Carolina Hurricanes’ schedule short-term
This week, the Hurricanes face a tough slate of 3 games with a difficult road game in Pittsburgh followed by a back-to-back with travel against Chicago and Tampa Bay.
Before the start of the Hurricanes 4-game home stand (shortened to 3 with the postponed game), I outlined what I thought the Hurricanes needed to do for 3 consecutive sets of games.
So far the team is on track:
* I said the team needed to win 3 of 4 for the first set of home games. The Hurricanes went 2-0-1 with 1 game pushed out to March, so that is a win.
* I then said that the team needed to go 3-2 in the next stretch of 5 games that featured 2 back-t0-backs and 3 total road games. The Hurricanes are out of the gate fast winning the first 2 games of the 5-game stretch.
* Next up, starting next week, is a run of 7 games with 5 at home. I said that the Hurricanes needed to go 5-2 to continue pushing up toward the pack of teams in the middle of the Metropolitan Division.
Carolina Hurricanes’ schedule longer-term
When the Hurricanes complete the run of 7 games in the first half of January, they will be just past the halfway point of the season at 43 games. They will also be closer to balanced in terms of home versus away games played with 20 at home versus 23 on the road.
Second half of January is tough
The second half of January is a challenging stretch that sees Pittsburgh, Washington, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and 2 games against the upstart Columbus Blue Jackets.
First half of February is light
With the NHL-mandated lay off, the Hurricanes play only 4 games from February 1-16. This the time to collect a few points and also rest, recuperate if necessary and ready for the fast-paced finish.
Second half of February is home again
Once things pick up again, the Hurricanes play 5 straight at home before finishing the month on the road against Florida. With the home-heavy stretch and games against seemingly beatable opponents in Toronto, Calgary and Colorado, this stretch might be the team’s best chance to reel off a winning streak.
March is REALLY busy
With the Detroit makeup game added to the schedule, the Hurricanes are now schedule to play a whopping 17 games in 31 days in March. The Canes play 3 sets of back-to-backs and do not have more than 1 day off in a row. Basically, the month is a run of playing games every other day with a couple of off days taken away to boot. If the team is healthy and can find a rhythm, this type of schedule can work. If the team is dinged up and/or hits a stretch of sub-par play, things could get away from them in a hurry with the fast and furious pace of the schedule.
April is a continuation of the busy March against tough competition
April picks up right where March left off with 6 games in 9 days. Back-to-back sets to start the month and close out the regular season bookend 2 games in the middle. Opponents include Pittsburgh, Dallas, Minnesota St. Louis, Philadelphia and the New York Islanders.
Netting it out
When I look at what is ahead for the Hurricanes schedule-wise, I think it is imperative for the team to play well and do most of the big work in January and February. If the Hurricanes are to play hockey that matters in late March, I think it will take strong runs in early January and late February when the team has nice runs on the home ice that has been a big advantage so far this season.
March is problematic for doing much more than trudging forward at a reasonable winning pace because it seems inevitable that the team will find some games mixed in when they are just worn out physically. The goal is to enter March already in the thick of things not looking to pull off some kind of minor miracle to make up a ton of ground late.