The Need to Knows
The Time: 4 pm PT / 7 pm ET
The Place: PNC Arena, Raleigh, NC
Where to Watch: ROOT-NW (ESPN+ for out-of-market fans, Sportsnet+ in Canada)
Where to Listen: KJR 93.3 FM
An Opposing Viewpoint: Canes Country
Know Your Enemy
The Hurricanes used to have the best TV announcer in the game for decades and the best broadcast in the game. Then someone was a dumdum and let him walk. That announcer is John Forslund, and he is making his second trip back to Raleigh after joining the Kraken last season. It’s because of their unforced error that we have been gifted the GOAT.
Their goal song is Raise Up by Petey Pablo, a local artist and a bit of an unusual choice for a goal song, but they pull it off.
As for the team, the Carolina Hurricanes were considered to be a Stanley Cup contender heading into this season, and they continue their winning ways with Carolina 2nd in the Metro division behind the red-hot Devils.
Carolina’s style is unlike any other in the NHL behind their excellent coach Rob Brind’Amour. The Hurricanes like to dump the puck in and then be hyper-aggressive in getting puck retrievals, sending 2 or 3 players deep. They get their defensemen involved in the play much more and their forwards rotate back on defense to accommodate this so there isn’t an odd-man rush the other way. This goal is a perfect example. The Hurricanes have the puck in the neutral zone, they dump it in, retrieve the puck and pass it along the boards to set up a pass resulting in the goal.
The Hurricanes take lots and lots of shots, and are consistently one of the league leaders in that category. Even though those shots are further away from the net than other teams, they create bounces and deflections and chaos, and they thrive in the chaos better than any team. It is by design. It is their DNA. And it wins a lot.
On defense, the Hurricanes play a man v man defense, as opposed to a more traditional zone defense. This means that each player has an opposing player and they stick to that player all over the ice. This puts pressure on the puck carrier to avoid turnovers, which is hard to avoid when the other team is swarming all over you.
The Hurricanes are one of the best teams at shot suppression and are one of the best at creating shots. They also consistently have one of the best penalty kills.
Carolina is patient, they wait for mistakes and then they punish the ever-living bejeezus out of the teams that do. It seems absolutely exhausting playing against them.
In addition, they have a hot goalie in Pyotr Kochetkov, who is coming off consecutive shutouts and whose nickname is “Koochie.”
The Kraken are on a tough road trip, ending with games against strong teams in Tampa and Carolina. This is a tough spot against an opportunistic team. The Kraken had been good at limiting mistakes over November, but that’s crept back in the last few games.
But we’ve seen Hakstol and the coaching staff address other glaring problems this season. The penalty kill was passive and bad for a stretch, and they seem to have fixed the PK structure. The Kraken lost their first three games in overtime and looked bad doing it until they decided to really buckle down, and they’ve won their next five OT games.
There’s an ebb and flow to every team’s hockey season, and the Kraken are facing a tough opponent. The way they can break apart the Hurricanes system is with speed and offensive creativity. Seattle’s superior depth should also come into play here.
It will be absolutely critical to avoid mistakes because the “make the team make a mistake and punish them for it” team is the Hurricanes. The Kraken can break apart Carolina’s system with speed and quick puck movement. Coaches love to preach about winning in the corners, but that is of extra importance in this matchup. The Hurricanes man defense looks great a lot of the time, but when it goes wrong it can really go wrong and leads to some wide-open chances if a player can lose his defender. A smart, disciplined approach similar to what we saw most of November (shinny hockey games aside) will give the Kraken a great chance to come away with a win. If they don’t, then we’re likely to see a similar result to the earlier matchup this season when Carolina won 5-1.