With an odd week off for Canes hockey until Friday and me being a bit behind on writing after trying reasonably successfully to pull in the last of the “Midterms” articles, my tentative plan is to save the Monday Coffee Shop post until Tuesday.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe is two parts. The first part will make a legitimate case (in my opinion anyway) for the glass being half full for the Carolina Hurricanes right now despite it not feeling that way after three straight losses. The second part is not horrible but is a little less sunny since it takes an honest look at the current playoff outlook. You pick what you want for Canes content today. 🙂
Before I break into the argument for ‘glass half full’, I think it is importantly to make it clear that I am not saying that everything is rosy right now. The three-game losing streak is poorly-timed, a waste of the end of the busy home stretch and extra damaging because the losses came to Metropolitan Division opponents. Burning through nearly all of the busy home stretch with a 5-4-2 record is also not good.
But it’s still half full
But per a conversation that I had on Twitter shortly after Sunday’s loss, success for the 2017-18 season is nearly 100 percent about making or not making the playoffs.
As of right now, the Carolina Hurricanes are tied for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Let me say that again…As of right now, the Carolina Hurricanes are currently tied for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference after 60 games.
Put aside whatever feelings you have about the current losing trend and any reservations you have because of the team’s inconsistency or whatever else for a second. Had I told you in early October that the Hurricanes would be tied for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference after 60 games, would you have taken that? Or would you rather have rolled the dice hoping for better? I would optimistically have hoped for slightly (not significantly) better, but I would have taken that over the risk of instead being worse off by risking it.
And sure, the current trend is not incredibly positive, but if nothing else, the 2017-18 season (#CanesCoaster!!!!!!!!) has very clearly showed that the fortunes for the Hurricanes can and will change instantly over and over.
If I net out where the Canes are right now, they are still looking for the one reasonably extended hot streak that pushes them over the hump and into the playoffs.
The other thing that the Hurricanes playoff hopes have going for them is the fact that the other teams competing for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot have actually been struggling just as much as the Hurricanes of late. As of right now, it is a three team race between the Hurricanes, Islanders and Blue Jackets. In their past 10 games, the Hurricanes are now 4-4-2 which does not stand out as impressive. The Islanders are 4-5-1 in their past 10 games, and the Blue Jackets are even worse at 2-6-2. Believe it or not, the Hurricanes are playing at least as well as the teams that it must beat for a playoff spot despite their struggles.
No doubt, the Hurricanes need to right the ship and find a higher gear if they are to make the NHL playoffs. But the current feeling that it is impossible is not even close to accurate.
Updated playoff math
For those who just need hope that good things are still possible heading into the four-day layoff, this is where you get off. What follows is not horribly negative, but it does offer a dose of reality that has been impacted by the team’s recent struggles.
When I looked at the Eastern Conference playoff race exactly one week ago, I broke the chase into three categories. I had the Washington Capitals in their own tier in the playoffs, and a second tier of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils as “Trying to Join the Capitals.” The Penguins have sprinted ahead and both the Flyers and Devils are now up six points on the Hurricanes with a game in hand. Things can change still with a quarter of the season left, but for the sake of analysis right now simplest is to consider those three teams playoff teams and to focus on the final playoff spot.
Previously, I had the remaining four Metropolitan Division teams lumped into a third category. One positive development is that the New York Rangers have continued to sputter and are now five points back and going the wrong direction with only two wins in their last 10 games. By no means are the Rangers so far back that they are eliminated, but simplest given the current standings is to consider the last wild card slot to be a three-team race between the Hurricanes, Islanders and Blue Jackets. As noted above, both of the other teams are struggling about as much as the Canes if you look at the past 10 games.
More detailed math might tilt the numbers slightly and I could make a case for one team being slightly better than the other two, but at the end of the day, one of these teams must get hot and push ahead. With none of them playing well, giving each an equal chance seems as reasonable as any other math. So that suggests that the Hurricanes chances of making the playoffs right now are about 33 percent. I actually think that is about right. I believe the Hurricanes’ chance of being the team that figures it out and pulls ahead is as good as the Islanders’ or Blue Jackets’ chances.
In an article just before the home stretch that started on January 30, I wrote an article entitled, “Five ‘ifs’ for a Carolina Hurricanes playoff berth.” The second ‘if’ was “If the Carolina Hurricanes can find one bigger (5 games or more) winning streak.” That is not the only way, but with 22 games left, I think that will very likely be a key ingredient for whichever of the three teams do ultimately win the final playoff spot for the Eastern Conference.
What say you Caniacs?
1) Honest answer, had you in early October been offered the opportunity to fast forward to game #60 and have the Hurricanes tied for the final playoff spot, would you have taken it?
2) Using simple math, I pegged the playoff chances at 33 percent likely as an even three-team race between the Hurricanes, Blue Jackets and Islanders. Would go with higher, lower or the same?