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NHL Predictions: Carolina Hurricanes Three Keys to Victory vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

NHL Predictions

Today’s NHL predictions features a Metropolitan Division matchup. The Pittsburgh Penguins make the trip down to Raleigh to take on the Carolina Hurricanes for the first time this year. The Hurricanes are coming off of possibly one of their worst games of the season. A 3-1 loss to the other team from Pennsylvania in the Philadelphia Flyers. After the game, head coach Rod Brind’Amour and captain Jordan Staal had strong words about the need for the entire team to get on board and find some consistency.

Meanwhile, the Penguins come to town following a 5-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils. Prior to that game they were on a win streak after starting the season fairly cold. Even with their aging core, they can still be deadly. Last season, the Hurricanes swept the season series with the Penguins for the first time in franchise history. Here are three keys for Carolina to start that process for this season Saturday night.

NHL Predictions: Carolina Hurricanes vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Three Keys to Victory for Carolina

All Hands on Deck

As mentioned above, following the brutal loss to the Flyers, Brind’Amour and Staal had very similar responses to the media. Not everyone is believing in and playing the team’s game and system. It’s sort of like developing policies for compliance or leading any organization to success. You can develop the best policies and plans in the world, but if the personnel are not following it, it’s useless.

We previously took a look at how Carolina’s defensive first system could work all the way to Stanley Cup success here. But the key is that everyone has to be on board and implement it. From the forwards to the defence to the goaltending to the coaching staff, everyone is a piece to the puzzle. Implementation is almost more important than design.

Right now, Carolina doesn’t have it. They will play one game great and the next one….terrible. It seems like the team is out of sync, lacking focus, losing puck battles at times, and giving up easy chances. A far cry from anything we have seen in the Brind’Amour era in Carolina. And this is happening even though the team should be the best it has been in years on paper. But games aren’t won on paper.

Brind’Amour stated if things didn’t change soon he would have to really shake things up. He wears his heart on his sleeve and is not afraid to take responsibility for the team’s performance. As coach, he knows that a lot of this falls on him and his staff. But tomorrow is now and all you can do is take care of the next game, the next period, the next shift, the next moment. And for Carolina that starts against Pittsburgh.

Stop Pittsburgh at 5v5

Five on five play is where Carolina typically is best. This year, however, they are middle of the pack with 30 goals for and 29 goals against. They are at the head of the table when it comes to Corsi at 5v5, hovering slightly above 60%, but also are middle of the pack in expected goal percentage. Not bad, but just solid at best.

On the other side, Pittsburgh has excelled at 5v5 play. They are at the top in goals for with 42. This is compared to only 29 goals against. Their goal differential, 39.67 expected goals for, expected goal percentage of 55.81%, and 8.26 expected goal differential has them in the top of the league in those categories. Needless to say, they are thriving during 5v5 play.

Even though older now, a team with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and newcomer Erik Karlsson is going to be potentially deadly any night. Carolina will need to at the least match the Penguins 5v5 efforts and not give them anything easy. Winning the 5v5 battle would be best but if they can at least neutralize Pittsburgh’s offence and take advantage of opportunities (see below) when they arise, this could be huge for Carolina taking this game.

Take Advantage of and Limit Opportunities

Carolina’s offence is shots, shots, shots, shots, shots….well you get it. But you could take 100 shots a game and if they are off target then its useless. This has been the story for Carolina for a while but they have had some better luck this season at times. With that said there are some players who seem to just be snake bit (Jack Drury).

But it’s not just Drury, or any specific player really. When the chance is there Carolina needs to take advantage of it. Sometimes Carolina seems to just make life harder for themselves than they need to. Jordan Martinook had a grade A chance against Philadelphia last game that, to his credit, Carter Hart robbed. That happens in games. But ideally the team is able to pot a few more of those that they should.

On the other side, again and again we have seen Carolina’s defence look confused and out of place. Leading to bad goals with unmarked goal scorers. This has particularly been the case with the Tony DeAngelo and Dmitry Orlov pairing. They need to limit these easy opportunities to be successful.

And then Carolina needs to take advantage of special teams when they get the opportunity. They have really improved their power play this year, but looking at last game you wouldn’t know it. The Penguins are top ten in penalty kill percentage with 85.1% while Carolina is top ten in power play percentage with 24.1%. With Pittsburgh so effective at 5v5 play, Carolina needs to pounce on power play chances to tilt the ice their way.

Prediction Time

This should be a good matchup for two Metropolitan Division teams jockeying for position in an otherwise fairly tight division. Both are coming off of disappointing losses and are almost identical in points this season. Their seasons, however, have gone fairly differently. Pittsburgh started ice cold and then got red hot. Meanwhile, Carolina has been like a pogo stick, or maybe Pandora’s Box. You don’t know what the next game will bring. Will they respond to the tough loss? Or will the issues plaguing the team remain the same? We will see Saturday night. If Carolina’s players can implement the system, shut down the Penguins at 5v5, and take advantage of their opportunities, it could be a good night for the Hurricanes. Otherwise, it will be a long one.

Prediction: Carolina wins 3-2 in overtime

Main Photo Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports


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