Currently, the Carolina Hurricanes are three points out of a playoff spot with just nine games to go. You don't need an odds calculator to tell you that, chances are, the team will not make it to the postseason. But just in case you are curious of the exact odds, Sports Club Stats has Carolina's chances of making the playoffs at 22.6%.
Interestingly enough in the Spring of 2008, the Canes were at the other end of the percentages.
With just eight games left in the season, Carolina had a three point advantage over division rival Washington. The Canes finished those eight games with a 4-3-1 record, not too shabby, but not as good as the Caps 7-1-0 record.
As we all remember, the Caps overtook the Canes, won the Southeast Division title, and went on to begin what has become their annual disappointment in the playoffs.
What happened in those eight games for Carolina? Let's take a quick look back.
The team had to face Southeast Division opponents in all eight games, facing each of them twice. They swept the Thrashers, split with the Panthers and Lightning, but lost both games to the Caps, one in a shootout.
After earning a 3-0-1 record in the first four games of the stretch, (and pushing the Sports Club Stats odds up to 90%, to being in the playoffs), they dropped their last three of four, including a heartbreaking season final game at the RBC against the Florida Panthers, a game which probably still gives former Carolina coach Peter Laviolette nightmares.
The collapse was the beginning of the end of Laviolette's reign in Raleigh, as he was released after the start of the following season.
The final games came with a bit of controversy and drama as previously injured vets, Ray Whitney, Matt Cullen, Chad LaRose, and Justin Williams each returned to the lineup, albeit too early, (except for LaRose). But check out the lines Laviolette had to work with because of all the injuries. (prior to the first Atlanta game).
Not sure I can blame him for bringing in the reinforcements if they claimed they were ready to go, but Williams re-injured himself his first game back. Whitney and Cullen looked off. But LaRose started a scoring streak and scored his first NHL hat trick against the Lightning. The lines, (they ended up benching Brookbank and played Seidenberg as the 7th defenseman), for the Lightning were as follows:
Then came the final game against Florida, a team which hadn't won a game at the RBC since 2002.
Carolina went 0-9 on the powerplay, Cullen coughed up a puck for a shorthanded goal, Whitney didn't play well again, and the Canes looked like they had zero physical presence after Brookbank and Tim Conboy were benched. The Panthers won, 4-3.
So, can Carolina do the opposite this season? It won't be easy, but Buffalo has a similar end of season so at least the schedule is fair.
First up for the Canes is a back-to-back and home-and-home matchup against a Tampa Bay team which is currently struggling. Then they will travel to Washington and return home to face Montreal for another back-to-back.
Next up will be the New York Islanders, then a return home for another back-to-back, this time against the Sabres. That game could very well could mean the season for either team.
They will finish up with a home game against Detroit, then their final two games will fittingly be another back-to-back scenario, first in Atlanta, then finishing out at home against the Lightning.
The Sabres also have four back-to-backs to contend with. They start off at home against the Panthers and Devils this Friday and Saturday. Then they travel to Toronto, always a tough game for them. They return home to battle the Rangers the following night.
They will play the Capitals before traveling here for the big Sunday game, then will face Tampa Bay at home before their final back-to-back, a home game against the Flyers and a roadie in Columbus to finish their season.
The Hurricanes have their work cut out for them but as we witnessed back in 2008, anything is possible.