Predicting what version of the Carolina Hurricanes will come out of the tunnel on any given night has proven to be something close to voodoo. They might come in and start dropping bombs, as they did Saturday afternoon against the Ottawa Senators. Other games, they’ll come out and play like a JV squad, as they did against the Calgary Flames on Nov. 13.
With the Columbus Blue Jackets in town on Monday, the Hurricanes should be focusing on one thing and one thing only. As the Cobra Kai Dojo said, “Strike hard, strike first, no mercy.”
This seems obvious, however, with a team like Columbus, it’s crucial. Carolina is at a .786 winning percentage when leading after the first period, while Columbus maintains a .700. This is a pretty big gap, but nothing to really fill a chalkboard over. Where it gets rough is the second period stats. While Carolina is a pretty comfy .765 when leading after two, Columbus is at a ridiculous .900. Incidentally, the Hurricanes are .143 when trailing after the second.
This is not AP Calculus. Anyone presented with these numbers would agree that giving Columbus any sort of slack whatsoever is to sign one’s own death warrant.
How is this solved? By simply dominating the second period, which is not completely impossible, just hard. Both teams average 2.8 goals against per game (GA/G), so nothing huge there. Carolina has scored in the first period a total of 25 times this season, and given up 39 — not great since Columbus is 46/34 for-against in the first. Keep the tape on your glasses, Poindexter, because it’s about to get interesting. Columbus is 44/51 for-against in the second. Carolina has scored a total of 60 times in the second this season.
Putting all this together shows how important the second period is against Columbus. Securing an early lead and then maintaining it through the second is the key to this.
Carolina is looking at a situation where they want to shut down guys like Ryan Johansen, who leads the Blue Jackets in road goals and averages .37 goals a game. He’s coming off of a horrible game against the Buffalo Sabres where he went pointless and skated at a minus-2. He’s either in a slump or due, and that’s a big thing to find out. Shutting down Johansen and Cam Atkinson is the first priority for the Carolina defense. With Justin Faulk playing like a young Bambi on ice and John-Michael Liles the only defenseman who seems to care, something’s got to give.
Justin Peters starting in net is a real possibility, however, if it’s him or it’s Anton Khudobin, neither of them must be relied upon for all the defense. The Hurricanes’ defensive corps must hold the back end, thus allowing big shooters like Alexander Semin to do their thing.
A win over Columbus is entirely possible, provided the scoring is fast, often and early.