With an 0-2 mark before the bye week followed by an 0-1-1 mark after the bye week, we are treacherously close to seeing the playoff chase update converted to a NHL draft positioning check in.
My thoughts on the playoff chances are pretty similar to early voting in the Monday Coffee Shop that is split between ‘it’s over’ and ‘it’s maybe not over but the chance is really slim.’
Hopefully just saying the word ‘playoffs’ will not trigger another round of fiery venom from the Canes and Coffee community (hides behind computer screen :-)).
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):
Note 1 of Boston, Florida and Toronto would claim the third Atlantic Division playoff berth and the other 2 would compete for the final wild card slot.
Bruins +7 (+6)
Panthers +7 (+4)
Maple Leafs +7 (+7)
Islanders +6 (+6)
Flyers +4 (+5 )
Lightning +2 (+1)
Sabres +2 (0)
Devils +1 (+1)
Hurricanes +1 (+2)
Red Wings (-1) (-2)
The Hurricanes basically fell 2 points for the second consecutive week. If you adjust for games played, the gap has increased to 6 points.
It seems to change every week, but I think Florida is the team to watch right now. The trendy pick at the start of the season is finally healthy and seems to be rounding into form for the stretch run. Subject to change again next week, the Panthers seem most likely to seize the third playoff spot for the Atlantic division and push the Maple Leafs and Bruins down into the wild card fray. Past the Panthers, the teams above the Canes are generally winning which has the gap widening quickly with the Hurricanes recent struggles.
The week ahead
I said before the 5-game home stand started that the team needed to go at least 4-1 to enter March with a chance. The best the Hurricanes can do now is 3-1-1 if they reel off 3 wins this week. And that is basically what the team needs to do very soon – go on an extended winning streak.