Coming off a promising, yet disappointing 2013 shortened season, the Carolina Hurricanes expected to be a playoff team this year. As of Dec. 24 the Carolina Hurricanes are seventh in the Metropolitan Division, a division which contains eight teams. On the bright side, the Carolina Hurricanes are only two points back of the Philadelphia Flyers, who sit in third place. That being said, are the Carolina Hurricanes a playoff team?
Let’s start with the positive things we have seen from the Hurricanes this year. Jeff Skinner has elevated his game to a new level. He has been one of the hottest goal scorers in the NHL lately, and he shows no sign of slowing down. He has teamed up with Eric Staal and Tuomo Ruutu to form a very efficient first line.
Justin Peters has probably been the most pleasant surprise this year for the Carolina Hurricanes. He has turned into one of the league’s hottest goalies lately. He ranks in the upper half of the NHL in both goals against average and save percentage. He has been the main reason for the “goalie controversy” in Raleigh thanks to his great play lately.
The Carolina Hurricanes team defense is head and shoulders better than it has been in a while. New additions like Andrej Sekera and Ron Hainsey have really helped the Carolina Hurricanes change their identity from one of very poor defense to one of very solid defense that can even pitch in on offense.
The Carolina Hurricanes have benefited a lot from the points above, but their have been some things holding this team back from being a clear-cut playoff team.
The Carolina Hurricanes are very inconsistent. They have shown us pretty often that they are capable of being one of the best teams in the NHL, but we also see a team that is incapable of making even the most basic of plays just as often. Why is this?
Kirk Muller has established a very effective system. He preaches that offense come from defense. He is right, but at times, the Carolina Hurricanes still insist on playing the kind of hockey that former coach Paul Maurice coached. This includes cheating up ice and trying to generate big plays that just don’t work often.
We saw the Carolina Hurricanes play 55 minutes of Kirk Muller hockey on Monday against the Columbus Blue Jackets and they had a 3-2 lead. They got off their game in the final five minutes. The Carolina Hurricanes should have won that game, but they let their game slack, so they lost.
The Carolina Hurricanes have a knack for only playing for 40 minutes, or sometimes less. This means that they do not start or finish a game like they should. Usually, the Carolina Hurricanes play a solid game of hockey, but they don’t when they really need to. We’ve seen the Carolina Hurricanes kill themselves in the first period very often. This leads to the Carolina Hurricanes needing to play come from behind hockey. They are successful sometimes, but they can not rely on third periods to win games. Teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks are terrific teams because they play for 60 minutes night in and night out. The Carolina Hurricanes won’t be on that level if they don’t start playing with 60 minute efforts.
The Carolina Hurricanes have the talent to be one of the best teams in the NHL. No one will debate that, but the effort we’ve seen from this team is not top ten very often. If the Carolina Hurricanes can play for 60 minutes and eliminate costly brain lapses, they can be a playoff team. Until then, the Carolina Hurricanes will continue to not see the results that they want.