Three things to watch Tuesday as the Carolina Hurricanes face the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center:
A week before Christmas, Caps coach Barry Trotz was already talking about Aho and saying what an impressive rookie he was. He had that pegged right.
Aho on Monday was named the NHL’s first star of the week. Canes coach Bill Peters has said Aho no longer is any kind of secret, that NHL teams know of his game, his name.
While Aho had big games against Philadelphia and Edmonton last week — a hat trick against the Flyers, then the winning goal, again, against the Oilers — he was mostly silent Saturday against the New York Islanders and had a big penalty late in regulation.
The Caps have outscored opponents 124-66 five-on-five, which almost seems ridiculous. The 66 goals-against is the fewest in the NHL.
The Canes, in turn, have been outscored 111-93 five-on-five. When Carolina was beaten 6-1 at the Verizon Center on Jan. 23, the Canes’ only goal came on the power play and the Caps scored five of their six at even strength.
The Canes had more five-on-five shots that game than the Caps (24-22). But as Peters said Monday, the Caps have a lot of finishers.
Cracking the code
The Caps have been all but unbeatable at home of late. They’ve won nine straight games — outscoring teams 45-12, with four shutouts — and are 10-0-1 in their last 11 games at the Verizon Center (21-5-1 overall).
The Caps last lost a game at home Dec. 29, when the New Jersey Devils won a shootout, and last lost in regulation Dec. 17 against Montreal.
The Canes earned their seventh road win of the season Saturday against the Islanders, but the Barclays Center isn’t the Verizon Center and the Isles aren’t the Caps. The Canes likely will have to play their best game of the season to get a win, and as Peters said Tuesday after the morning skate, the Canes can’t have “any passengers.”