Whoa, that was rough.
After starting the month 5-0-1 the Canes ended the month going 2-7-0 in their last 9 to finish the month of November at 7-7-1. That's a sight better than October, but not good enough for the Canes to dig out of the hole they found themselves in after the first month of the season.
Before we look ahead, lets look back at our last article.
What we thought would happen: 3-4-2 A few points below 0.500, but still good for the month.
What actually happened: 2-7-0 That's worse than the worst case scenario put forward in that last article. To say it took all of the momentum out of the Canes sails is an understatement. The Canes went from three points out of a playoff spot to to nine. After 23 games the Canes find themselves on pace for 61 points, which would tie them for the worst 82 game season finish since moving to Raleigh. The bright spot of that previous 61 point season in 2002-03 was that the Canes were able to draft Eric Staal second overall in the NHL Entry Draft (now just the NHL Draft).
Whats on the horizon? Through the 16th of December the Canes have 7 games. They start with a four game home stand followed by a three game road trip. Let's break down the home stand and the road trip and see where we might end up.
At home the Canes have the Predators, the Capitals, the Red Wings, and the Devils. The Predators are tied with 6 other teams to lead the NHL with 34 points. The Red Wings are holding their own in the Atlantic with 33 points, which is good for third in that division. The Capitals and the Devils currently sit outside the playoffs, occupying the 4th and 5th spot in the Metropolitan Division respectively (Toronto, with 27 points and 5th in the Atlantic would currently displace the 4th place team in the Metropolitan). The Preds are playing as well as any team in the NHL, and the reports of the collapse of the Red Wings have been greatly exaggerated. The Canes should get some home ice love against the Caps and Devils, but that's it. The Caps are also currently without Mike Green and Brooks Laich who are currently on the IR. The Devils similarly may be without Travis Zajac, Adam Henrique, and Jon Merrill when they come to town.
On the road the Canes will play the Lightning, Flyers, and Canadiens. The Lightning and the Habs are two of the other 6 teams currently tied for first in the NHL with 34 points. The Flyers find themselves in 6th in the Metropolitan, but sporting a 6-4-2 record at home. Victor Hedman is the most notable name on the IR for any of those teams, but he's expected to come off of the IR in the next couple of days.
Time for a little prognosticating
Best Case Scenario: Well, the schedule is not doing the Canes any favors, but the team is playing well in many facets of the game. The goaltending, defense, and secondary scoring is all there. If the top line guys can start producing then the team should outperform their position in the standings. Even still there are bound to be a few losses their regardless given the opponents. Best case is 5-2-0 or 4-1-2. Some puck luck, some timely scoring, holding Steven Stamkos or the Predators first line in check, and Ward shutting down the Canadiens in Montreal where he plays well and there you go. The Canes end up with 27 points after 30 games. That leaves them 66 to make the playoffs if the 93 point cut off sticks from last year. That's a 104 point pace and still out the outskirts of possibility.
Worst Case Scenario: The Canes can't be even money or better in more than three of those games. Call them 50/50 games and the Canes end up something like 1-5-1. That puts the team at 8-18-4 with 20 points through 30 games. That's a 55 point pace, and should effectively end any talk of the playoffs.
Most Likely Scenario: Two wins against the Caps and Devils. A few OTL's against the rest and the Canes are 2-3-2. Not terrible against that schedule, but once again not good enough to start digging out of the hole. Canes get through mid December 9-16-5, which puts them on pace for 63 points, and still in the McEichel Sweepstakes.
As with years past there seems to be more right then wrong at this point in the season. However, like other recent seasons the damage done in October and November looks to be difficult if not impossible to overcome.