The next opponent for the Carolina Hurricanes is now the top team in the Metro as the Pittsburgh Penguins are one point ahead of the Washington Capitals.
The divide between the bottom and top halves of the Metropolitan Division grew even larger from an overtime win for the New Jersey Devils over the Carolina Hurricanes, on Feb. 18. Both the Canes and New York Islanders have 64 points after 60 games. The Columbus Blue Jackets sit just one point behind the Isles and Canes.
After a big weekend that saw the Canes win three straight at home against Western Conference opponents, they’ve dropped their last three contests. A win over a team from the West is a nice two points to add, but the importance is much smaller than Metro contests.
Wins over the Vancouver Canucks, Colorado Avalanche, and Los Angeles Kings were watered down by struggles the following week.
It all started for Carolina with a Feb. 15 matchup with the Devils at Prudential Center. This game was also the first on the road for the Canes in February. Goals from Jeff Skinner and Brett Pesce were not enough to keep the Canes from falling to the Devils 5-2.
Following the road loss to the Devils, the Canes fell to John Tavares and the New York Islanders on Feb. 16. The closest they came to notching a win to round out the week came on the Feb. 18 overtime loss at the hands of New Jersey at PNC Arena.
Even though the Canes out shot the opposition in all three contests, they still managed just four goals total. All four of those goals came against Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid. The offense has to find a way to bury more of those scoring chances, and keep momentum swings going in their direction.
A common frustration for Canes fans for most of the season is the inability to finish on opportunities in the offensive zone. Carolina does control the time on attack on most nights, but it amounts to little positive results on the scoreboard.
The roller coaster of emotions the Canes have put their fans through this season could steady out as the Canes head into the final full month of the regular season. Only a few other teams around the league come to mind as having as many ups and downs like the Calgary Flames and Avalanche.
All would be forgiven if the Canes make it to the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Witnessing playoff hockey in Raleigh is all most fans want to come away with this year. The roster talent is there, especially with the way Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, and Jeff Skinner are playing of late.
A path to the playoffs is harder to predict for the Canes than really any other team in the Metro. The Devils have their growing pains, but mostly trend in the right direction due to the play from Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier. Columbus cannot find much of any consistent offense now and the Isles keep a record slightly above mediocrity at 4-3-1 this month.
The next chance for the Canes to rack up two more points comes against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Feb. 23. Until then, they have four days off to prepare for the next divisional test. Pittsburgh is coming off a 5-2 win over the Jackets on Feb. 18. They also have four days off before traveling to Raleigh.