Saturday, November 7, 2009

Four Lines Deep - 11/7/09

Carolina Hurricanes @ Blue Jackets - Nationwide Arena
7 p.m. (EST); Fox Sports Ohio (HD)

The Hurricanes aren't very scary this year.

Carolina is good for pulled pork, NASCAR fans and a hockey team that consistently tanks after a successful year. After reaching the Eastern Conference Finals last season, the Hurricanes are off to a horrific start. This game should be roadkill on ice for the Jackets, and if they play the way they did against San Jose, Washington and Pittsburgh, they should earn two points handily. It's good timing for the Jackets, as they haven't won a home game since Oct. 17th vs. the Kings. Before playing in Toronto last night, the Canes had lost 10 in a row. Last night's game was for the dubious honor of worst team in the league. They lost again (3-2) and are now the very best at being the worst teams in the league.

First Line: Beware the cornered animal.  Clearly, Carolina is struggling. They blew a two-goal lead last night to Toronto and managed to find a way to lose. They are missing Ray Whitney and Eric Staal -- two of their most viable offensive threats. They played a road game last night, so they have to be tired. When a team can't get any worse, they have to get better. The Canes assembled a gritty lineup last year - virtually the same team coming to Nationwide tonight - and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. So you know they can play. For whatever reason, they just haven't been able to get it going this year. Sooner or later, this team is going to get hot, so the Jackets can't underestimate them. I wouldn't be so concerned about this if the Jackets hadn't shown such a propensity to give away big leads.

Second Line:  Dictate the pace of play.  For some reason, the Jackets attempted to stay in a track meet with Atlanta on Thursday night. The wide open, offense-first mentality is more common among Eastern Conference teams, and the Jackets typically match up well and dictate the pace of play. Their dominating record against Eastern Conference teams supports this theory.  It was disturbing to see them giving up so many odd-man breaks to the Hawks and therefore, taking so many penalties. If the Jackets shut down the neutral zone with opportunistic play, and stick to an aggressive forecheck, they will control the pace of the game. Further, this team is going to be tired tonight. Management recently questioned whether the Canes have "too many veterans." The Canes have 12 players that are 30 or older, and they are clearly having trouble generating some competitive energy -- even when they're not playing a back-to-back on the road.

Third Line: It's a Celebration. For the first time this season, Commodore and Hejda are active and in the lineup. Hopefully, this will further solidify the continued shaky play of the PK. Carolina has only scored 30 goals -- worst in the Eastern Conference and in the bottom three in the league. Having Hejda and Commodore in the lineup should be enough to shut down what little offensive threats Carolina has remaining, even if they're not paired together. Commodore is also celebrating his 30th birthday today -- and against a team with which he a lot of history.  Commie will be a force tonight and the positive implications will be shared by the entire defensive unit.

Fouth Line: It is not a celebration for Cam Ward.  Cam Ward is already starting his 15th game this season. He has a 3.00 GAA and .898 save percentage. He has yet to win a back-to-back this season - although that's not surprising since the Canes only have two wins. The Canes have a goal differential of -26, so Ward is obviously not getting much defensive or offensive support. While the Jackets have struggled on five-on-five hockey this year, the Canes only have one player with a positive +/- rating (Scott Walker +2). Throwing plenty of pucks and traffic at Ward early should be enough to get a couple of scores in the first period and build some momentum. The big question tonight (should be) if the Jackets can hold onto a lead and play all 60 minutes.

No comments:

Post a Comment