With the Hurricanes winning games at a clip selcom seen since the 2006 playoffs, the numbers speak for themselves.
A franchise record-tying nine straight home wins. A chance to have the best March in team history, which a point against New Jersey on Saturday would accomplish. A record of 7-1-2 in the last 10 games, which is tied for the best in the NHL.
With so much on the line coming into this month, that’s about as good as you can ask for.
Beyond those points, it should also be said that there haven’t been many easy games during this run. They’ve beaten Cup contenders in Washington, Calgary and New Jersey. They’ve won grinding games against other teams in the playoff chase, such as the New York Rangers and Florida. Even games against the New York Islanders and Ottawa, who aren’t expected to make the playoffs, were tough contests as those teams were both playing very well coming in and gave the Canes all they could handle.
The bottom line is that the team is winning games and sitting in a better position than they ever could have imagined with six games remaining.
Buffalo and Florida have helped the Hurricanes’ cause, as both have struggled down the stretch and currently find themselves out of the playoff picture. Since the trade deadline on March 4, Buffalo is 4-6-1, while Florida is 2-4-3. If neither of them can climb back in, the Canes are in. Simple as that.
In a head-to-head meeting between those two last night, the Sabres may have gained some momentum with a four-goal comeback to win in regulation. They should also be getting goaltender Ryan Miller back from injury very soon.
For Florida, the third period collapse, their fourth in eight games, may be one too many to recover from. After deciding to hang on to Jay Bouwmeester at the trade deadline to make a run this season, the Panthers are now approaching a nightmare scenario where they don’t get in and lose their star player for nothing this summer via free agency.
Even though things are looking good, the Canes aren’t about to let up. Already in fifth place (although they have played more games than any NHL team), they are still looking to do more rather than focus on the teams who would love to catch them.
“We’re worried about moving up in the standings,” said Tim Gleason, who is working towards his first career NHL playoff game. “We have an opportunity to hopefully at some point catch Philadelphia and stay away from Pittsburgh even. It’s one of those things where you want to keep going, because it is a pretty tight race still. If you lose three in a row you’re going to be in trouble, so we want to keep winning hockey games and take it one game at a time.”
Following the last hectic portion of their 2008-09 schedule, the Canes are off from practice today. Get ready to do some scoreboard watching over the next week, as Saturday’s Jersey game is the team’s only contest in the next seven days. It’s about time the rest of the league catches up in games played, no?