This round of NHL Predictions sees the Anaheim Ducks coming to Raleigh to face the Carolina Hurricanes for the second and final time this season. In their first matchup, Anaheim took a 6-3 victory early in the season. But since then a lot has happened for these teams.
Anaheim has slumped in the standings and sits second to last in the Pacific Division. They are coming off of a 5-3 win over the Nashville Predators but otherwise, the team is playing about where most expected for the young squad. However, the biggest story surrounding Anaheim is their trade of Jamie Drysdale and a second-round pick to the Philadelphia Flyers for high-end prospect Cutter Gauthier. In addition to losing Drysdale, Leo Carlsson and Trevor Zegras appear to be out with injuries for this one.
On the other side, Carolina followed their previous loss to Anaheim with some rocky play but has picked it up as of late. They sit in second in the Metropolitan Division with 49 points in 40 games. They are riding a six-game point streak that showed a team looking more like what people expected them to be. After what seemed like a game every other night, the team had a nice four-day break to hopefully rest, recharge and heal. Here are three keys for a Carolina victory in this round of NHL Predictions.
NHL Predictions: Carolina Hurricanes vs Anaheim Ducks
Three Keys to Victory for Carolina
Knock off the Rust
Carolina rode their latest six-game point streak like a wave. This included a five-game win streak before losing in a shootout in game six against the St. Louis Blues. Many things were working during that stretch. Goaltending was good, depth was providing and producing, the stars were shining, and the power play was on fire. So much so that the Carolina Hurricanes now sit in the top three in the league on the man advantage. A far cry from their power play last year.
But there were some bumps during that stretch that included injuries to a few players. Stefan Noesen missed one game due to illness but came back against the Blues. Meanwhile, Martin Necas and Jesper Fast both missed a few games and their status is somewhat up in the air for this one. But this provided opportunities for other depth players to step up. None more exciting than Vasiliy Ponomarev‘s first NHL game including his first NHL goal and assist. Hopefully, the time off allowed these players, and others nursing minor injuries, some recovery.
Even though that is the good thing about having some time off, it can also be a double-edged sword. Carolina was riding momentum during their latest stretch. And when you have the hot hand you want to keep playing it. It almost becomes second nature to keep playing that way. These are professionals and do this all the time, but coming back sharp will be essential in this one. Anaheim played just two nights ago so they should be ready to go and Carolina will need to be ready.
Don’t Look Past It
As stated above, these two teams are heading in different directions this season. They also are in different phases as organizations. Anaheim is still in a rebuild with exciting young players in Mason McTavish, Leo Carlsson and now, Cutter Gauthier. Meanwhile, Carolina is in a win-now mode with a battle-hardened playoff-aspiring team. But this is the NHL and anyone can beat anyone on a given night.
Anaheim just lost a good defenceman in Drysdale but beat Nashville. They still have a top-notch goalie in John Gibson with Lukas Dostal being a very solid backup. Then you look at more experienced players in Radko Gudas, Alex Killorn, Frank Vatrano and Cam Fowler and you realize if you let up and give them space, they can make you pay. All year Carolina has been trying to play a full 60-minute game and minimize “taking a breath.” This will certainly be a factor in this one. There’s a saying about playing down to your opponent and Carolina cannot do this here. If they attack this game like they did against the New York Rangers, then they should have a good game. If they look past it as an easy one, then Anaheim may sweep the season series.
Keep Up What Works
While Anaheim is young, they are also very skilled. Even though he will be out in this one, Trevor Zegras has been the poster child for a fun, highly-skilled NHL forward. Then they have Vatrano leading the charge with 19 goals this season as their NHL All-Star representative. This is a team that can end up pulling out a win when trying to match skill with skill.
Even though you could argue that at this point, Carolina currently has a higher skillset, the thing that Carolina thrives on is a complete team game marked by a heavy forecheck at 5v5. They then have been complementing that with a scorching power play. Carolina will need to establish the forecheck in this one and get shots on net. When they work the cycle down low and then cause turnovers in the offensive zone, it can lead to penalties taken by the other team. This then allows their power play to enter the picture. If Carolina can establish their game and play the way they want to, this can overpower a Ducks team that is both young and a little battered right now.
This game will be an opportunity for Carolina to get right back to work after a few days off. While they are riding a hot streak right now, their last game against St. Louis only saw them manage to score one goal even though they played pretty well. Anaheim will look to build off of their last victory over Nashville. Expect to see Pyotr Kochetkov in this one for Carolina. If he keeps up his stellar play of late, and Carolina hits these keys herein, expect to see Carolina take this one.
Prediction: Carolina wins 3-1
Main Photo Credit: Yannick Peterhans-USA TODAY Sports
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