The Carolina Hurricanes have entered one of those do-or-die moments.
After dropping a pair of shutout losses to end their five-game winning streak, Carolina is looking to turn things around with the Florida Panthers coming to town on Friday night. Normally any team who has been dropping the bombs the Hurricanes have in January would have no problem dispatching a team like Florida and getting back on track. However, with Carolina’s track record of falling to pieces after a surge, they might just be on a highway to the danger zone.
What is playing in the Hurricanes’ favor is the four-day layoff between the loss to the Calgary Flames and the Panthers. Not just in Carolina, but for any team a long layoff after a loss can be a good thing. Let the team rest, clear their heads, practice and more than anything to allow the losses to drift into the further recesses of their memory. Whether or not the Hurricanes are able to use this ability remains to be seen. No matter, it’s a simple game of remembering the frenetic pace of play that got them to the five-game winning streak and then doing that.
The weapons to reignite the team are there. The top line of Jeff Skinner, Eric Staal and Alexander Semin is possibly one of the best lines in Carolina’s recent history in theory. Whether or not this yet-to-be-named line earns themselves a catchy nickname is up to them. Everything else takes a backseat to Skinner-Staal-Semin producing and producing huge. If the Hurricanes are to regain their edge in the Metropolitan Division, this line must become the staple of goaltender nightmares.
Carolina’s goaltending, on the other hand, has never been in a better position. Anton Khudobin is in another zone entirely and has maintained a 2.00 GAA with a .935 save percentage. This may not garner him many Vezina Trophy votes, yet one would be hard pressed to find a middle-of-the-road team with a goaltender boasting stats like this. With Justin Peters backing Khudobin up, it’s easy to ask “Cam Ward, who?”
Florida is a do-or-die game for the Hurricanes. A win on Friday will create momentum for a huge night against the Tampa Bay Lightning and the rest of the remaining weeks before the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.