The best franchises in the league have always been the ones that can win through thick and thin. Despite the adversity, they come out the other side victorious. Perhaps it can be said even that the best teams are the best because they go through that adversity and rise to overcome it. This adversity has the power to destroy weaker teams, but for the best programs, that pressure goes on to create diamonds. While the Hurricanes are a very good program, recently they have been unable to get over that final hurdle and become a “great” program through winning the Stanley Cup. As the Hurricanes look to the Stanley Cup, they must be careful to not overlook what is right in front of them. After their home-opener 5-3-win October 11th against the Ottawa Senators, the Hurricanes are looking at a 6-game road-trip, with 4 of those games against play-off teams. While the Hurricanes have established themselves as a very good team, they have the power through this road trip to show themselves as the juggernaut of the NHL.
Scouting the opposition
The first stop of the Cane’s road trip leads them to Los Angeles, where on October 14th they will face the Kings. The LA Kings, through their good puck distribution and positioning, have the ability to score from almost anywhere. This is especially aided by key players for the Kings such as Anze Kopitar, Adrian Kempe, Kevin Fiala, Viktor Arvidson, and Phillip Denault; all who individually had over 20 goals the previous season. The King’s shooting percentage is higher than the league average, with 10.3% for the Kings and 10.1% for the league average. This may not seem like too massive a difference but take into consideration that the Kings had 274 goals off of 2658 shots compared to the league average of 258 goals off of 2562 shots. The Kings had 16 more goals with 96 less shots, showing that this team is also very efficient with the puck.
The Kings are very good, through their movement, at creating opportunities to score. They also make their shots count, thus having a higher shooting percentage. The Kings on defense are just above average, at least when they are at even strength. Where the Kings definitely struggle is on their penalty-kill. The Kings penalty-kill percentage of 75.84% is short of the league average of 78.69%, showing that if they become shorthanded their defense has the tendency to fall apart.
Taking all of this into consideration, if the Hurricanes are looking to start off the road-trip on the right foot, they will have to foremost ensure that they dominate the puck. If the Kings have time to set up in the Cane’s zone and begin moving the puck around, the Hurricanes may have a difficult time on defense. The Hurricanes will need to especially focus on keeping the pressure up on defense through physicality and forcing turnovers to disrupt the flow the Kings are hoping to get into. On offense, the Hurricanes will need to focus on taking advantage of any opportunities the Kings give them, especially on the power-play. This is especially important to remember too in that with the Kings ability to so easily score, the game could potentially get out of hand if the Cane’s fail to answer back when the opportunities arise.
While the Kings are a well-oiled machine on offense, their defense won’t be enough to handle the Canes. While offense wins games, defense wins championships, and the Kings defense isn’t enough to hang with the best teams like the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes will win 4-3 in regulation. The score by period will be:
1st period: 1-1 Tie
2nd period: 2-3 Kings
3rd Period: 4-3 Hurricanes
3 Hurricanes stars of the game
1st Star: Sebastian Aho (2 G, 1 A)
Aho is no stranger to being an accurate shooter, having a 16.5 shooting percentage. This prediction has Aho taking the lead on offense with 2 goals and 1 assist, with the assist coming during a power play.
2nd Star: Tony DeAngelo (2 A)
DeAngelo might be a defenseman, but his ability to move the puck around will allow him to funnel it to the right players. This prediction has DeAngelo, despite being a defenseman, keeping the pressure on the Kings all night long through creating opportunities to score.
3rd Star: Jordan Staal (1 G, Physical play on defense)
Jordan Staal has the ability to be a leader; having been on the Hurricanes since 2012 he has seen the ups and downs of this program. With his leadership ability, look for Staal to set the tone for the team. Through physical play and his composure on the ice, Staal will help the team keep their composure through being down at the end of the 2nd period.