Some might have noticed the lack of a Monday playoff chase update at Canes and Coffee and assumed that I had given up hope. Not so. The short version of a longer story is that I spent a bit too much time on Sunday working on a couple other things, and then life got in the way today.
While I do not think that all is lost after the 0-2 mark last week, I do think that the 5-game home stand coming out of the team’s bye week is absolutely critical. Ideal would be to reel off 5 wins heading into a hectic March, but I think a 4-1 mark would lift the team into March with the 2017 NHL playoffs still hanging in the balance. Interestingly, readers who visited Monday’s Coffee Shop and voted mostly agreed.
Before Monday’s action, chase for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference stacked up like this as measured in games above .500 (with last week’s standings in parentheses):
Bruins +6 (+3)
Islanders +6 (+4)
Flyers +5 (+6)
Panthers +4 (+4)
Hurricanes +2 (+4)
Devils +1 (+1)
Lightning (+1) (-1)
Sabres 0 (+1)
Red Wings (-2) (+1)
The Hurricanes basically fell 2 points with their 2 losses.
Luckily for the Hurricanes, no one else seems ready to run away with the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Some teams rose, and some teams fell but the cut line is still the same plus 6 that it was last week. And because of how bunched up things are and how many teams the Hurricanes now need to catch and pass, it is more about stringing together a run of wins that gain on everyone and less about hoping a specific team loses.
The week ahead
As already noted, the next stretch of schedule coming out of the bye week is critical. The Hurricanes play only twice this week but both games are at home, and those games are followed by another 3 games at home. Schedule-wise, it looks incredibly favorable. The Hurricanes looked rested and ready coming out of the All-Star break and won 3 straight. The team’s home record is an impressive 17-6-1. And the opponents are reasonable. The run of games does feature the Penguins in the middle but also has the Avalanche to balance them out, and the other 3 games are against middle-ish teams also battling for playoff spots.
5-0 makes a statement and probably sees the Hurricanes within a point of the cut line.
4-1 definitely kicks the can forward to March in a positive way.
3-2 does not end the season, but I just do not think it is good enough given where the team is right now.
2-3 or less could see Francis selling off any/all of hte players whose contracts expire at the end of the season and again looking to next year at the trade deadline.