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Breaking Down Remaining Playoff Scenarios

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes are usually in the thick of a playoff race at the end of the regular season, but rarely have they experienced this many ups and downs.

Paul Branecky
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They’ve played as well as they have all season down the stretch, posting a record of 8-2-1 since March 15, which marks the most wins they’ve had in any 11-game stretch. Still, with ground needing to be made up, each point dropped and each point gained by their competition has been a serious setback – enough to nearly end their postseason aspirations.

The rollercoaster ride has never been wilder than the last five days. According to, the Canes’ chance of making the playoffs heading into Sunday’s game against Buffalo was 42.5 percent. An overtime loss in that game, coupled with the New York Rangers’ comeback win against Boston the following day, pegged the number down to a season-low 7.7 percent. A few days later, with a Canes win over Detroit and a Rangers loss to Atlanta, it’s back up to 36.9.

That swing will be even more dramatic after the Hurricanes’ game against Atlanta tonight. Win and they’re up another 25 percent. Lose, and the odds go down just as much.

Even with just two games left, there are still multiple scenarios that would see Carolina qualify for the playoffs. Thanks to the Rangers’ loss, they’re guaranteed of a spot by winning both games and avoiding shootouts. Depending on what the Rangers do against New Jersey on Saturday afternoon, they may only need to win one.

Here’s a breakdown of the possible outcomes and what they would mean for Carolina, taking into account the first tiebreaker (regulation or overtime wins) and the fact that Carolina owns the second tiebreaker by having earned more points in the season series with the Rangers:

2-0-0 (wins in OT or regulation)
YES – CAR has more points or ROW tiebreak
2-0-0 (one win in shootout)
YES – CAR has more points or head-to-head tiebreak
2-0-0 (both wins in shootout)
NEED HELP – NYR must lose (fewer points) or win in SO (ROW tiebreak)
NEED HELP – NYR must lose (fewer points) or lose in OT or SO (ROW tiebreak)
NEED HELP – NYR must lose in regulation (ROW tiebreak)
NEED HELP – NYR must lose in regulation (head-to-head tiebreak)

Carolina could still pass Buffalo and finish seventh if Buffalo loses their final two games in regulation. Carolina would not pass Buffalo on a tiebreaker unless they can make up an 18-goal disadvantage in goal differential, which is the third tiebreaker. Carolina can do no better than match Buffalo in the first two tiebreakers, as the two teams tied their season series with five points apiece.

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