after a ten-day layoff, the Hurricanes will try again at home to launch out of the break and into the heat of the playoff chase. Though it was still sloppy, the Hurricanes did rebound after an abysmal first period on Friday, so the hope is that they shook the rust off and are ready to resume at a higher level.
The opponent is an upstart Vancouver Canucks team that sits atop the Pacific Division, interestingly with only three more points than the Hurricanes also with an extra game played. The Canucks are a young team that is maybe a year ahead of where they are supposed to be just like the Hurricanes last season. The Canucks played, won in overtime and traveled on Saturday, so theoretically the Canes could enter the game with a physical advantage.
But more than anything, Sunday’s game is a second try to restart after the break. By no means was Friday’s loss catastrophic, nor would another on Sunday be. But with only 30 games remaining in the 2019-20 season after Sunday, the urgency to find a clean, consistent brand of hockey is increasing.
My watch points follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Vancouver Canucks
1) A higher gear right out of the gate
After a failure to start on Friday, I will be watching to see how the Hurricanes start on Sunday especially with the 2pm matinee on Super Bowl Sunday. The team did pick up the pace in the second half of Friday’s game, so hopefully that issue is in the past, but I guess we will see on Sunday.
2) The blue line
With Dougie Hamilton in the lineup, the team had three foundational pieces but in my opinion still one question mark in the top four on defense. With Hamilton out of the lineup, the blue line in general seems to be still in the figuring it out stage. Jake Gardiner has been better after a rough acclimation in the front part of the season, but I still question whether he is the type of player you want out against a top line with a one goal lead in the third period. Joel Edmundson filled the #4 slot admirably early in the season, but he struggle on Friday and same as Gardiner maybe is not ideal for that one key shift in the third period either. As I said even before Hamilton was injured, I expect the team to add blue line reinforcements, but until that happens, Brind’Amour needs to figure it out with the group he has. On Sunday, I will be watching to see what Brind’Amour does with the defense and how it works.
3) Every shift attention to detail
The part that concerns me most about the 2019-20 Carolina Hurricanes is the team’s continued reliance on bursts of offensive goodness to win. The team continues to have too many ‘oopses’ in many games. As good teams tighten things up in the latter half of the season, it becomes increasingly difficult to just out-run any errors with scoring. I continue to watch to see if this team can find a greater version of sound and solid as the season progresses.
The puck drops at 2pm at PNC Arena which makes for a perfect doubleheader of Canes hockey and the Super Bowl.