Trick or treat?
For the Carolina Hurricanes, it was a little bit of both in October.
The Canes finished the month with a 4-4-2 record, earning 10 of a possible 20 points. It's right at hockey .500, a threshold they haven't crossed over in October since 2008 (5-2-2, 12 points). It's not great and it's not bad, either - it's just fine.
"Consistently inconsistent," head coach Bill Peters said. "We haven't strung together a solid 60 minutes as often as we'd like. We played 10 times, and there's probably two games out of there where you can say, from start to finish that's how we're supposed to look. We've looked like we want to look in stretches, but not consistently."
Video: Bill Peters: "Give yourself a better chance"
The typically grueling State Fair road trip often dominates the October schedule for the Hurricanes. This year was a bit different in that the Canes opened with two games at home before hitting the road, and the weeklong trip wasn't too demanding. A lot of miles were logged in the air, yes, but the schedule wasn't too compact. In fact, the team played just one of its 18 back-to-back sets in October.
In all, the 10-game October slate appeared pretty favorable for the Canes, who played five games at home and five games on the road. The team posted a 3-2-0 record on the road, winning three of four games in Canada, but only managed a 1-2-2 mark at home.
"We're going to need to win at home," Jordan Staal said after Sunday's 4-3 shootout loss to the Anaheim Ducks. "Just moving our legs, being aggressive and not waiting for the game to come to you. Take control of it right away. I think we've been coming out flat too often. It's not good enough."
Seven (eight if you consider the game against Tampa Bay less a week ago that was 2-1 until empty-net goals unraveled things late) of the Canes' 10 games in October were decided by just a goal. The team posted a 2-3-2 record (or 2-4-2, depending on that Tampa Bay game) in those games.
"Three (goals) is good enough if you defend properly. We're giving up too many goals and too many easy goals," Peters said. "I would love to get to four, five or six and keep your foot on the gas, but giving up three and four a night isn't a recipe for success."
"We've been in some tight games and haven't got that extra push to get us on top in those scenarios," Justin Faulk said after Sunday's game. "We're getting chances. We need to score goals."
Seven of the Canes' 10 games in October featured Western Conference opponents. Of the three intraconference games, just one was against a divisional opponent, a 2-1 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
"I think it's a hard schedule to put together, and that's why you see some of the things you see throughout the year," Peters said.
Video: Jordan Staal: "Been on and off"
That balance will shift in November, with eight of the team's 13 games featuring Eastern Conference opponents and five of those eight games being divisional contests.
Points are worth the same amount each game, but the weight is magnified when a team can snag two points while preventing a divisional opponent from doing the same.
"There's a familiarity between the two teams, so that will play a factor," Peters said. "Whether it tightens up or stays loose, I don't know."
Before the Canes get to that meat of their schedule, they'll begin November with two games out west against the Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes.
"Points are huge. We need to get points, there's no question about it," Peters said. "If we go out on the road and play the right way, I like our chances."
Playing the right way is what the Hurricanes are in search of on a consistent basis. The framework is there. The execution is a work in progress with hopefully more treat than trick ahead.
"I just know it's hard to win. In order to win, there's a certain way you have to play. When you play that way, you're going to give yourself a chance," Peters said. "We have a template. When we play the way we're designed to play, we're very efficient and successful. When we deviate from that, we're very random."