Carolina Hurricanes: Need to keep rolling to make the playoffs

DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 23: Carolina Hurricanes right wing Justin Williams (14) sets up for a face-off during the game between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Dallas Stars on February 23, 2019 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX. (Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 23: Carolina Hurricanes right wing Justin Williams (14) sets up for a face-off during the game between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Dallas Stars on February 23, 2019 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX. (Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Every game is big as we head into late February and the month of March, and this past week was no exception. Every Hurricanes fan now lives and dies with every win and loss and we had some of both last week.

Another successful week from the Carolina Hurricanes keeps the pressure on as the playoffs get ever-nearer. We currently sit in a playoff spot, in part thanks to the heroics of Claude Giroux and the Philadelphia Flyers as they completed a late comeback to secure the overtime win over the Pittsburgh Penguins outside in Lincoln Financial Field. That limited the Penguins to only one point in the standings; as both the Hurricanes and Penguins sit with 72 points, the Hurricanes kept the last wildcard spot as they have one more ROW.

Taking four points out of a possible six this past week left some fans upset, especially on Tuesday night, but the Carolina Hurricanes are riding a two-game winning streak into this week, as well as winning eight of the last ten games.

Let’s recap the last three games:

2/19/19 vs New York Rangers – 2-1 L

The Rangers seem to almost always have the Canes’ number. Even in a down year, I go into every Hurricanes-Rangers game extremely nervous. Whether it’s Henrik Lundqvist standing on his head (see this game), or their offense lighting up one of our goalies (see this other game), we always seem to struggle against the Rangers. Although we broke the MSG curse this year and split the season series, the wins were not easy and the losses have felt devastating.

That being said, Tuesday night versus the Rangers was one of the best games the Hurricanes have played this season. Curtis McElhinney played extremely well. The game-winning goal was scored of off one-time Hurricane Connor Brickley‘s chest. The Carolina Hurricanes controlled the pace of the game, particularly in the third period, and had plenty of wonderful chances late in the game with the goalie pulled. But the King is the King for a reason. Lundqvist made save after save throughout the game, with Tripp Tracy noting early on that it would be a tough game to win based on his play.

It ultimately was too tough to win and the Carolina Hurricanes were forced to regroup after a one goal loss before going on the road.

2/21/19 at Florida – 4-3 W

I was in attendance for this game and it was a rollercoaster of emotions. The first period was great, the second period was not, and the third period was great again. Justin Williams opened the scoring for the Hurricanes, scoring off his face. It turned out to be a broken bone in his face, but of course he finished the game and played Saturday with a cage. The Captain finished with two goals, including the game-winner, and the Canes had another two points from Nino Niederreiter. Petr Mrazek was again outstanding in net, and a game that the Canes would traditionally have faltered in saw them come through with a crucial two points.

2/23/19 at Dallas – 3-0 W

For the second week in succession, the Carolina Hurricanes blanked the Dallas Stars 3-0. In what was the Canes’ fourth shutout in the last ten games – we really have entered a parallel universe – Curtis McElhinney was solid enough to stop all 24 shots from the Stars.

The main story from this game was how well the Canes played in the first two periods. They limited the Stars to just 10 shots over the first 40 minutes, and welcomed Jordan Staal back for the first time in two months and 27 games. He finished with an assist, Justin Faulk scored a power play goal for the second game in a row, and everything clicked.

It was an excellent end to the week, and one that set up Don Waddell for a potentially huge NHL Trade Deadline Day.

The week ahead

The upcoming week features at least one hot team, but things don’t really pick up until mid-March. The upcoming month is extremely tough compared to February. Half of the games feature teams ahead of us in the standings. However, this is a much lower number than previously. The Hurricanes are really killing it right now and we must all have faith in Rod Brind’Amour and his team.

2/26/19 vs Los Angeles

The Kings are sellers at this year’s deadline, and have already moved out Jake Muzzin in an earlier deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. They are potentially moving Tyler Toffoli, Jeff Carter and Ilya Kovalchuk before this game – so they may be as barren on offense as the now-Duchene-and-Dzingel-less Ottawa Senators are.

As games go in a playoff fight, this is a no-brainer two points. We simply have to beat teams like the Kings if we’re serious about contending for a post-season berth.

3/1/19 vs St Louis

The only team hotter than the Carolina Hurricanes since January 1st is the St Louis Blues. After an eleven-game win streak was snapped, they bounced back to beat Boston in a shootout. Jordan Binnington has played outstanding hockey in goal for them, recording several shutouts since his call up from the AHL.

If this hot streak from the Blues isn’t an aberration, and it doesn’t look like it is, this will be a tough game for the Hurricanes. A bright spot though, is the return of Jordan Staal. Ryan O’Reilly has been unreal, as usual, at winning faceoffs for the Blues. In Staal’s absence, the Hurricanes have struggled mightily in the faceoff dot. Staal provided an immediate upgrade in that area of the game on Saturday against Dallas. With the ability to match O’Reilly with Staal, the Hurricanes can hope to neutralize one of the things St. Louis does best.

O’Reilly also leads the Blues in points, but team leader in goals Vladimir Tarasenko, has gotten hot lately. The Hurricanes will have to manage him in order to win. Both Mrazek and McElhinney have played well in net for the Hurricanes and I expect a good game.

3/2/19 at Florida

This also sounds familiar. After beating Florida in Florida last Thursday, the Canes will look to do the same thing this Saturday. I will be in attendance once again, and it would be really nice to go two-for-two in the BB&T Center this year.

Despite the loss to Carolina, the Panthers have been playing some good hockey lately. Last year, the Panthers made a late run at the playoffs missing the cutoff by one point. With the limited coverage the Panthers get on the radio down here in South Florida, that is basically all they talk about: can the Panthers make a run like that again. I doubt it.

Roberto Luongo has been inconsistent and hurt most of the season, and James Reimer has been basically just OK in replacing him. Depending on what happens between now and 3pm, the Panthers could also look a little different. Derick Brassard sat out in the game Saturday in anticipation of a possible trade. The Panthers have already made a few deals this season, and seem content to focus on signing free agents this summer and loading up for the future.

Next. What should the Canes do before the deadline?. dark

With the Trade Deadline and three big games this week, this could be the week that has more of an impact on the playoff hopes of the Carolina Hurricanes more than any other week this season. We have faith that come the end of the week, the Canes will still be sitting in a playoff spot. Standing in our way are three opponents we can beat. Let’s do it!