The Carolina Hurricanes finally return home after 12 days on the road and welcome the Nashville Predators to Raleigh in this round of NHL Predictions. Carolina struggled through Western Canada but broke that losing streak with a win in Ottawa. As a team that seems to thrive at home, the Hurricanes will be more than ready to play at PNC Arena again.
Meanwhile, the Nashville Predators sit with 32 points and in a wild card spot in the Western Conference. Filip Forsberg leads the Predators with 15 goals and 18 assists while goaltender Juuse Saros has 13 wins and ten losses with a 2.79 GAA and .910 SV%. Coming to North Carolina having a day’s rest, Nashville will look to keep their current two-game winning streak rolling. However, Carolina will look to break that trend. Here are three keys to a Hurricanes victory.
NHL Predictions: Carolina Hurricanes vs Nashville Predators
Three Keys to Victory for Carolina
Not only did the Western Canada road trip end winless for Carolina, but all season so far (and the last few years) Carolina has been much better at home than on the road. At home this year, Carolina has a record of 8-2-1 while away they are under .500. Ironically they are tied for the least amount of games played at home so far. Two years ago, Carolina almost made it to the Eastern Conference Finals only winning home games in the playoffs. Last season, they won a few on the road and lost a few at home but still were stronger at home. This remains true so far.
Why this home advantage is so strong for Carolina seems multi-factorial. The screaming faithful “Caniacs” certainly play a role in helping sway momentum. When PNC Arena is packed it can rival most other arenas. New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal recently stated “If you ask anybody around the League, this is probably the hardest place to come in and play. When they get rolling around and the crowd gets into it, it’s borderline impossible to change the momentum.” This says a lot about the fans in Carolina.
But probably more important is the Hurricanes having last change. As much as Rod Brind’Amour seems to dismiss it, being able to line match is a pretty big advantage for the home team. This is especially true when you have a defensively elite line centred by Jordan Staal. When the Hurricanes can utilize Staal’s line against other teams’ top lines, they can keep them off the scoresheet while wearing them down due to that line’s grinding and forechecking ability. This allows the Hurricanes top scoring lines to work against lower lines.
Carolina will need to keep up this advantage when facing the Predators at home.
Using the Back-to-Back as an Advantage
Playing a back-to-back matchup can work in multiple ways for teams. On one hand, the team is less rested and possibly feeling aches and pains from playing the night before. As the second game on the back-to-back progresses, sometimes you see the team start to look winded and having to really dig deep to win. But typically, a Brind’Amour lead team thrives on conditioning and hard work.
On the other hand, a team playing on the second night of a back-to-back has an opportunity to pick up where they left off the night before if coming off a good game, or quickly forget about it if coming off a loss. It’s almost as if the team already has warmed up.
With Pyotr Kochetkov getting the start in Detroit, Antti Raanta will likely get the start and look to redeem himself from a few tough outings. The team needs to use this game as an opportunity to start fast and control the play early. They then need to use conditioning to maintain that play. If the team can stay focused and sharp, they can turn the second of a back-to-back from a weakness to a strength.
Get to the Middle of the Ice
Carolina likes to shoot a lot. And from everywhere. For a team that will rely on their defence for offense typically, they tend to favour a lot of shots from the point with rebounds and tips. On the other side, Nashville’s defence tends to push shots to the outside and protect the middle of the ice except for some right in front of the net. However, most of the goals they have given up have actually come from the middle. This is shown by the charts below from hockeyviz.com.
Looking at this data, Carolina needs to push the puck to the middle of the ice for shots. Even if they are longer range. But it will be key for Carolina to do a few things to give themselves a better chance to put the puck in the net. One is to work the puck around the zone until they get higher-quality shots in the slot. For Carolina, players such as Sebastian Aho and Martin Necas are good and utilizing their speed to circle the zone and look for a shot in the slot.
But if that isn’t working, getting to the net will be key. Looking for tips and rebounds will be paramount. Maybe skill is somewhat more necessary for tips, but these types of goals really require hard work and guts. This is something that is won and lost mentally. If Carolina follows the example led by their coach, this could be a big difference in this game.
This NHL Predictions involves what should be a tough battle for both teams. Nashville has done fairly well in keeping the puck out of the net with a 3.03 goals against per game played and as shown above tend to do that by keeping teams to the outside. Carolina will need to use the momentum at home to push the puck to the middle and battle at the doorstep to beat Saros. If they can do so, they may be able to find their way to victory. With Carolina’s strength at home after a long time away, we are going to lean towards them in this round of NHL Predictions.
Prediction: Carolina wins 3-1
Main Photo Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports