TORONTO - With just three games remaining in the 2018-19 regular season, the Carolina Hurricanes are in the thick of a playoff race that could come right down to the wire.
Despite a loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday, a failure to gain ground in the wild card race, the Hurricanes still occupy a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and are in control of their destiny heading into the first week of April.
"We've got to flush it … and come back Tuesday ready to play," Jaccob Slavin said after Sunday's loss. "Only a couple games left. Nothing to save it for. We've got to get to the playoffs."
"We're not getting help," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said prior to Sunday's game. "We're going to have to win our games, that's just it. Take care of our business and don't rely on anybody else."
Down to the Wire
The Hurricanes defeated Philadelphia on Saturday night, but Montreal beat Winnipeg and Columbus defeated Nashville to keep pace in the wild card race. On Sunday, while the Canes stumbled in Pittsburgh, Columbus took care of business against Buffalo. As a result, the Canes slipped to the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference with 93 points and three games remaining. Sandwiching the Canes in the standings are Columbus in the first wild card spot (94 points, three games remaining) and Montreal just on the outside looking in (92 points, three games remaining).
Things, well, they're pretty tight.
The Hurricanes' magic number could be five: any combination of five points gained by the Canes or lost by the team with the ninth-best points potential in the Eastern Conference (currently Montreal) could clinch a playoff berth for the Canes, but that's contingent upon the tiebreaker still favoring the Canes. A magic number of six points would ensure a postseason appearance regardless of the tiebreaker scenarios.
Either way, the earliest the Canes could clinch a playoff berth is now Thursday, April 4.
Hurricanes' Playoff Chances
The Hurricanes' postseason chances have taken a hit since this time a week ago, but the odds remain in the team's favor since they currently sit above the cut line.
If the Season Ended Today
If the regular season ended today, here's how playoff match-ups would shake out in the Eastern Conference.
- Washington (1) vs. Columbus (WC1)
- NY Islanders (2) vs. Pittsburgh (3)
- Tampa Bay (1) vs. Carolina (WC2)
- Boston (2) vs. Toronto (3)
Pittsburgh essentially ensured they will finish in the top three in the Metropolitan Division with their win over the Hurricanes on Sunday. Assuming the Canes remain above the cut line, then, they'll likely finish in one of the two wild card spots. According to Money Puck, the team has a 46 percent chance of retaining the second wild card seed and a 27 percent chance of trading places in the standings with Columbus for the first wild card seed.