RECORDS: Hawks 7-7-2 Hurricanes 6-5-3
PUCK DROP: 6pm
HE HIT THE FUCKIN’ BULL, DIDN’T HE?: Section 328
It’ll be a reunion of sorts tonight down in Raleigh. The Hawks will visit the biggest collection of their alumni in the league, and they’ll see a Hurricanes team that expected to be ahead of where they are currently. There should be some air of desperation at the RBC tonight, but then again there should have been in Philly and it took the Hawks 30 minutes to find the smelling salts.
The Hawks will have the advantage in that the Canes played, and won, in Columbus last night. They saved Scott Darling to face his old team, and you can basically feel the shutout coming, can’t you? Darling got off to a rough start, with an .867 in October that has helped put the Canes behind the eight-ball in the standings. But he’s rounding into form, stopping 53 of 55 shots in his two starts so far this month. As it always was with Darling, if you can get him moving side-to-side and not let him square up, his movement isn’t the best. And he’s had a hard time making the big saves, and that mobility is partly why.
When talking about the rest of the Canes, you have to start at the blue line. This is the best top four east of Calgary, and if they can pull themselves back into the playoff chase this will almost certainly be the main reason why. The pairing taking the human shield shifts is Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce, and they’ve been really good at doing so. Slavin in particular seems to be the realness. Their sacrifice has allowed Noah Hanifin and Justin Faulk, perhaps the most underrated d-man in the league and really should get Norris talk sometime soon, to simply kick their opponents dick in the dirt. Both are carrying 60%+ Corsi and xGF%. The third pairing is promising kid Haydn Fleury and his missing “e” (perhaps it went to help form Slavin’s superfluous “c”) and old friend TVR. TVR hasn’t sunk this ship yet. But just you wait.
While the Canes have a bunch of forwards you like, they lack any top line talent. If you squint Jeff Skinner is a top line winger, but that’s it. And the huge lack of finish is what’s costing them. Their peripherals are some of the best in the league. They create more than enough attempts. But they don’t create enough prime chances and they don’t finish nearly enough of what they do get. Other than Teuvo there isn’t really a creator and other than Skinner and Aho there aren’t really any finishers. They lead the league in ES attempts per game but are third-bottom in goals scored.
Still, you’ll see Teuvo and Dream Warrior and shed a bit of a tear. Teuvo has landed with Sebastien Aho and Jordan Staal, and that line single-handedly got the Canes their win last night and basically put their foot in the ass of the Jackets and wouldn’t remove it. Skinner is on the second line with Elias Lindholm and Derek Ryan. Kruger centers a line with Joakim Nordstrom and Josh Jooris, making for a pretty nifty checking/4th line that can really move.
For the Hawks, once again Q is hitting the blender and after hinting that Patrick Sharp might be the one to land in the pressbox, it looks to be John Hayden. The top line of Saad-Toews-Panik is reunited, and Schmaltz moves to wing with Kane and Anisimov 80 feet behind the play. Top Cat will have his time wasted on the fourth line.
It’s the same on defense, where Connor Murphy will have the honor of trying to scrape up Brent Seabrook while playing on the wrong side, and Gustav Forsling and Jan Rutta get buried in their own zone by the quick Carolina forwards. Good times. They’ll try to leave Anton Forsberg with not that much to do.
While it’s a far cry from “battle stations,” the Hawks do need to start looking better to at least provide hope of a surge down the road. This is a soft part of the schedule, as the Canes, Devils (despite their place in the standings) and Rangers all have significant problems. And the Penguins aren’t playing all that well at the moment. If they can’t scratch out some points now…well, I’m not going to finish that sentence.
Game #17 Preview