This round of NHL Predictions sees the Carolina Hurricanes taking on the Minnesota Wild at home. This is the first matchup of the cross-conference teams this season. The Wild come to Raleigh following a big 6-4 win over the Florida Panthers. That game saw the Wild go five for six on the power play and a perfect four for four on the penalty kill. But the Wilds trip through Florida has not been a bed of roses. They lost Frédérick Gaudreau and Marc-Andre Fleury to injuries. Not to mention that captain Jared Spurgeon is out for the year. The Wild are in an uncertain place right now sitting outside of a playoff position with 43 points and rumours are starting to swirl involving who may be on their way out.
The Hurricanes finish up their six-game home stand in this one after a big 4-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings Friday night. Carolina had put up a disappointing performance against the Los Angeles Kings on the night of Justin Williams’ induction into the team’s Hall of Fame prior to the Detroit matchup. On the other side, Detroit came to town red-hot including a big win over the Panthers right before. Moreover, Martin Necas returned for Carolina and led the charge for the Hurricanes.
No game is easy in the NHL and this one is no exception. Carolina wants to keep on climbing in the standings while the Wild are hoping to stay relevant in the playoff picture. Here are three keys to victory for Carolina.
NHL Predictions: Carolina Hurricanes vs Minnesota Wild
Three Keys to Victory for Carolina: Third Line Keeps Rolling
One line that has been consistent for Carolina the last few years has been their third. Typically, it has consisted of Jordan Martinook, Jordan Staal and Jesper Fast. But more recently, there has been a new look third line where Seth Jarvis has replaced Fast there. And it has worked.
The prior third line was dominating in chance generation and forechecking but just could not finish. Then Rod Brind’Amour threw Jarvis on there and things have changed. Jarvis plays a similar high energy, heavy forechecking game but brings more skill and scoring ability than Fast did. And it has seemed to really pay off for that line.
For starters, Martinook is now on a four-game goal streak. Considering he has six goals all year, this is fairly noteworthy. In the last five games, Jarvis has five points and four assists as well. For offensive lines playing at least 100 minutes together this season, the Martinook/Staal/Jarvis line sits top five in the league in expected goals percentage with 65.2%. Playing almost the same minutes, this line has the same number of goals for (seven) as the first line of Andrei Svechnikov, Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen. It’s no secret this line has been a big part of Carolina’s success lately and will need to keep it up in this one.
Another Time for Special Teams
What feels like it might be a broken record key for Carolina, their special teams will be another important one in this matchup. Against Detroit, Carolina had one power play and capitalized on that chance. That turned out to be the game winner. The Hurricanes sit top-five in the league in power play percentage with 27.7% while the Wild sit at the bottom of the league in penalty kill percentage with 72.1%. Carolina needs to take advantage of this lopsided matchup and capitalize on the power play when given the chance.
On the other side, Minnesota has a 21.1% power play compared to Carolina’s top ten penalty kill at 83.1%. But as we saw Friday, Minnesota can certainly make you pay on the power play. Limiting the penalties would be step one for Carolina but also tightening up and everyone working together on the penalty kill will be huge here. Against Detroit, the Hurricanes gave the Red Wings one power play and they capitalized on it. This was due to an ill-advised shorthanded rush attempt that led to an odd man rush the other way. Carolina should play aggressive and take chances when they come, but not at the expense of keeping the puck out of their net on the kill. Watching Minnesota on the man advantage will be big here too.
Dmitry Orlov‘s Time to Shine
The Hurricanes made a big splash this offseason in free agency when they signed “top-prize” Dmitry Orlov. At a $7.75 million AAV, it’s hard not to expect big things from Orlov. After some time to adjust to Carolina’s playing style, Orlov has seemed to have settled in and found some chemistry with defensive partner Jalen Chatfield. So far this season they have 19 goals for compared to 17 against. They lead Hurricanes defensive pairs in expected goals against and expected goals against per 60 minutes as well which is great for a third pairing.
But Orlov is a great two-way defenceman who enjoys putting the puck in the net as much as he does keeping it out of his own. He’s not a prototypical offensive defenceman but he has no problem jumping on the rush and trying to make a play offensively. He also has a booming shot that he is not afraid to unleash. Watching him the last few games, especially the Detroit game, you can see that he is itching to get on the scoresheet. He seems to keep looking to shoot but has been met with unlucky rings off the crossbar or post or off someone else.
Orlov is fourth amongst Hurricanes defencemen in points with 16 (two goals and 14 assists). But he is tied for first in Fenwick with 60% and second in Corsi with 61%. Orlov is pushing to make a difference offensively and that is a positive for Hurricanes fans to see. Now it’s just time for him to turn chances into results. And if he can do so in this one, it could be a big key to Carolina walking away with two points.
NHL Predictions Time
While based on standings and statistics this should seem like one that Carolina should win, you never can be too certain in the NHL. The Wild pulled off a huge win over the high-flying Panthers in Sunrise on the back of a huge power play performance. Injuries in Minnesota cause some questions in this one while goaltending in Carolina is still up in the air with Antti Raanta being the one to carry the load while Pyotr Kochetkov recovers. But if Carolina can see these three keys coming through, they could finish their home stand with a gift to Hurricanes fans in Raleigh.
Prediction: Carolina wins 3-2
Main Photo Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports