Last season the Carolina Hurricanes finished just two spots out of a playoff position. This season they currently sit in a similar position. Tied with the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers at 84 points, all three teams are just two spots out of a playoff position, seven points out with the Boston Bruins winning today. The Hurricanes’ changes are slim at this point to make the playoffs for the first time since they went to the Conference Finals in 2008-2009, but they just rattled off a 13-game point streak (9-0-4) and have ten points still up for grabs.
Inside the Carolina Hurricanes Playoff Push
Let’s take a look at some things that changed the ‘Canes postseason chances.
Spring is Storm Season
Before the Hurricanes game against the Lightning on March 1st they had a 25-25-9 record. They have improved dramatically since then, now sporting a decent 35-28-14 record. No team had more points in the month of March. Surprisingly, the only two teams to beat the Canes in regulation were the Arizona Coyotes and the Colorado Avalanche, the bottom two in the league. After those losses it seemed like this team was not destined to snap their long playoff drought. Then on March 13th they crushed the Islanders 8-4 and the league got a taste of how lethal this offence could be.
Like most young teams in the league, this is a team filled with blooming prospects with high potential scoring skill. Sebastian Aho is having an under-the-radar rookie season already racking up 23 goals and 47 points. Another young Finnish player fitting in nicely is 22-year old Teuvo Teravainen. Teravainen was the odd man out of the Chicago Blackhawks annual roster retooling and Carolina has reaped the benefits. He has surpassed his numbers last year, hitting 41 points so far.
However, the catalyst of this team’s push for the playoffs is Jeff Skinner. In the month of March, Skinner tied for the NHL lead in goals scored with Nikita Kucherov, both at 12. Three of those goals were game winners. He was at a point per game pace in March with 17 points in 16 games played. It’s not just last month that has been good for him, this has been one of the best seasons of his career and sort of a statement season to say that he has returned to form. He’s just one goal off of his career best with 32 so far, and six points back of his highest point total set in his rookie year (63).
While the ‘Canes were the highest scoring team in the league in March with 54 goals, they have also had some big improvements in net as well.
No Lack Of Effort
Head coach, Bill Peters, made it very clear on March 3rd that Eddie Lack‘s play was “just not good enough”. Peters seemed genuinely frustrated about his back up goaltender’s performance. Maybe he was trying to send a message to Lack, or maybe he was just venting and answering honestly how he felt. No one knows but Peters and his associates. Regardless of the intention, Lack’s play for the rest of the month took an impressive turnaround. Eight games started, five wins, 0.921 SV%, and a 2.00 GAA. Those are Lack’s March numbers. Pretty incredible for a guy who’s coach had him ranked 60th in the league among backups.
Cam Ward has also been helping to keep the Carolina Hurricanes playoff push moving forward also. Although his numbers haven’t been as impressive as Lack’s, his record last month was solid. In nine games started Ward also had five wins, one loss, and three close overtime losses. If the Canes have any hopes of staying in the race, these two will have top continue their play as of lately.
Make or Break Time
With one five games remaining in the season, sure the Canes March was amazing, but was it enough? The Carolina Hurricanes limped out of the gate for April. A 3-0 loss to the Dallas Stars to end the 13-game point streak was not a good start. It will not get easier from here. Three of those games are on the road, and two of the games are against the very two teams they are tied in the standings with. April will be the true test to see if the Hurricanes can finally have a chance to battle for the Stanley Cup.