It has been ten years since the Carolina Hurricanes last qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But, with a 23-8-2 record so far in 2019, the Canes are in prime position to end the playoff drought. Despite sitting with a 94.44% chance to make the playoffs according to MoneyPuck, the Hurricanes still have a tough road ahead of them to close out the regular season.
Currently, only seven points separate the first and fifth place teams in the Metropolitan Division. Washington leads the way with 91 points, and the Islanders and Penguins occupy the second and third spots in the Metro with 89 and 87 points, respectively. The Hurricanes hold the first Eastern Conference wildcard spot with 85 points, and Columbus is right behind in the second wildcard spot with 84 points. Montreal is the only other team in the Eastern Conference with a realistic shot at making the playoffs as a wildcard team, but the Habs currently sit three points behind Columbus with 81 points and are just 4-6-0 in their last ten games.
While the odds are certainly in the Hurricanes’ favor for a return to the playoffs, their performance over their last 11 regular season games could change that drastically. The Canes are set to face off against teams they are currently competing against for a playoff spot five times (PIT twice, WSH twice, and MTL once). In addition, they will host the historically dominant Tampa Bay Lightning and the Minnesota Wild, who are fighting for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Canes will also travel to take on Toronto early in April.
Here is a full look at the remaining 11-game schedule for the Hurricanes:
March 19th vs Pittsburgh
March 21st vs Tampa Bay
March 23rd vs Minnesota
March 24th vs Montreal
March 26th @ Washington
March 28th vs Washington
March 30th vs Philadelphia
March 31st @ Pittsburgh
April 2nd @ Toronto
April 4th vs New Jersey
April 6th @ Philadelphia
Pittsburgh, Columbus, and Montreal all have ten games remaining. The Penguins and Canadiens will split those ten games evenly with five at home and five on the road, while the Blue Jackets will play just three of their last ten games at home. The Hurricanes, meanwhile, will play seven of their final eleven games on home ice.
It is fair to say that the Hurricanes have all but locked up a spot in the playoffs. Montreal has struggled as of late, and they play seven of their final ten games against current playoff teams.
The Hurricanes really control their own destiny. The Canes and Islanders each have a game in hand on the rest of the Eastern Conference playoff field, and the Bunch of Jerks are really surging. If the Canes can capitalize on the final four games of their current homestand and can get some big wins against Washington and Pittsburgh down the stretch, they have a legitimate shot at finishing as a top three team in the Metropolitan Division, especially with the Islanders playing just .500 hockey over their last ten games.
For the first time in what seems like forever, the Hurricanes should end the season as an Eastern Conference playoff team. A lot of the credit for that should go to the likes of Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, and Justin Williams, who have led the team throughout the season. The front office deserves a lot of credit for the team’s success as well. Hiring Rod Brind’Amour looks like an amazing choice right now, and the additions of Jordan Martinook, Micheal Ferland, Dougie Hamilton, Calvin de Haan, and Petr Mrazek, along with mid-season additions in Curtis McElhinney and Nino Niederreiter have drastically altered the outlook of the roster. The team has a different energy surrounding it, and they have taken the league by storm in a few different ways this season.
The Hurricanes host Pittsburgh on Tuesday, March 19th as the playoff surge continues.