No doubt, the Carolina Hurricanes’ playoff hopes took another hit. After an 0-3 record the previous week, the Hurricanes stumbled into the All-Star break with an 0-2 record running their losing streak to 5 games.
Canes fans riding the roller coaster have to feel some combination of nauseous and not very hopeful about making a return to the NHL playoffs in 2017, but if the team can use the All-Star break as a reset and find a higher gear they are still very much in the crowded chase for the last Eastern Conference playoff spot.
If you adjust for games played, the hunt for the last Eastern Conference playoff spot right now looks like this (measured in games above .500):
Red Wings +0
So basically, the Hurricanes are 5 points out of a playoff spot with through 48 out of 82 games. The gap has grown obviously, but it is not yet insurmountable.
Because things are so tightly bunched, the rankings can change pretty dramatically in a week or even less. The Hurricanes were atop that list only 2 weeks ago, and the Islanders were a bottom dweller until a recent run of wins. The Flyers have long been in or near the #8 spot but had been falling precipitously until bouncing back last week.
Right now for the Hurricanes, it is not so much focusing on 1 team and trying to catch it. Right now for the Hurricanes, it is about righting the ship quickly and finding a winning streak. With so many teams in the hunt, I think the ultimate winner will be the team that can put together a big 8-10-game winning streak to rise above the pack of teams constantly bouncing back and forth from the win and loss columns.
The week ahead
‘Must win’ is an overstatement for any individual game in January, but the degree of urgency to get back in the win column before it is too late has definitely ratcheted up for the Hurricanes. Tuesday’s home game against the Flyers who currently sit in the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference is obviously huge. With a win, the Hurricanes would quickly pull back to within 3 points of the last wild card slot and would in the process put the 5-game losing streak to bed with a strong start after the All-Star break. With a loss, the gap increases to a big 7 points, and the team stretches its losing streak to 6 games.
Simpler version: Tuesday night’s big home game against the Flyers is a chance to go from 5 points out to 3 points out and start things on a positive note after the break. Let’s do that and then reassess!