This round of NHL Predictions sees the Carolina Hurricanes back in action at home taking on the Detroit Red Wings. This is the second matchup between these teams with Carolina taking a 2-1 victory in Detroit the first time. Both of these teams enter this matchup with the same 7-2-1 record in their last ten games. Detroit sits in a playoff spot with 51 points while Carolina has 53.
Detroit enters this matchup on a hot streak right now. Since January 1, they have gone 6-0-1. This includes a gutsy overtime victory over the high-powered Florida Panthers Wednesday night. Dylan Larkin and Alex DeBrincat lead the way for Detroit as is almost expected.
On the other side, Carolina has seemed to have cooled off of their recent hot streak. Their last game was a lacklustre 5-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on a night that the team inducted Justin Williams into its Hall of Fame. Even the game before against the Pittsburgh Penguins, while a victory, wasn’t quite as sharp as most of their previous games.
This should be a battle for these teams still jockeying for playoff position. Carolina will look to prevent a losing streak while Detroit hopes to keep the hot streak going. Here are three keys for a Carolina victory in this one.
NHL Predictions: Carolina Hurricanes vs Detroit Red Wings
Three Keys to Victory for Carolina
Power Up the Power Play
There were many things that were going right during Carolina’s recent five-game win streak. Goaltending picked up, the team’s stars were playing like stars, and the defence was in sync. But one of the major keys during that stretch was the team’s power play. Between the holiday break and their game against the St. Louis Blues on January 6, the Hurricanes power play scored 11 goals and was operating at 52.4%. This brought them all the way up to second in the league in power play percentage.
Since January 6, the Hurricanes have only managed to score one power play goal in 11 chances and have slipped some in the league standings for that category. Their power play is still overall good with a 27.2% effectiveness. But it’s no secret that the drop-off in power play has contributed to the team’s “cooling off.” Now can you expect the team to constantly operate at over fifty percent? Not at all. Nor should you rely on the power play as your only source of scoring. But the power play can be such a big piece of the puzzle for this team’s success. As we previously discussed in an article here, their 5v5 play is so reliant on a heavy forecheck and taking tons of shots that the power play is the time for the team to be more selectively opportunistic.
Teams are starting to pick up on the play to get the puck down to Andrei Svechnikov for one-timers, but this should allow other areas to open. A blast from the point from Brent Burns with net-front presence, Sebastian Aho walking into the slot for a shot, or the bumper play on the second unit from Stefan Noesen to Jack Drury have all shown some success in the past. Whatever the play, Carolina needs their power play to pick back up in this one.
Protect the Net
Carolina shutting down Detroit defensively and preventing the game from bursting wide open will be huge in this matchup. Detroit has only won two games this year when scoring less than four goals. One of them being their latest victory against Florida. This makes sense given the team is top five in the league in goals for per game at 3.55 but in the bottom third in goals against per game at 3.32. On the other side, Carolina has a 3.00 goals against per game average.
Detroit will look to open this game up through its effective cycle play while relying on the skills of its top players in Larkin, DeBrincat and Lucas Raymond. With Pyotr Kochetkov still out, the Hurricanes will be looking for Antti Raanta to carry the team as the last line of defence. But it’s not just him. Carolina will need to tighten up defensively and not let in anything easy.
Carolina has started to see some chemistry amongst certain players this season. The most evident two are Svechnikov and Aho who exploded over the team’s recent hot streak. Another has been Noesen and Drury. They have developed a knack for finding each other in prime scoring positions. For as lacklustre as Carolina’s performance was against Los Angeles, these two, when put back together, found the back of the net. The line of Jordan Staal, Jordan Martinook and Seth Jarvis seems to be working as well. Jarvis provides some more offensive skill to that line and it has shown as Martinook is on a three-goal game streak. This line is top five in the league for lines playing 100 minutes or more in expected goals percentage with 65.5% too.
With lines one, three and four showing some chemistry, this leaves the second line. This line has been a weak point on this team even through their hot streak. But especially so recently. With Martin Necas out with injury, this line has seen different combinations including recently Noesen, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Michael Bunting. If Necas returns, he would likely fit here so that Noesen could go back with Drury. But the Buntin/Kotkaniemi/Necas line still hasn’t been great. They are lowest on the team for lines playing at least 50 minutes together in expected goals percentage with 48.2%. Not to mention, they have four goals for with five against as a line.
This doesn’t mean that every line needs to be producing every night. But the team needs its designated “second line” to be more reliable. And it cannot be a liability. And if Necas can’t return for this one, who moves up into that spot? You hate to see any of the combinations mentioned above split up but it starts to cause some questions. Does Teuvo Teravainen slide down? Do you take a flyer and throw up Jesper Fast or even as crazy as it sounds Brendan Lemieux? The second line needs to get going in this one regardless of who is on it.
This has the potential to be a good matchup. Carolina will look to shake off any rust built up from having a few days off following a disappointing loss. The last time they had a few days off they came out flying against the Anaheim Ducks, only to fall off in the second period and rally to win in the end. The Red Wings are looking as good as they have at any point this year and should have confidence following a big win in South Florida. If Carolina can follow these three keys, they have a good chance of success. But I’d expect nothing less than a tough fight in this one.
Prediction: Detroit wins 4-3 in overtime
Main Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports