The Carolina Hurricanes have opened up the 2019-20 season on a hot streak, taking their first two games in overtime. Now, the Tampa Bay Lightning comes to Raleigh looking to cut the streak.
The Carolina Hurricanes have kicked off the 2019 season in style, tackling both the Montreal Canadiens and their divisional rival, the Washington Capitals. Now, the 2018-19 President’s Trophy winner Tampa Bay Lightning come to Raleigh looking for a win. In the preseason, the Bolts were 0-2 against Carolina, and 3-0 in 2018-19.
The Sin Bin
First and foremost, the Canes have to look to addressing their stick infractions. These continue to plague their gameplay and against a team like the Lightning, could equate to goals against. Tampa leads the league in 2018-19 in powerplay goals for (74/262), a 28.2% conversion rate, and much of that core is still there. The less time the Canes can spend in the box, the better.
In the first two contests of the season, the Hurricanes have amassed a full regulation period of penalty minutes, with the bulk of those against Washington. Currently tied for ninth-most penalties in minutes in the early days of the league, it is an issue that could make or break the contest against Tampa.
This leads us to our second key, special teams. To date, Carolina has defended all but one powerplay against this season, putting them on track to be one of the league’s best penalty kill teams. This does not mean that they can approach the Bolts with half-measures. A combination of good on-ice discipline and a continuation of superb work ethic on the kill will help lead them to victory.
No penalty kill is more indicative of this influential work ethic than last nights against the Capitals.
Carolina will also need to step up on the powerplay. While vastly superior to last year thus far, scoring twice in seven opportunities, being able to capitalize against the Bolts can make the difference.
Players like Erik Haula and Martin Necas have certainly made an impact in this regard. And with Tampa’s faltering penalty kill this season, a powerplay goal could easily be the breadwinner against Bolts goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Lock Down the Lines
Even-strength matchups will be just as important as the special team’s battles tonight against Tampa. The bulk of their offensive core is intact, albeit missing Brayden Point due to injury. Five players on the Bolts roster are riding multi-point streaks against Carolina, dating back to the 2012-13 season.
The Canes will have to hinder the Steven Stamkos–Tyler Johnson–Nikita Kucherov line as much as possible in five-on-five, as they account for much of the goals-against in the Carolina-Tampa history. However, the Hurricanes will still need to grind against Tampa’s other three star-studded lines.
Tonight’s CardiacCane keys to the game are:
- Stay out of the box
- Special Teams superiority
- Intelligent five-on-five
CardiacCane readers, with the history of these two teams, do you think the Carolina Hurricanes will break the spell tonight?