Carolina Hurricanes: 3 keys to beating the Panthers

RALEIGH, NC - FEBRUARY 19: Dougie Hamilton #19, Andrei Svechnikov #37, and Brock McGinn #23 celebrate teammate, Jordan Martinook #48, of the Carolina Hurricanes on his goal against the New York Rangers during an NHL game on February 19, 2019 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Karl DeBlaker/NHLI via Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - FEBRUARY 19: Dougie Hamilton #19, Andrei Svechnikov #37, and Brock McGinn #23 celebrate teammate, Jordan Martinook #48, of the Carolina Hurricanes on his goal against the New York Rangers during an NHL game on February 19, 2019 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Karl DeBlaker/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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The Carolina Hurricanes head to the Everglades tonight looking to avenge a deflating loss to the Rangers and to keep up the torrid pace they have been playing at in 2019. A win would inch the team closer to an elusive playoff spot.

The Carolina Hurricanes look to get back on the winning side of things tonight in Sunrise, Florida. The Canes do not have many games against non-playoff teams remaining, especially in the month of March. Thus, the team needs to capitalize on games like this, even on the road. In addition, the Hurricanes will have an opportunity to score against goaltending far worse than what they saw against the Rangers two short days ago.

Without further ado, here are tonight’s three keys to the game:

1. Take Advantage of Shaky Goaltending

As just mentioned, the Panthers have struggled in the cage all year. In thirty games, Roberto Luongo has posted a .895 save percentage and a 3.14 goals against average. In 32 games, James Reimer has posted a marginally better .901 and 3.05. For a team that averages exactly 3.05 goals per game, those numbers will not translate to many wins. And it has not. In large part due to their goaltending, the Panthers currently sit 11 points out of a playoff spot and 9 points above the Eastern basement.

This is something that was not present in the Tuesday game against the Rangers. Henrik Lundqvist stood on his head the entire game. Late in the game Justin Williams had a beautiful chance to tie the game which was stymied by Lundqvist. Florida has no such King Henrik in net.

The Carolina Hurricanes have been the second hottest team in the league since January 1st, particularly on offense. They lead the NHL in goals scored during that time. Thus, one would think that hot offense and mediocre goaltending should lead to an increased amount of goals for the Hurricanes. However as discussed above (and below), in recent games against Dallas and Edmonton the Hurricanes failed to control the game offensively. Looking back slightly farther, it took forty minutes for the Hurricanes’ offense to wake up in Ottawa and about fifty-nine to wake up in New Jersey (which was too little, too late).

It might be slightly easier to score against these goalies in Florida, but if the Carolina Hurricanes cannot count on being kings of corsi anymore, they will have to take advantage of the situation at hand. All games are huge this time of year, but games against non-playoff teams have to be won.

2. Fin(n)ish

This obviously goes hand-in-hand with number 1: in order to take advantage of shaky goaltending, you have to finish. However, I made this a separate point because the last few games have seen the Carolina Hurricanes struggle to finish against mediocre goaltending. This is what plagued the Hurricanes in the first half of the season: dominating in possession, shots, shot attempts, corsi, and every other advanced stat in the world, but not finishing.

We saw the team’s goal differential plummet and thus fall back in the standings during that dark time. We have battled back throughout the calendar year of 2019 and currently sit one point out. This has required, and will continue to require, putting pucks in the net.

Sebastian Aho has gone eight games without a goal. This team needs him to get one on the board early. Do it for the dads, Sebastian.

3. Ignore Trade Deadline Distractions

This one has not been as big of an issue for the Carolina Hurricanes as many would have thought leading up to this week. For fans, (or at least for me), this one is just about impossible. Cardiac Cane has fueled this fire as well. The NHL trade deadline is this Monday, meaning it will not be a distraction for much longer. But for now, it dominates #hockeytwitter.

Prior to the Hurricanes’ superb run of late, Carolina was at the center of what seemed to be every other trade rumor. Micheal Ferland, Dougie Hamilton, Justin Faulk (for what seems like the past few seasons), and Brett Pesce (lol) were all rumored to be on the trading block. Since then, things have settled down. Pierre LeBrun reported that the Hurricanes are still listening to Ferland offers, but have been strongly considering simply keeping him as their own rental now that the team is in the playoff hunt. Talk of anyone else being traded has been essentially non-existent in recent weeks.

Players usually say that they are not worried about trades and just focus on the task at hand. However the chance that at a moment’s notice you could be forced to move across the continent, leaving behind friends and family that you have spent the last six months with, has to weigh on the minds of some players.

I am not particularly concerned about this being an issue, but we are only a short four days away from the deadline and things across the league are heating up.

Next. The case for acquiring Matt Duchene. dark

A win tonight in Sunrise would go a long way for Hurricanes playoff hopes. The month of March does not make things any easier, as the Hurricanes face several playoff teams. A win tonight would be a huge marker for the team.

Prediction: Hurricanes 4-2 Panthers