The Carolina Hurricanes welcome the Colorado Avalanche to Raleigh in this round of NHL Predictions. This will be the second time these teams have met this season with Colorado taking the first one by a score of 6-4. Both teams have had some disappointing losses since the All-Star break and will look at this as a chance to turn things around.
For Colorado, the big names lead the way. Even though his point streak was broken in a loss against the New Jersey Devils, Nathan MacKinnon is pushing for the league lead in points. Every time he is on the ice, he is a threat and is hard to contain. But he is complimented with the power of Mikko Rantanen and one of the game’s best defencemen in Cale Makar.
Carolina hopes to get back to their game following a loss to the Vancouver Canucks. They started that game still on vacation but still managed to keep it tight until the third period, which was ironically their best period. They dominated most of the third period but an unlucky bounce off the end-boards found its way to J.T. Miller for an easy backhand and that was that. Sebastian Aho scored his team-leading 18th goal while Andrei Svechnikov remained sidelined with an injury. It was also Pyotr Kochetkov‘s first game back since suffering a concussion.
This should be another tight game fought by two top teams. Here are three keys for a Carolina victory.
NHL Predictions: Carolina Hurricanes vs Colorado Avalanche
Three Keys to Victory for Carolina
Withstand the Heat
There is no secret at all about what drives Colorado’s offence. This isn’t to negate the strength of their team as a whole, but more to point out how dominant Nathan MacKinnon and their top guys can be. MacKinnon is pushing for the lead league in points and there is no secret why. Not only is he one of the fastest players in the league, he can turn on a dime and create space out of nothing. This allows him to get off a great shot or set another player up. His 32 goals and 53 points is incredible considering that we are only 50 games into the season or so.
But then you have Cale Makar on defence who can do almost the same thing from the backend. Like MacKinnon, Makar can make space out of nothing and create plays. He has 13 goals and 47 assists in 46 games played. Then outside of these two, you have Mikko Rantanen with 28 goals and 39 assists. After that, there is a drop-off in production with Jonathan Drouin coming in next with 30 points, which is still not bad. The team is a little top-heavy, but their top is top. It’s no surprise they are second in goals for per game in the NHL with 3.76.
In their last two outings, these top players made chances left and right, but it was the stellar play of the opposing goaltenders mixed with the defending team cleaning out rebounds that accounted for Colorado’s losses. This is what Carolina will have to do. A lot is going to fall on the goaltender, whoever that is. But the team needs to be with him. Watching these top guys for Colorado will be paramount. Sometimes living to fight another day is the best play and not trying to do too much with these guys on the ice could be the difference here.
Responsibility on Special Teams
The Hurricanes special teams against Vancouver both helped and hurt the team. They gave up two power play goals against. Of course, they were both from Elias Lindholm tips. But on the other side, Carolina got a shorthanded goal and a power play goal of their own. Once again taking advantage of the power play will be huge in this one as Carolina looks to build on its 28.2% conversion rate on the man advantage.
But there is another aspect of special teams that will be important here. This will be playing responsibly on special teams. Both on the penalty kill and the power play. Logan O’Connor is tied for fifth in the league in shorthanded goals with three and Colorado has seven on the year. One of O’Connor’s came against the Hurricanes earlier this year. Sloppy power play handling is not a recipe for success in this one so Carolina needs to know when Colorado is pressing high and hard looking for a shorthanded rush.
And then on the penalty kill, shorthanded goals are great but not at the expense of giving up grade-A power play chances. In their first matchup, Colorado’s six goals included three on the man advantage. Again, responsibility and keeping the game tight on special teams is going to be vital here.
It’s Time to Score
Carolina has seen their production come from all over the place this season. A lot from the defence, early on from Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Teuvo Teravainen, and the latest had moments from Martin Necas and Andrei Svechnikov. Of course, Aho is probably the most consistent threat on the team. But the team needs to have a big game here from whatever line is deemed to have Kotkaniemi, Necas and Michael Bunting on it, assuming they stay together. Kotkaniemi started the game against Vancouver on the fourth line but after some really good play, he was bumped up to this de facto second line.
That line had some really good moments and Kotkaniemi, as its anchor, was doing better to create plays. He was second on the team in Corsi For percentage with 76.92 and Fenwick For percentage with 76.47. In addition, he had the best shots for percentage at 75. But even with all of those metrics, he remained off the scoresheet as did Necas and Bunting. The focus here is on Kotkaniemi because he is the line’s centre and can be the driver for them.
As big as the power play, Aho and the defensive scoring are, Carolina needs a true second line that is a threat. They showed signs of life against Vancouver but couldn’t quite connect. To be fair it wasn’t the best game for anyone on the Hurricanes, but this line showed they were looking for a goal. Whether it’s being snakebitten, unlucky or whatever else, they will need to produce against Colorado to help pull out the win. This starts with Kotkaniemi in the middle.
This round of predictions sees a hungry Carolina Hurricanes team looking to get revenge on an angry Colorado Avalanche team looking to get back in the win column. You know that MacKinnon and Makar are going to be all over the ice, but can Carolina’s defence stifle them? Having last change at home should help to some degree. With a full team effort and ending on the positive side of the keys provided herein, Carolina can do it. But will they?
Prediction: Carolina wins 4-3
Main Photo Credit: John Leyba-USA TODAY Sports