If Carolina Hurricanes head coach Kirk Muller is to tell his team anything tonight, it should be “this is one of those moments boys, let’s not disappoint” or however he would word it. It’s really a shame that he has to call the second game of the season “one of those moments.”
The Hurricanes are not an awful team. To be honest, they’re a really good team. They had a solid three win finish to the preseason, have a hot skater in Nathan Gerbe, a healthy Cam Ward, and a marquee lineup of forwards in Eric and Jordan Staal, Alex Semin, and Jeff Skinner. Yet for some reason, people are already penciling the Hurricanes in as a win. This is a huge mistake.
Coming into tonight’s game against Metropolitan Division opponents, the Philadelphia Flyers, it would be easy to dismiss the Hurricanes on name brand recognition alone. Going up against the likes of Vincent Lecavalier, Maxime Talbot, and Claude Giroux pushes a lot of people into the unconscious habit of leaning towards the big time, big name talent. Another mistake.
With his loss on Saturday to the Montreal Canadiens, Flyers goaltender Ray Emery is being predicted by the vast majority of NHL observers to be taking a seat in favor of backup goalie Steve Mason. Mason is one of those goalies that a whiz-bang type of scorer like Semin or Gerbe can light up on a good night.
On top of this is the hope that the Hurricanes’ defense has regrouped after letting Ward down on Friday. Should interim defensive leader Justin Faulk and hopeful future star Jay Harrison keep the slot clear and not let Philadelphia put quick bursts of shots on Ward, the score should be kept manageable.
Reports from this morning’s skate have Muller leaving the lines as they were on Friday against the Detroit Red Wings. Resist the urge to cry foul at this. Save for the back end of the third period, the Hurricanes were lights out that night. Lines aren’t the screw that needs turning.
The Flyers are winless in their last two and are backs to the wall trying to keep from dropping a third. They’re going to come out swinging, and it’s up to the Hurricanes to finish the job started by Montreal and not let pressure up. Philadelphia looks to be a huge factor in the Metropolitan Division, and it’s up to the Hurricanes if they choose to smell the blood in the water or play spoiler to a comeback anecdote.