Hurricanes Playoff Worthy?

After just half a season it seems the Carolina Hurricanes are back in the hunt. This past month has really been a resurgence for the Hurricanes. Now with five wins in their last eight games, their recent play has been more than enough to start turning some heads.

What is refreshing about this recent span of games is the way they have been stringing together wins. Since the beginning of the season, goal scoring has been a constant issue. It seemed that early on, no matter how many shots they put on net, goals were just not coming. However, now Carolina seems to have finally hit their stride and have begun to see dramatic increases to goal scoring.

Let’s take their recent four-game win streak for example. In all of those wins, the Hurricanes scored at least four goals. So far in January, the ‘Canes are averaging 3.86 goals per game, a rate well above the current league average.

Scoring as a Team

(James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

Certain players haven’t had any issue in terms of putting up points. Jeff Skinner and Victor Rask quickly come to mind as both have 35 and 32 points, respectively. It is important to remember, though, that hockey is a team game. No matter how much one player does, the team as a whole has to perform well to win games.

In the beginning of the season many players struggled to gain their footing and, as a result, the Hurricanes lost some easy games. Take Elias Lindholm for example. He started off slowly for Carolina despite being often looked upon to be a difference maker for the team. By the end of November, he had only managed to put together eight points in 22 games. Compare that to the fact that he already has nine points in his last ten games and it starts to become clear why the Canes are starting to win games now.

It’s important to note that it’s not just Lindholm who is scoring more — it is the team as a whole. Even players in more of a depth role are making their mark. I mean honestly, at the beginning of the season, who would have thought Brock McGinn would be one of the NHL’s three stars of the week. Yet, with seven points over a three-game span, he was more than deserving of the honor.

Getting Into the Playoffs

As of right now the wildcard battle in the east in extremely fierce. The Canes are now locked into a battle with the Philadelphia Flyers and Ottawa Senators for the final spot. Just being in the hunt is already a huge step up from where this team was two months ago. But given the Hurricanes’ current situation it’s not outlandish to think that they have a strong chance of making the playoffs.

It won’t be easy. The team that is sitting in the wildcard spot is the Senators, as of this writing. The Sens have been a team that has fluttered in and out of playoff contention for almost the entire season. They are looking pretty good right now. They currently have the highest point percentage out of any team in the playoff race in the east and they also benefit from playing in the Atlantic division, a division that has some less than stellar teams in it. With two games in hand and already one point up on the Hurricanes, Ottawa seems to be the biggest threat.

Surpassing Ottawa

Luckily for Carolina, the Senators may take care of themselves. The three teams that hold playoff spots in the Atlantic are the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens. While Toronto and Montreal are on good pace to maintain their spots (at least for now) the Bruins can’t say the same. The Sens have five games in hand on the Bruins and trail by only two points. If Ottawa can keep their current pace they are almost guaranteed to surpass Boston.

This would benefit the Hurricanes as well since they have played three games less than Boston and would need only two points to overtake them. If they can maintain the level of play we have seen so far in January I would think it is very likely to see the ‘Canes in the playoffs this year.