There is a ton of analysis out in the blog world right now, looking into the bowels of these playoff matchups at every possible angle. This Atlanta blogger prepared some information showing how the playoff teams performed during the season against other playoff teams versus non-playoff teams. Carolina placed about in the middle of the pack in this analysis.
This blogger prepared an article showing that the regular season results between clubs is not necessarily an indicator of how a playoff series will turn out. And here is yet another study showing that hot teams going into the playoffs, do not necessary fare any better than cold ones, once the post season starts.
But there is one big circumstance about the Hurricanes that debunks most of these studies which look at team stats prior to March 3rd. The Hurricanes were a different team back then.
Since the re-acquisition of Erik Cole, the Hurricanes have a record of 12-3-2.
While admittedly the team was "hot" during the last spell when they won so many games in a row, there was a bit more to it than just being "hot".
Can the addition of one single player have a dramatic impact on a team? In this case, the answer is yes. Not only is Cole a dangerous scorer in his own right, but putting him on the Ruutu/Staal line has improved the scoring for both of those players, especially Eric Staal.
Moving Sergei Samsonov to the third line has also improved Rod Brind'Amour's performance and results. The fact that the Hurricanes now have three legitimate scoring lines should pose problems for any opponent.
While Cam Ward has received heaps of praise for his outstanding play of late, and deservedly so, the Canes have scored 63 goals over the 17 game span with Cole in the lineup. That averages out to more than 3.7 goals per game. Carolina scored a total of 239 goals for the entire season, which means that they scored over 26.7% of their total goals after Cole was inserted into the lineup.
Is this coincidence? Luck? Or just getting hot?
No matter how you want to look at it, this is not the same hockey club as it was prior to the month of March. Nothing against Justin Williams, because he had his injuries to deal with, but the Hurricanes slipped a top six forward into the mix that they did not have prior. The addition of Erik Cole changed the entire dynamic of the team. Although they are interesting, it would seem that all prior studies, analysis, and comparisons are pretty much moot.
Look for tonight's lines to be as following:
- Staal, Ruutu, Cole
- Jokinen, Whitney, LaRose
- Brind'Amour, Samsonov, Walker
- Cullen, Eaves, Conboy
- Corvo, Gleason
- Pitkanen, Babchuk
- Seidenberg, Wallin
Obviously, Cam Ward will be in net.
Everything has been said that needs to be said, (and probably more), it's time to drop the puck and get on with it. No matter what the bloggers, journalists, DJ's, beat writers, and handicappers interpret the statistics to say, this series, like all the others before them, will be decided on the ice.
Game time is at 7:30.
(attached are MP3 interviews with Eric Staal and Paul Maurice from this morning, 4/15/09)