This round of NHL Predictions looks at the Carolina Hurricanes returning home to take on the St. Louis Blues. This will be the second of a back-to-back for Carolina as they took on the Washington Capitals in the nation’s capital Friday night. Carolina is part of the tight Metropolitan Division playoff race where only a few points separate a playoff spot and golfing in April right now. Their recently improved play has helped them rise up the standings but there is still work to be done.
Meanwhile, the St. Louis Blues come to Raleigh after a tight 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday. They sit with 39 points in 37 games and are looking to climb into a playoff spot. Former Hurricane Justin Faulk was placed on injured reserve and will likely miss this one. Meanwhile, Robert Thomas, the Blues All-Star representative, leads the team in goals with 16 and points with 41.
This should be a fun one as Carolina returns home after a few games away. Here are three keys for a Hurricanes victory.
NHL Predictions: Carolina Hurricanes vs St. Louis Blues
Three Keys to Victory for Carolina
Protect the Net
Coming into the second of a back-to-back always presents a challenge. The Hurricanes will be at home where they typically excel but it doesn’t mean it will come easy. With that said, the goalie and the team will need to buckle down and protect the net. Pyotr Kochetkov has been excellent lately while Antti Raanta, while winning his last start, still has fairly leaky statistics this season.
But it is a team game and the Hurricanes defence has come together more as expected lately. This is especially true of the third pairing of Jalen Chatfield and Dmitry Orlov who have found some chemistry, especially on the defensive side. Whether it’s Raanta or Kochetkov suiting up in this one, protecting the net with confidence will be a big key for Carolina. Sure their scoring is better this year than last and especially of late, but this is still a team that takes pride on the defensive side of the puck.
It’s no secret that Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov have been leading the charge for Carolina lately. And they should be. Aho was recently named the NHL’s first star of the week and earned a nod for the 2024 NHL All-Star Game. But Carolina needs everyone clicking to really be successful. Depth scoring plays such a huge role in this and games that they have found success see this a lot as well.
Jack Drury has really risen to answer the bell lately as he has been responsible 5v5 and reliable on the power play as well. His frequent linemate Stefan Noesen has been a huge contributor for Carolina as well this season as he too plays on the power play while providing depth in the bottom-six at 5v5. Whether it is one of them or another depth forward, Carolina needs all of their forwards working and depth scoring will be huge.
Value the Middle of the Ice
The middle of the ice will be like precious gold in this one for Carolina. Both in the defensive zone and the offensive zone. St. Louis is not too hot on special teams either so this key remains the same on the power play and penalty kill as it does 5v5. As seen by the charts below from hockeyviz.com, St. Louis both scores a lot from the middle and gives up a lot from the middle.
Defensively, Carolina plays a man-to-man style and this could work to protect the centre of the ice. However, it will require everyone to be working defensively to push shots wide. It also will require very limited (ideally zero) man losses or confusions in coverage.
Offensively, Carolina should work the puck to the middle of the ice to look for shots. There is a spot at the top right of the zone that St. Louis has been vulnerable from too, which can work well for Carolina’s shooting defencemen. But to increase the production Carolina needs to attack the middle of the ice each time in the zone.
Valuing the middle could make a difference in this one.
Carolina will look to stay near the top of the Metropolitan Divison while St. Louis hopes to ride the momentum from Thursday to climb closer to a wild card spot. Both teams have a lethal offensive weapon in Aho for Carolina and Thomas for St. Louis who will be at the All-Star Game this year. Carolina will need to stay focused on the second of a back-to-back but they have done it before. With St. Louis being 6-4-0 in their last ten, expect a tight matchup here.
Prediction: Carolina wins 3-2
Main Photo Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
The post NHL Predictions: Carolina Hurricanes Three Keys to Victory vs St. Louis Blues appeared first on Last Word On Hockey.