The Carolina Hurricanes kicked off a four-game homestand on Thursday night with a 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers. They were unable to find the net late to send the game to overtime in a competitive contest that felt like it had a playoff atmosphere. The loss comes two days after the Hurricanes defeated the Rangers 3-2 thanks to a third-period comeback. Luckily for them, they’ll have a few more opportunities against strong competition on their current homestand. They currently hold a two-point advantage over the New Jersey Devils in the Metropolitan Division, and with 12 games remaining in the season, it’s important they don’t let one tough loss cause a losing streak down the stretch.
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The Hurricanes’ remaining three games of the homestand include matchups against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, and Tampa Bay Lightning. Over the same stretch, the Devils have a home game against the Ottawa Senators and road games against the Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders. While the Hurricanes have a game in hand in their Metropolitan Division race with the Devils it’s extremely important that they have a strong showing during this homestand, especially given the fact that the Devils will be facing a much weaker schedule. The Devils have struggled of late, with a 1-4 record in their last five games that has given the Hurricanes an opportunity to extend their lead in the division.
Metropolitan Crown Comes With Riches
While it’s an impressive accomplishment to win your division, the winner of the Metro will earn quite a few advantages heading into the postseason. Most importantly they’ll avoid a strong Rangers team in the first round. This would be a big advantage for Carolina given their history with them, including last season’s second-round playoff matchup that saw the Hurricanes fall in seven games.
Another benefit of winning the division would be the home-ice advantage for at least the first two rounds of the postseason. No team in the NHL understands the importance of home ice in the postseason quite like the Hurricanes.
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The Hurricanes finished the 2022 Playoffs with a 0-6 record away from PNC Arena while boasting a 7-1 record at home. While I don’t expect them to struggle to the same degree in this upcoming postseason, you have to wonder if their struggles could creep in if they drop their first couple of road games.
Continued Success Under Brind’Amour
The Hurricanes clinched their fifth straight postseason berth despite their loss to the Rangers on Thursday night. The Maple Leafs’ regulation win over the Florida Panthers was enough to lock up a postseason spot for the Hurricanes. This was yet another reminder of the continued success they have experienced under the leadership of head coach Rod Brind’Amour.
While this playoff streak is something to be proud of, the Hurricanes’ organization is hungry for much more than playoff berths after this half-decade of consistent success. Brind’Amour didn’t have much of a reaction when told of the news that his team had clinched a playoff spot. “Is that what happened? Then you know what? We should be happy,” Brind’ Amour said.
“It says a lot about the group that it’s not what we’re playing for.”Rod Brind’Amour on the Hurricanes‘ 5th-straight postseason berth
Despite key injuries to Max Pacioretty and Andrei Svechnikov, this is still a team that believes they have the pieces to contend for the Stanley Cup.
Fight To The Finish
The battle between the Hurricanes and Devils for the Metropolitan Division title will be a key storyline down the stretch. I believe if the Hurricanes can get at least four points from the remaining three games on their current homestand they will put themselves in a prime position to earn their second straight division title. It will be interesting to see how Brind’Amour handles things down the stretch as he attempts to put his team in the best position to contend for the Stanley Cup.