RALEIGH, N.C. – Following practice on Sunday, Carolina Hurricanes head coach Kirk Muller hypothetically pondered what a perfect game would look like from his team.
On the heels of earning five out of a possible six points after the Hurricanes’ most recent three home games – two wins and a shootout loss – the team is returning previously injured players to the lineup and looking to continue earning more wins than losses.
Whether the lineup configurations may or may not change drastically remains unclear, and is always a daily decision that Muller and his staff have to determine, even up until game time.
However, what hasn’t and will never change is the type of game Carolina will play under Muller’s watch and what ideal game scenarios look like.
“I think what you’re really looking for is that you’re competing,” Muller started off in describing play in the defensive end.
“You’re playing well and on the right side of the puck. Meaning – in the defensive zone no one gets beat one-on-one – you’re on the right side of the puck defending.
The Hurricanes coach then transitioned to what his team’s play would be like in the middle of the ice surface next.
“Neutral zone – limited turnovers,” he continued.
“It’s all about puck placement and getting into the areas that you’re able to go and receive it again or you can attack with it. You don’t have to give it up.”
Then finally, he envisioned what optimal play in the opponent’s zone would entail.
“Then offensively, you’d like to get up to, basically above 15 scoring chances for (per period). Scoring chances against, you’d like to keep at 12 and below.”
He then summarized it all in an executive summary-like format.
“You feel comfortable about your game when you’re always on the right side of the puck. You’re never getting in (odd-man) situations on the rush. Goaltending is strong.”
As he finished his train of thought, Muller was then asked if any of Carolina’s games played to date had come close to the vision he had of executing that type of a game plan.
“I don’t know if it was any one particular game, but I really thought (the game in) Toronto there, beating one of the top teams at the time in the East in Toronto,” Muller said.
“I thought we had a well-rounded game there.”
He then pondered a little further and referred to the Hurricanes’ most recent game against Minnesota, a 3-2 shootout loss, as one of those games in which he saw his team doing all the right things it needed to do.
“I thought last night was one of our best games this year,” Muller continued.
“They’re a good hockey team. We had to stay the course for the first 60 minutes. We started off trailing, we fought and found a way to fight back and tie it. I thought over 60 minutes last night, five-on-five, it was probably one of our best games this year.”
Even though being denied the second point during the shootout portion of the game, which Muller has at times described as a ‘whole different animal’ as part of completing a perfect game scenario, he felt good about where his team is at heading into the final two games of the team’s current home stand.
It’s all about vision and trying to get a collective of players, a team, to follow and buy into that vision and understand what success looks like if they really think about it.
Muller understands and knows what he’s looking for and believes his players have grasped the concept as they head into their next two games at home against the Colorado Avalanche and Anaheim Ducks.
For those watching from afar, this exercise should provide a clearer picture of what the Hurricanes image of a well-played game looks like.
Will it be perfect?
Maybe not, but at least knowing what the end game is and what it looks like from the bench leader’s perspective should help to ease some stress or frustration experienced while watching this team – at least it will for some anyway.