Now halfway through January and a full five games past the halfway point, today’s Daily Cup of Joe assesses the current state of the Carolina Hurricanes, where the team stands with regard to pushing back up into the playoff chase and what lies ahead.
A December that very nearly killed the season
The Hurricanes came within inches of completely ending the 2018-19 season in an abysmal December. After a rousing three-game winning streak at home over Thanksgiving, the Hurricanes then sputtered. The team did manage to go 1-1-1 in the last three games of November, but the team’s December was brutal. The Hurricanes were 1-4-1 in the first half of the month, and no better going 2-4 in the second half of the month. The 3-8-1 December was the kind of month that puts teams in the middle of the standings definitively on the underside of the playoff cut line.
An attempt to recover
Just when the season seemed to be officially over at least in terms of playoff hopes, the Hurricanes surged. Counting a win on the last day of December, the Hurricanes won seven out of eight. The front part of the winning streak benefited from a weak schedule, but the second half featured impressive wins over the Blue Jackets, Islanders, Sabres and Predators in addition to a loss to the Lightning that was more good than bad. But even with the massive surge the Hurricanes entered action on Tuesday still four points out of a playoff spot (adjusted for games played). In rough terms, even after winning seven out of eight, the Hurricanes really needed another run of about four wins in a row or maybe five wins in six. But impressively, the Hurricanes were at least within range of the playoff chase and trending in the right direction.
What is ahead?
For January, the Hurricanes next have a home game against Ottawa that they really need to convert into a win. Then the Canes head out West for a three-game trip through Western Canada before an extended eight day break with the All-Star break and their bye week. After two games at home to start February, the Hurricanes encounter a five-game road trip.
To push up into the playoff chase requires two things in my opinion. First, the team will need at least one more extended winning streak where it wins five or six games in a row or seven out of eight like it just did. That burst could come as late as March. But for it to matter the Hurricanes must also avoid any kind of extended downturn. Even a short run of losses has the potential to give back what was gained in early January and make a late miracle all but impossible.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Did the Hurricanes do enough in early January such that you would say they are back in the playoff chase, or does the team still need another burst to stake that claim?
2) When you look at the schedule for the second half of the season, what stretches to do you see as most critical and/or most likely to yield another surge upward?