Carolina Hurricanes: A crucial week ahead in the playoff race

RALEIGH, NC - FEBRUARY 15: Warren Foegele #13 of the Carolina Hurricanes celebrates during the team Storm Surge following a victory over the Edmonton Oilers during an NHL game on February 15, 2019 at PSNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - FEBRUARY 15: Warren Foegele #13 of the Carolina Hurricanes celebrates during the team Storm Surge following a victory over the Edmonton Oilers during an NHL game on February 15, 2019 at PSNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Carolina Hurricanes had a huge week in their battle to secure a first playoff spot in ten years. We look back at that week, and ahead to what could prove to be a pivotal series of games in the team’s fight for a post-season berth.

As we wake up this Monday morning on the cusp of a playoff spot, it is almost surreal to look back on the past seven games. After a 4-1-0 road trip that almost seemed disappointing because of the loss to New Jersey, the Carolina Hurricanes finished out the rest of the week with two huge wins.

Let’s dive right in to last week’s recap:

2/10/19 at New Jersey – 2-3 L

In the Carolina Hurricanes’ only loss in the last seven games, the Canes’ power play took the life out of the team. Though we did get one with the man advantage, we went 1/5 and struggled to enter the offensive zone on the power play. Coach Rod Brind ‘Amour said as much after the game. Each successive failed power play took any and all momentum out of the game. After giving up two goals in the first period, the Hurricanes struggled offensively the rest of the game. While the team did make it slightly interesting by the end of the game, scoring with the goalie pulled to cut the lead to one, New Jersey held on for the win.

Now, on to the fun stuff.

2/12/19 at Ottawa – 4-1 W

As this game progressed through the first two periods, it looked eerily similar to the New Jersey game. The opponent scored first, and the Carolina Hurricanes put pressure on Curtis McElhinney to repeatedly make big save after big save to keep the game within striking distance. If not for an Ottawa goal overturned because it was kicked, the Hurricanes would not have escaped the first two periods only down by one.

The third period began as well as it possibly could have. Micheal Ferland scored thirteen seconds into the period on a feed from Dougie Hamilton. A little over seven minutes later the Captain, Justin Williams, capitalized on a 5-on-3 power play (our first 5-on-3 goal of the season) after Cody Ceci took double minor for high sticking Nino Niederreiter. On the ensuing standard 5-on-4 power play, Teuvo Teravainen scored again pushing the lead to three to one in favor of the Hurricanes. In what was the best period of the season, Turbo scored again with just under four minutes to play. The Hurricanes came back to Raleigh having captured eight of a possible ten points on their season-long five game road trip.

2/15/19 vs Edmonton – 3-1 W

The 2006 Stanley Cup Final runners-up returned to building that haunts Edmonton fans to this day on Friday. Before the game got increasingly chippy, fans in PNC Arena saw three goals in the first two-and-a-half minutes. Two were scored by Carolina Hurricanes forwards Nino Niederretier and Lucas Wallmark, and one by the German NHL leader in goals scored, Leon Draisaitl.

After the early flurry of goals, fans saw tough, grind-it-out hockey for nearly three full periods. The game was physical and emotional, which lead to Nino taking a silly retaliatory penalty for roughing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, which eventually led to a 5-on-3 for the Oilers after Jordan Martinook also took a penalty. Curtis McElhinney was the Hurricanes’ best penalty killer, and the score remained two to one.

In a strange game where the Hurricanes were out-shot, out-possessed, and out-corsi-ed, which basically never happens, the Hurricanes got clutch goal scoring and even more clutch goaltending, something that fans know we haven’t gotten in years. Nino added one more goal with under four to play in the game for a 3-1 win.

2/16/19 vs Dallas – 3-0 W

Perhaps the most impressive win of them all, the Carolina Hurricanes welcomed a strong Dallas Stars team to PNC Arena in the second game of the team’s back-to-back, and came out with a mightily impressive 3-0 win. Petr Mrazek made several world-class saves, the offense did its job, and the Canes annoyed old hockey analysts the world over by celebrating their win after the game in style:

Now, let’s look ahead to this week. Keep an eye out for our Keys to Victory posts the day of each game for a more in depth look.

2/19/19 v New York Rangers

The Carolina Hurricanes recently broke their curse of sixteen consecutive losses in Madison Square Garden against the Rangers. They now look to build on their momentum of winning six of their last seven games.

The Rangers needed to beat the Penguins yesterday for the Canes to maintain their playoff spot, but the Penguins won 6-5. Yet again, this is a game the Carolina Hurricanes need to win. At home, against a non-playoff-division opponent, this needs to be a win in mid-to-late February. The Hurricanes have taken two out of three from the Rangers this season, but did get blown out in one game in Manhattan.

2/21/19 at Florida

A game that yours truly will be in attendance for at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida – this too is one that Carolina needs to win. The Panthers have struggled this year and sit comfortably in a lottery position. Despite being on the road, games against non-playoff teams are winnable and need to be won. Carolina cannot give up these comparatively easy points on the road with so few games left.

2/23/19 at Dallas

A rematch with the Stars only a week after their last game against each other brings the Hurricanes to the Lone Star State. The Stars have had an up-and-down year and currently sit in wildcard spot in the Western Conference after the surging St Louis Blues overtook them. This is another game the Hurricanes need to take advantage of on the road. However, they will likely have to do a better job at possessing the puck. It will be difficult to beat a good team twice when being outshot the way they were on Saturday night.

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This is the week that defines the Carolina Hurricanes’ season. Three wins, and they’re near-favorites for a playoff spot. Three losses, and they’re going to have to win the majority of their games down the stretch to keep in the mix. With the way the team is playing, enjoying themselves and not only scoring goals, but keeping them out of their own net? This is going to be a good week, and should set GM Don Waddell up nicely for a productive Trade Deadline Day next Monday.