The Carolina Hurricanes shocked the league as regular season play opened up, stringing together four straight wins and a five game point streak after many considered them to be a playoff longshot. The team has predictably slowed down a bit since that start and recently dropped three straight in regulation. But a win on Monday night in Motown brings their record to 5-3-1 in their first nine games. This positions the team nicely at the top of the Metropolitan Division.
The Hurricanes have mostly impressed, coming out of the gate displaying their ability to score goals and not only remaining in games deep into the third period, but also actually finding a way to pull out wins in close games. A brief look back at NHL standings on this date over the past few years will reveal a drastically different narrative about the Canes in October. Since it’s still early in the season, its tough to compare records as teams at this point have usually played differing amounts of games and varying levels of competition. Now and throughout the season, it’s best to compare teams based on percentage of possible points earned.
Historic Records on October 24th
|Possible Points Earned %
|Possible Points Earned %
The team has historically performed terribly in October — that is no secret. This season seems to be different, as Rod Brind’Amour has his squad picking up just north of 60% of possible points. Often when talking about playoffs, people like to reference a “magic number,” which is the threshold separating the playoff teams from the non-playoff teams. It’s been slightly more or less in past years as a result of varying divisional strength, but it’s best estimated at about 95 points.
So what does it take to get over that hump? Well, if there are 82 games in a season, that affords each team 164 possible points. If it generally takes about 95 of those to punch your ticket to the dance, then you need to earn 58% of your possible points. So by the numbers, Brind’Amour and company are currently acquiring points at a quick enough pace to find themselves in the conversation at the end of the season.
On this date last season, there were 12 teams in the NHL who had picked up 60% or more of their possible points. Four of them didn’t hold their playoff pace through the end of the season. Two seasons ago 12 teams again were above the 60% mark with 10% of the regular season in the books, but this time, only two of those teams were golfing in April. And three seasons ago five of the 14 teams above that threshold through 10% of the season were out of the running after 82 games.
So as the season progresses each year, we can slowly see an upper tier of teams forming in the standings. That group of clubs is generally picking up more than 60 percent of their possible points during any given month, which has them well on their way to a playoff berth. In the past, the Canes have entered the season slow, putting themsleves in a tough spot. Instead of looking at picking up 60% of their remaining possible points, those teams were forced to pick up 70% or more to make up the ground that they lost early.
Tomorrow will mark three weeks since the start of the season. The recent three game regulation losing streak proves that things are far from perfect, and you can bet that this young team will face a great deal more adversity in the coming 73 games. But for the first time in years, the Hurricanes haven’t positioned themselves behind the eight ball before Halloween. I’d say that’s a decent start.