Things could have gone better this past weekend for fans of the Carolina Hurricanes. Even though the Canes were off for two days, by the end of the day on Sunday they had fallen below the playoff line and now find themselves in 9th place in the Eastern Conference.
How did this happen?
One of the teams that has been chasing Carolina for weeks, the Buffalo Sabres, keeps winning games. While the Canes were able to defeat Lindy Ruff's team in overtime on Thursday night, the Sabres are 5-0-2 in their last seven contests, have jumped over the Canes into eighth place, and still have a game in hand. They play in Pittsburgh tonight.
The other team that jumped over the Canes in the last few days is the New York Rangers. The once struggling blueshirts have now won two games in a row and have their leading scorer, Marian Gaborik back in the lineup.
Things can change on a daily basis and winning streaks can come and go, but if this weekend was any indication, the Rangers and Sabres look like they mean business. The Hurricanes have their work cut out for them.
Let's take a quick look at the remaining schedule and what the Canes need to do.
The Hurricanes have 16 games left, 10 of them at home. The RBC is certainly where the Canes want to be, they have an 18-10-3 record at home while they are 13-16-6 away.
Their home opponents are: Atanta, Columbus, Toronto, New York Islanders, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Montreal, Buffalo, Detroit, and Tampa Bay.
Away games: Washington, Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Washington, New York Islanders, and Tampa Bay.
It's still up in the air how many points it's going to take to get into the playoffs. In some years it's been over 90, a couple of times it's been less than 90. James Mirtle, who has crunched the numbers on these scenarios several times over the years, projects that it will take 89 to 90 points this time around in the East.
Mirtle also published a chart of what record it will take from each team to reach the ultimate goal of 90 points. Here are the most important numbers for the Canes.
- Buffalo 9-8-0
- Rangers 8-6-0
- Hurricanes 9-6-1
- Toronto 11-4-1
- Atlanta 12-3-1
In case you were curious, Carolina's record in their last 16 games is 6-7-3. Obviously, they will need to improve or it will be another long offseason and the trade deadline deals made to improve the team for the short term, will have gone for naught.
It is also tough to figure the strength of schedule at this point of the year. They Flyers, one of the top teams in the league, have been flat of late. The Islanders, one of the league's worst, have been playing well. Are you better off to play a top team, or bottom dweller?
Another factor to take into consideration is that the Canes have six more sets of back-to-back games. That's correct, 12 of the team's final 16 games are part of a back-to-back.
So far, the club has a record of 9-2-4 in the first games of a back-to-back, while they are 6-8-1 in the second games. The good news? All six of those second games will be at the RBC.
Hold on tight Caniacs. It's going to be a bumpy ride to the end.