Carolina Hurricanes: 3 keys to repeat performance against Stars

RALEIGH, NC - FEBRUARY 16: Justin Williams #14 of the Carolina Hurricanes defends against Jamie Benn #14 of the Dallas Stars during an NHL game on February 16, 2019 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - FEBRUARY 16: Justin Williams #14 of the Carolina Hurricanes defends against Jamie Benn #14 of the Dallas Stars during an NHL game on February 16, 2019 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images) /

It’s the last game for the Carolina Hurricanes before the trade deadline. Teams in the Metro are making moves and the playoff race is heating up – we look at the 3 keys to the game as the Carolina Hurricanes face the Dallas Stars.

For the second Saturday in a row the Carolina Hurricanes and the Dallas Stars will face each other while both teams are jockeying for playoff position. Again, the Carolina Hurricanes are on the outside looking in – by only a single point – after Columbus’s win over the Senators the previous night. Yet again, the Canes can end the night not only in a playoff spot, but in 3rd place in the Metropolitan Division if the rest of the day goes their way.

Here are the three keys to ensuring that the game they can control goes their way:

1. Score First, Score Again

I can’t tell you if Petr Mrazek or Curtis McElhinney will start in net for the Carolina Hurricanes. Mrazek had the shutout last Saturday, but also just played against the Panthers in the win two nights ago. McElhinney had a better showing against the Rangers but the offense couldn’t get more than one past his royal majesty, King Henrik Lundqvist. Tonight, they have to make sure they score first and then also score second to make sure the Stars stay down.

While it is still undetermined who will be in net for the Dallas Stars as they begin their back-to-back home and away games against the Carolina Hurricanes and the Chicago Blackhawks, Ben Bishop is back to being healthy and will get one of those two starts:

Which game they start Bishop in will be intriguing. On one hand, it’s no secret that the Carolina Hurricanes are the tougher team to beat having swept the series against Chicago while starting Scott Darling. So it would be ideal to start Bishop against the Hurricanes in an attempt to win the weekend. However, Chicago is competing for Dallas’s playoff spot and they cannot afford to give them two points. Anton Khudobin was lit up by the Hurricanes last week as well.

While it’s fun for us to sit back and contemplate the repercussions of starting Bishop vs Khudobin against the Carolina Hurricanes, the team itself shouldn’t care and should be prepared to light up whomever they find sitting in net at the opposite end of the ice. Offensive pressure and push should be the focus there. The return of Jordan Staal should definitely help with that tonight:

2. Defensive Awareness in the Offensive Zone

The return of Jordan Staal will do more than help the offensive push of this team. His ability to read the puck defensively will help as well. A lot of the goals against recently have happened during momentary lapses in defensive awareness in the offensive zone. Those lapses have resulted in plenty of odd man rushes going back against the Carolina Hurricanes.

While the stellar defensive play of Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce, combined with incredible goaltending by Mrazek and McElhinney have thwarted most of these attempts, a few have trickled through. This team needs to give their netminders a bit of help while in the offensive zone to make sure the puck stays there throughout their shift. That starts on faceoffs.

Jordan Staal is still one of the best faceoff players on the roster even after not playing for about two months. Lucas Wallmark has been the primary faceoff winner in his absence, but it is good to see Staal coming off of IR with a real chance of drawing into the lineup tonight. His presence will help keep that puck in the offensive zone and avoid the breakouts that tend to happen with these lapses in defensive awareness.

Recently this team has been very offensively-minded as they push faster and harder into the offensive zone to create better scoring chances. While the results have been favorable, Dallas will be looking to do the same at the opposite end of the ice. By keeping a defensively offensive mind, this team will be better prepared for breakouts and maybe give whichever netminder starts tonight another shutout.

3. Ignore the Trade Deadline

It’s that time of the year again. Everyone is making moves and others are freaking out about moves they didn’t make, so they start making moves and the cycle never seems to end. Well it will this Monday the 25th, at 3PM ET. Until then, it’s a frenzy of teams looking to get an advantage over their opponents. The Blue Jackets made a huge move for Matt Duchene yesterday and this morning the Stars made a much smaller move that involved a different Metro team:

All this cannot distract the Carolina Hurricanes, especially the defensive core that continues to appear on the rumor mill. Justin Faulk and company need to make sure they continue to commit 100% on the ice and ignore any musings in the air of going to Toronto or other cities. How the team approaches Monday is still really up in the air, but how the players approach it should be no different than any of the ten wins on the road they have had in the last two months.

Who is going where and who is going to join the team on their next Storm Surge on Tuesday is irrelevant tonight. Tonight there is only one thing of importance: two points in the standings that will either put us in a playoff spot or at least keep us competitive with the rest of the eastern conference.


2. 119. 4. 109. Final

Dallas might be getting some fresh help, but they already sit in a playoff spot with the bigger game against the Blackhawks waiting for them tomorrow. I do not see them managing to play this game with as much ferocity as they will play tomorrow against a rival for their spot. They need the two points tonight but the Carolina Hurricanes, who have been 10-3-1 on the road in 2019, need it even more and the final score will reflect that.

Must Read. What should the team do at the deadline?. light

Question for CC Readers: 

Who should be tonight’s starter in net? Fiery Petr Mrazek or Icey Curtis McElhinney?