With another exhilarating overtime win, the Carolina Hurricanes wrapped up a critical five-game home stand with a solid 4-1 record. Those results coupled with a few losses by the other teams battling for the last few playoff spots saw the Hurricanes push into even better position. Today’s Daily Cup of Joe works through some of the details for the Hurricanes playoff chase and even looks up at the possibility of better position.
Current status for earning a playoff berth
The Hurricanes currently sit in seventh place in the Eastern Conference which is good for the first wild card slot and a first-round playoff match up against the Metropolitan Division champion. Currently, the Capitals are #1 in the Metropolitan Division, but that race is still ongoing.
The Hurricanes have a three-point lead over the Montreal Canadiens with a game in hand.
And the Hurricanes have a five-point lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets with no games in hand.
With only seven games to go, the Hurricanes magic number to clinch a playoff berth is 10 points. That means that any combination of Columbus losing points or Carolina winning points that add up to 10 guarantees a playoff spot. Put another, if Columbus goes 6-1 down the stretch, the Hurricanes would need to post only a 4-3 record to still win at least the last wild card slot.
The potential to play for even more this week
Though just getting into the playoffs at all is by no means a foregone conclusion, the Hurricanes actually have the chance to push up higher in the Metropolitan Division this week. The Metro has become a dog fight with first place not completely out of reach. To win the division, the Hurricanes would need to leap frog the Penguins, Islanders and Capitals. At first glance that might sound out of reach, but with two games against Washington and a game against Pittsburgh, just winning this week would vault the Hurricanes up into contention. Two wins over the Capitals would make up four of the five-point gap below the Capitals right now. A win over the Penguins would make up two of the four-point gap below the Penguins. In addition, the Hurricanes have a game in hand versus the Capitals and two games in hand versus the Penguins. That would leave only the Islanders to be caught.
Long story short, if the Hurricanes could muster a 4-0 week or possibly even 3-0-1 if the loss is to the Flyers, they would be in a dead heat for the Metropolitan Division title.
A challenging road ahead
Based on current position and recent trajectory, the Hurricanes are undoubtedly in great position to finally return to the playoffs. The challenge to that great ending is the schedule ahead. The Hurricanes play the Capitals in back-to-back games this week and also see the Penguins on Sunday to close out the week. Taking care of business for the home stand built an every so slight cushion, but the outlook could shift dramatically with only a handful of losses. So if the Hurricanes struggle against the Metropolitan Division’s top teams, they could easily wake up next week right on the cut line for the final playoff spot. More than anything, the key for the Hurricanes right now is just keep finding a way to win or even just collect a point.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Who has the guts to predict that the Hurricanes keep surging, win out versus Washington and Pittsburgh and climb to the top of the Metropolitan Division?
2) Who has a crystal ball and can predict when the Hurricanes will officially lock down a playoff berth?
3) Is it possible that one or both of the Islanders and Montreal fade so much that the Hurricanes really just need to tread water down the stretch to make the playoffs?