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NHL Predictions: Carolina Hurricanes Three Keys to Victory vs Florida Panthers

Carolina Hurricanes predictions

This round of NHL Predictions sees an old Southeast Division matchup, as the Carolina Hurricanes welcome the Florida Panthers to Raleigh. This is the second meeting between these two teams with Florida taking the first one 5-2 in Sunrise. This clash is not only a battle between two strong teams this season, but a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals.

Florida comes to town after a 3-2 overtime victory over the Ottawa Senators. Anton Lundell had the golden goal in that one. They are 9-1-0 in their last ten, including a current six-game winning streak. Sam Reinhart leads the team in points and goals, but Matthew Tkachuk is back to his point-producing ways as of late.

Carolina is coming off a pretty convincing 6-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday. Most of that one saw Carolina dominate the play, but sort of relax at the end. Spencer Martin started in net against Chicago as Pyotr Kochetkov was under the weather. But Kochetkov will most likely get the start here.

This will be a much…..much different test for Carolina than their last game against Chicago. Here are three keys for a Hurricanes victory.

NHL Predictions: Carolina Hurricanes vs Florida Panthers

Three Keys to Victory for Carolina

Sam I Am

Sam Reinhart has been on a tear this season. With 39 goals and 67 points, he is contributing on the scoresheet more than ever. He is only second to Auston Matthews in the NHL in goal scoring. Not to mention, his 22 power play goals are first in the NHL with an eight-goal lead over second-place Auston Matthews in that category. Reinhart being a threat on the ice this season isn’t a secret to anyone. And it shouldn’t be to Carolina either. Whoever matches up against Reinhart’s line has to be aware of him at all times.

But the thing that is so tricky about Florida is their sheer depth. So, it holds true that Reinhart has to be marked, but if they neglect others in favour of just Reinhart, that won’t work either. Whether it’s Aleksander Barkov, Sam Bennett, or Carter Verhaeghe, they all can make you pay. But this is what a player as deadly as Reinhart does. He opens up space for others to work. For Carolina, this means, yes, being aware of Reinhart. But it also means they have to play their game. A team game based on constant chemistry and communication in the defensive zone. Minimizing turnovers at the blue line or the neutral zone and maintaining possession on the forecheck will all be important as well.

Battle of the Finns

Speaking of Barkov, each team has a Finn that plays a cornerstone role for their respective sides. Barkov is the Panthers captain and a leader of the team on and off the ice. He is a strong centre with great playmaking ability and slick hands. He is a game-changer for Florida.

But Carolina’s top forward and arguably top player is another Finn named Sebastian Aho. He wears the A for the team and has also become a leader. As the top-line centre, Aho is an ultra-competitive forward with deceptive speed, a high-level hockey IQ and an ability to take over a game at times. For Carolina to pull out a victory over a very strong Panthers team, Aho needs to lead the way and be better than his counterpart Barkov. Yes, the Hurricanes scoring comes throughout the lineup and the team can win even if Aho is cold. But if Aho is rolling, the team has a much stronger chance. It will almost be essential in this one.

Break the Ice on the Power Play

One major strength for Carolina this season is their power play. We have mentioned this as a key to victory multiple times and it remains one here. The team sits at third in the league on the man advantage with a 27.7% rate. They managed to get one against the Blackhawks, but it has been a game-changer multiple times this season. Their puck movement and multi-layer threat has significantly improved from last year. Shots from the point, one-timers at the circles, net front bumper plays…they all work at times. It keeps the penalty kill guessing as to where the threat will come from and thereby makes the power play that more effective.

But Florida is very good on the penalty kill. They are fourth in the league on the kill at 83.2%. However, by taking a step back and looking at Florida’s defensive play and goaltending at large, we can see how important it is for Carolina to strike on the power play. The Panthers not only have a good kill, but they are second in the league at goals against per game with 2.43. In addition, Sergei Bobrovsky has a very strong .915 SV% and 2.39 GAA with a 13.4 goals saved above expected. The Hurricanes can’t solely rely on their power play to break Florida’s stronghold, but it will go a long way if they can take advantage with the extra man.

Prediction Time

Nothing about this game should come easy to either team. Carolina is looking to hold their spot in the Metropolitan Division and inch closer to the leading New York Rangers. The Panthers are also looking at the top of the Atlantic Division after catching up to the Boston Bruins. But what this game might be more than anything is a preview of another clash of titans in the playoffs. Either way, both teams enter this one strong and hot but Florida might have a touch more of a flame right now. In this round of NHL Predictions, the Carolina Hurricanes will need to dig deep to pull out a win here.

Prediction: Florida wins 3-2

Main Photo Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports


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