November the 13th. Funny how unlucky 13 plays in to this.
November the 13th is the end of a string of 7 games that will help to decide the fate of the season for the Hurricanes. It's hard to believe that to be true, but the 0 for October has put the Canes in a bad position that they have to get out of immediately. Luckily the schedule makers and the hockey gods seem to be giving the Canes that opportunity. Between November 1st and the 13th the Hurricanes play seven games, five of which are at home. Better yet the opponents for the most part are teams with issues. Let's take a look.
First up on November 1st is the Arizona Coyotes. Arizona is currently the last place team in the west with 7 points. They have lost their last two games and have a -12 goal differential. Now, the Canes are worse off in all of those categories, but if they want to change their position in the standings they have to start somewhere and the Coyotes may be just the team to start that process.
After the Coyotes on the 1st come the Kings on the 2nd. The Kings look good and are playing well in the competitive west. This one is going to be a stretch by any means. However the schedule makers have given the Canes a glimmer of hope. The Kings will be playing their third game in three days come November 2nd. Their first game was October 30th at home against Pittsburgh. On Halloween they play the Red Wings in Detroit. Then Sunday they finish flying across the country for a 5:00 PM eastern time game in Raleigh. The Kings probably still have the advantage, but with the travel, odd start time, and the opponents at least there is a chance for the Canes.
After the Kings leave comes a home and home series against the banged up Blue Jackets on the 4th and 7th. If you think the Canes have it bad on the injury front you should check out the Blue Jackets injuries. Whatever line up the Canes bring in to this home-and-home it should have more talent on paper than Columbus barring some miracle or disaster. Columbus also sits directly above the Hurricanes in the standings in the Metropolitan Division, which means these are back to back 4 point games.
November 8th sees the Canes leave Columbus and travel to Washington to take on the Caps. Like the game against the Kings it's likely that the Caps will be the heavy favorite. Again, the schedule makers help us out. Both teams will be on the back end of playing on back to back nights. The Canes will have played the previous night in Columbus while the Capitals will be coming back from Chicago and a game against the Blackhawks. The Blackhawks are a tougher team to play against right now than the Blue Jackets. It's possible that even though the Canes will be the away team in this tilt against the Caps they may have the fresher legs.
The seven game stretch ends the next week with home games on the 10th against the Jets and the 13th against the Flames. The Jets are cellar dwellers in the Central and Calgary seems to be cooling off after there hot start having lost their last two games. These are two more winnable games at home against opponents traveling in from the west.
To be sitting at .500 after this seven game stretch the Canes need 13 points which is a record of 6-0-1. Is it likely? No. I don't care what team you are and what teams you're playing it's very tough to go 6-0-1 in the NHL over any seven games. A hot goalie can beat any team on any night.
Is it at least possible? Sure. In five of the seven games (Coyotes, Blue Jackets x2, Flames, and Jets) the Canes should be an even money shot with the bulk of the games at home. Quirks in the schedule should give the Canes at least a punchers chance in the games against the Caps and Kings. Either of the goalies getting hot, the first line starting to click, Jeff Skinner going on a scoring streak, or a return to form of Justin Faulk could trigger such a run given these opponents and this schedule.
Is it paramount? You better believe it. Given the hole they have dug for themselves the Canes have to do better than tread water for every stretch of games from here on out. It took 93 points to get in to the playoffs in the east last year. That's 1.13 points a game. With 2 points through 8 games the Canes need to score 91 through the remaining 74 games. That's 1.23 per game, or a 100 point pace for the season. That's not a lot of room for error. Even worse, the remaining schedule for November is rough. After the 13th the Canes have games against the Bruins, Sharks, Stars, Kings, Avalanche, Panthers, and Penguins (x2). Of those eight games, six are on the road. That's not a string of games conducive to moving up in the standings. It's not even conducive to treading water which isn't good enough for this team any longer. If the Canes don't put up a significant amount of points over the next seven games then this stretch in late November is likely to bury them.
Any faltering these next seven games, even a 4-2-1 record, and it's time to commit to the McEichel sweepstakes completely. Just going .500 for the month of November requires a 106 point pace for the rest of the season. The hole will simply be too deep, and the focus will need to shift to the future. Luckily, the schedule gives the Canes the chance to meaningfully extend their season with a hot streak.