Carolina Hurricanes: 3 Keys to win series over Rangers

RALEIGH, NC - OCTOBER 07: Jordan Staal #11 of the Carolina Hurricanes battles for position in the crease with Neal Pionk #44 of the New York Rangers during an NHL game on October 7, 2018 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - OCTOBER 07: Jordan Staal #11 of the Carolina Hurricanes battles for position in the crease with Neal Pionk #44 of the New York Rangers during an NHL game on October 7, 2018 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Carolina Hurricanes enter into tonight’s game with the opportunity to accomplish many things at once. They can win the series over the Rangers and get themselves back into a playoff spot in one fell swoop.

The Carolina Hurricanes are the best team in the league if you remove any games played between October 14th and December 30th. Recently they have been playing like it, having gone 16-5-1 since they rang in the New Year by scoring an empty netter with Andrei Svechnikov, literally.

A win tonight not only gives the Canes another chance to get back into the playoffs, but also accomplish a feat that hasn’t been accomplished by the team since the 07-08 season. That’s well over a decade ago. But this isn’t the same team that got swept by the Rangers last season – this team is a “bunch of jerks” that have taken the league by storm in the second half.

In order to accomplish the series victory, the Carolina Hurricanes will need to put their heads down and win this game in all three zones of the ice. Here are the 3 keys to winning this game and making sure that the rest of the league takes notice, but also #Take Warning:

1. Recover the Forecheck

Remember when I said that this game has to be won in all three zones of the ice? Well the most important zone will be the offensive zone. Recently the Carolina Hurricanes’ excellent forecheck has slowly disappeared. That has forced both Curtis McElhinney and Petr Mrazek to stand on their heads to make all the necessary saves in order to keep the other team from leaving PNC Arena with two points.

Tonight’s game needs to see a return of the forecheck that suffocated the Penguins and Rangers on the road. The excellent blue line keeps that have been coming from the defensive pairs need to continue to happen. They need to exhaust the Rangers in their own zone again. That’s how they will get past Henrik Lundqvist this time around.

The forecheck starts with good face-offs in the offensive zone, something they have been seriously lacking since the departure of Jordan Staal to the injury reserve. He is back in a white practice sweater and while he won’t be a true safe option tonight, he will be available on the ensuing road trip. Hopefully, he taught his face-off techniques to the other centers during practice.

If they can keep the puck in the offensive zone and give the team’s netminder a break from having to fill ESPN’s top 10 hockey saves, there is more than a good chance this team can head south this weekend bumping “Stacey’s Mom” on the flights.

2. Win on Special Teams

The forecheck on its own won’t be enough to help give Mrazek or McElhinney a chance to keep up with Lundqvist. It’s no secret that Mika Zibanejad is good. His numbers this year are scary good. They get even scarier when you realize he has two shorthanded goals to compliment his nine powerplay goals and ten power play points. The easiest way to keep this guy off the scoresheet is by keeping out of the sin bin.

But that’s not enough. The Carolina Hurricanes cannot wait two and a half periods to score on Lundqvist. That means taking putting the word advantage in the phrase “man advantage”. There needs to be the push on the powerplay that was seen in the Senators game in Ottawa and late against the Stars last Sunday. Net presence, and getting those pucks to the net, need to be the focus.

There seems to be a lot of patience in the man advantage looking for the perfect shot. That is good in small quantities, but lately there seems to be too much patience. These guys look up and the two minutes are already up and the opponents are already swarming looking for the puck. Tonight there needs to be a little more confidence in the powerplay. The confidence that someone will clean up your mess if the puck finds its way in front of the netminder. That net presence will have to do well to hide the evidence in the net before Officer Henry can react.

3.What out-of-town scoreboard?

For the first time in a long time the Carolina Hurricanes virtually control their own destiny. Thanks to a Columbus loss at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning last night, there is only a single scenario where a Carolina Hurricanes win will not place the team in a playoff spot. That is, if the Montreal Canadiens wait until overtime or a shootout to defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets. Even then, the bumbling Pittsburgh Penguins would also need to be victorious over the pesky Devils.

That means the only thing between the Carolina Hurricanes and a playoff spot is…the Carolina Hurricanes. So when they come out of the tunnel today and lock eyes with the fans in the tunnel all chanting “BUNCH OF JERKS!” they need to be in go-mode, and treat this game like a playoff game. They cannot let themselves turn it off until it is time for the skol clap and the next aneurysm-inducing celebration.


109. 1. 95. Final. 4

A win tonight over the Rangers sets this team up for a southern road trip against the Panthers and Stars while sitting nicely in a playoff spot. This may seem like an easy winnable road trip, especially after taking eight out of the possible ten points on the last one, but if they do not have the right mindset, it could get out of hand quickly. Two points tonight helps secure that mentality and set this team an a train that ends in summer hockey.

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Questions for CC Readers: 

Which post-game Storm Surge is your favorite? Which would you be okay with them never doing again?