With the team sitting in last place in the Eastern Conference following a lackluster Sunday home loss for the second consecutive week, many a Canes fan is a bit grumbly about the team right now, myself included.
Last week Canes and Coffee launched a new column that will spew only Hurricanes hockey sunshine. For those who want more balanced analysis of the team and/or a place to grumble when appropriate, I assure you that the site will continue to offer both sides of the ongoing saga. But I did want to invest today’s Daily Cup of Joe offering what in my opinion are legitimately positive spins on the Hurricanes 3-4-3 start.
1) Canes not far off playoff pace if you adjust for games played and home/away split thus far
I know it sounds crazy but with a win on Tuesday (I know, big IF) the Hurricanes will make the bigger road part of their schedule playoff-worthy just in time for a 5-game home stand and an opportunity to do similar with the home part of the slate.
How do I figure?
My math says that the formula to make the playoffs is to get two-thirds of the points at home (41 games X 2 points X 2/3 = 54-55 points) and half of the points on the road (41 games X 2 points X 1/2 = 41 points). That nets 95-96 points which is right about where the cut line is for the last playoff spot. For the past 3 seasons, the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference was won with 96, 98 and 93 points respectively. At a minimum, that pace should make for a March that matters.
So IF the Hurricanes can rebound and pull out a win on Tuesday in New Jersey, the team will be 3-3-3 in the 9 games from the road-heavy part of the schedule. That is not tremendous, but it is actually good enough. The team’s 1-2-0 record at home is obviously not good enough, but next on the schedule is a run of 5 home games that offers the opportunity to right that part of the slate.
My math says that right now the Hurricanes are 3 points off the playoff pace per my target math above which is a deficit but not yet an insurmountable one. Yes, there is a deficit, but the current deficit is smaller than it feels because of the nauseating roller coaster ride taken to arrive here.
2) There is room for improvement
The raging debate is whether the goaltending is good enough, but at a simpler level, both Canes goalies have save percentages significantly below what they posted in 2015-16. There is hope for better in net even with the current duo.
In addition, the list of Hurricanes forwards currently projected to collect fewer than 25 scoring points is a big one. Included are Elias Lindholm, Teuvo Teravainen, Joakim Nordstrom, Phil Di Giuseppe, Viktor Stalberg, Bryan Bickell and Jay McClement. We can debate exactly what the ceiling is for each of these players, but it is clearly higher than what they are producing right now. Even a modest adjustment toward average will be a boost in terms of depth scoring.