On December 11, the Daily Cup of Joe entitled, “Looking backward, looking forward” broke the upcoming Carolina Hurricanes schedule into two sets of games.
The first set of games featured six out of seven games at home leading up to the Christmas break and theoretically a chance for the Hurricanes to capitalize on home ice and move up in the standings.
The second set of games starting after the break shifted to the road for six out of eight games and figured to be a tougher stretch to move up.
Not according to plan, the Hurricanes just completed the home-heavy stretch of seven games with a 2-4-1 record. The Hurricanes salvaged something from three consecutive weeks by winning the last game of the week but have still been negative in all three weeks and have in the process have fallen to .500. That .500 record is four points fewer than the team’s record at this time in the 2017-18 season and more significantly is six points out of a playoff spot (adjusting for games played).
Put bluntly, the Hurricanes dug themselves a hole in December and again face an uphill climb coming out of the Christmas break.
The positive is that the standings are bunched enough that an extended 8ish-game winning streak does the trick in terms of changing the complexion of things. The negative right now is that the team has done very little to suggest that an eight-game winning streak or something similar is possible.
At the end of the day, winning streaks in the NHL are about finding a rhythm and run of consistently good play coupled with a little bit of timely luck. But favorable schedule can sometimes play a role too. Unfortunately, the Hurricanes just burned through their most favorable stretch of schedule near-term and now face an extended run of road hockey through mid-February.
As noted above, the Hurricanes play six of their next eight on the road and have a good mix of tough opponents in Washington, Columbus and Tampa Bay.
That stretch is followed by a tough home set against Buffalo and then Nashville over the weekend.
Then it is back to the road for four of the next five.
Then again, the team gets two quick games at home over a weekend with tough opponents in Las Vegas and Calgary.
Then the Canes go back on the road for five straight.
That set of schedule sees the Hurricanes play 15 road games to only 7 home games before the schedule tilts back to home ice in mid-February.
When one nets it out, the Hurricanes will need to find a higher level of play and consistency in a hurry to avoid seeing the season die in the winter like it has in recent years. If the team is unable to do that, they will again face long odds trying to make up a ton of ground in two little time with less than a third of the season remaining.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Can this team leverage the good vibe from Saturday’s win and the three-day break to find a higher gear that propels them upward in the standings during the winter months that have been the death of recent seasons? Of was December a missed opportunity that spelled the beginning of the end for playoff hopes in 2018-19?
2) Who has the guts to predict a Hurricanes surge coming out of December and heading into January that charts a different course for the 2018-19 season?