The Carolina Hurricanes could find themselves in a virtual 3 way tie for 1st place in the Southeast Division with a win tonight against Atlanta and a loss by Tampa Bay. If the Canes lose, they would drop to 3rd place. That is skating on thin ice indeed! Amazingly enough, as inconsistent as the Canes have been this year their divisional competition has been equally inconsistent if not worse. Atlanta has only won a single game during the whole month of February. While Tampa Bay has been on a roll lately, they have yet to play the teams of the Northwest Division and have a brutal road trip coming up. If the Canes could win a few games in a row during the next couple of weeks, they could put themselves in an excellent position to win the division and finish in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference. In essence, it doesn't matter what the Leafs, Islanders, Canadiens, Rangers, and Senators do, if the Canes can push themselves ahead of the Thrashers and Lightning, they will be just fine!
I was reading an article yesterday which put the importance of winning the division in acute perspective. While people always say that just getting into the playoffs is what is most important and once a team squeaks in, even if it is in 8th place anything can happen, the reality of the situation is that while anything "can" happen it rarely "does" happen. Meaning that lower rated teams rarely, if ever win the Cup. These statistics were presented by Daniel Tolensky from Hockeybuzz.com. Here are the last 20 Cup winners and their overall rankings at year end.
06 Carolina - 4th overall
04 Tampa Bay - 2nd overall
03 New Jersey - 4th overall
02 Detroit - 1st overall
01 Colorado - 1st overall
00 New Jersey - 4th overall
99 Dallas - 1st overall
98 Detroit - 3rd overall
97 Detroit - 5th overall
96 Colorado - 3rd overall
95 New Jersey - 9th overall (short season)
94 New York - 1st overall
93 Montreal - 6th overall
92 Pittsburgh - 6th overall
91 Pittsburgh - 7th overall
90 Edmonton - 5th overall
89 Calgary - 1st overall
88 Edmonton - 3rd overall
87 Edmonton - 1st overall
86 Montreal - 7th overall
30% of the time the 1st Overall Team won the Cup
50% of the time a Top Three Team won the Cup
75% of the time a Top Five Team won the Cup
95% of the time a Top Seven Team won the Cup
These stats are very telling and really indicate the need for the Canes to lock up the Southeast and not to rely on being able to slip into that 7th or 8th spot. Later, Mr. Tolensky goes on to review the needs of the buyers, sellers, and wannabe's in the league at this point in time. While I don't agree with some of his points, I do believe it's interesting and worth a read if you have time. You can find the article by clicking this link..Daniel Tolensky
Hopefully, the Hurricanes can take advantage of the reeling Thrashers and make them stay in the funk that they currently find themselves in. Just a reminder, the Thrashers have a new player to keep an eye on, 3rd line center Eric Belanger. Remember him? The player who said he "didn't fit in" and who according to John Forslund, requested a trade? In my opinion, he had a very arrogant quote which was in the News and Observer on Sunday. Belanger said "Mr. Rutherford is a very smart man, he traded me to the West. But now, I'm back in his division playing for the team that's in front of them. I don't know if he likes that. " Well guess what Mr. Belanger! I doubt Mr. Rutherford has lost a moments sleep about where you ended up and the rest of your ex-mates haven't either. While Atlanta may or may not end up ahead of the Canes at the end of the season, I'm sure that Eric Belanger won't be the deciding factor in those results. Maybe in his dreams? Good riddance to Mr. "can't hit the net on a breakaway". This blogger is not missing him one little bit.
There's not much more to say about this one. It's time for the Canes to step it up. It's time for them to put together some good efforts on home ice. It's time for them to assert themselves and stake a claim to the Division lead. It's a new day and a new season if the Hurricanes can win this one.Â Now's the time! Let's Go Canes!!