The Carolina Hurricanes will play exhibition games before the play-in round.
With NHL teams expected to play two exhibition games before the play in rounds officially begin, who could the Carolina Hurricanes possibly match up against?
As more details continue to come in surrounding the NHL’s 24 team playoff plan, it appears as if teams will be playing two “exhibition” games before things officially get underway. Looking at past history, who could the Carolina Hurricanes play against?
Now this is pure speculation at this point since the league hasn’t announced how they plan on determining the exhibition matchups just yet, but given previous preseason history, three teams jump to the top of the potential matchup list. Those being the Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, and Nashville Predators.
Of these teams Nashville is out of the running for a very simple reason, they will be playing in another host city. It’s a shame since games versus the Predators are always close with playoff-like intensity, even in the preseason.
Tampa is a team that the Hurricanes have actually done relatively well against of late. Sweeping their two preseason meetings by a combined score of 5-0, and winning the season series 2-1, the Lightning would be an excellent matchup for the Canes
. Should their success continue, they would not only have beaten the odds on Stanley Cup favorite in the first game action in several months, but they would enter the Rangers series with some confidence.
Games against Washington, on the other hand, haven’t gone as smoothly. With various levels of success against the Capitals since last season’s playoffs, playing two preseason games against them could go a couple of ways.
The two divisional rivals could get heated from the get-go and some injuries occur in the process, impacting both team’s chances at future success. The Canes could defeat the Caps and enter the Rangers series with similar confidence to their series with the Islanders last spring.
Riding the high of an upset, they could then feed off that momentum to make quick work of New York. Lastly, they could suffer the same fate as preseason and get swept, entering the play-in rounds with a bit of built up frustration, impacting their level of play. Either way, it may be a good matchup to kick things off.
Turning our attention away from the typical preseason/exhibition foes, it is possible that Carolina could play against any of the other nine teams participating in the NHL’s new format in the east.
If I had to guess, I don’t think they’d have the teams who are scheduled to play against one another in the play-in rounds face off for exhibition games but you never know. Should this be the case, you can cross the Rangers off the list of possible exhibition opponents.
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If the league opts to keep the two games within the division you can cross off the Bruins, Leafs, Lightning, Canadians and Panthers off the list leaving the Rangers, Islanders, Penguins, Flyers, Capitals and Blue Jackets. Should it be based on regular-season standings, with the highest seat in the division playing the lowest, the Carolina Hurricanes would be matched up against the Leafs.
At the end of the day, until the NHL announces further details, we won’t know for sure who the Hurricanes will be playing. Honestly though, it really doesn’t matter all that much since the real purpose of this is to get the players a tune-up. Having this much time off between the regular season and playoffs is a bit unprecedented and is for sure going to result in a lot of rust.
Unlike a traditional train camp and preseason, each team’s roster is going to be more or less what they’ll be dressing for the playoffs themselves.
With players coming back from injuries on every team it’ll be fairly Interesting to see how everyone will fare in this new format. This mini “training camp” is expected to last anywhere from 2-3 weeks and will be a perfect time for Rod Brind’amour to get the newer guys familiar with the systems and experiment a bit with the defense pairs.
The biggest challenge for the players however will be adjusting to playing in an empty area without fans and any other corresponding changes/precautions put in place by the NHL and health officials.
Question for CC readers: Who do you think is the best team for the Hurricanes to play their two exhibition games against?