Problems The Hurricanes Are Facing Entering The Playoffs

MONTREAL, QC - OCTOBER 21: The Carolina Hurricanes celebrate their victory against the Montreal Canadiens at Centre Bell on October 21, 2021 in Montreal, Canada. The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-1. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - OCTOBER 21: The Carolina Hurricanes celebrate their victory against the Montreal Canadiens at Centre Bell on October 21, 2021 in Montreal, Canada. The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-1. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /

There are a lot of reasons to be excited as the Hurricanes prepare to make a run at the Stanley Cup, but there are still some glaring issues that the team will need to solve before then.

At the time of writing this, the Hurricanes currently lead the Metropolitan division with 102 points, and later tonight will have a huge matchup with the second-place New York Rangers. The Rangers have 104 points in the same amount of games played, meaning that next week’s contest could very well decide the division.

There are just 7 games remaining in the regular season, and expectations are high for the Hurricanes entering the playoffs. This has been an incredibly strong season for the Canes, but the real test starts in May. There are still some concerns I, and many other Caniacs have concerning this elite team. All stats in this article are BEFORE Saturday’s contest with the Rangers.

Inconsistent Scoring

Let’s get the easy one out of the way. During the month of April, the Hurricanes are averaging 2.57 goals per game, which is 25th in the league. That 2.80 goals per game is a huge drop from their season average of 3.28, which is 9th in the NHL.

It’s hard to point exactly where the problem is stemming from, but the Canes need to figure it out fast. Last three years one of the major reasons the Hurricanes were eliminated was because they could not figure out how to get the puck past the opposing goalie.

In their series against Tampa last year, the team had a pathetic offensive display, only scoring 9 times in 5 games. If you take out their 6-4 loss in game 4, they only had 5 goals in the other 4 games. The team HAS to solve their playoff scoring woes if they want to defeat one of the Eastern conference juggernauts.

The Powerplay (Again)

Another reason the Hurricanes were eliminated at the hands of the Bruins in 2019 and 2020, and then the Lightning in 2021, was atrocious special teams play. The worst culprit of that was the powerplay. That demon has reared its ugly head again, as Carolina is again struggling to convert on the man advantage.

In their last 10 games, the Canes have only scored 1 powerplay goal on 27 opportunities. A 3.7% conversion rate, is simply not good enough if the team has ambitions of making it far in the playoffs. Many thought that the return of Tony DeAngelo would boost the floundering powerplay but the special teams unit continues to struggle.

The team has the ninth-ranked powerplay unit in the league, so we know they aren’t bad but they need to find their footing and fast. If you can’t score on the man advantage, then you can’t win, it’s simple as that.

Penalty Kill Regression 

The Canes’ penalty kill has been one of the teams’ biggest strengths throughout the entire season. The Hurricanes have the highest PK% in the league with 88.4. I trust the penalty kill unit because the numbers speak for themselves, but one can’t help but worry about how the penalty kill has begun to come down to earth a little.

In the last 10 games, Carolina has a PK% rate of 83.9, which still is not bad but the Hurricanes will not be able to get by with an average penalty kill in the playoffs. Throughout the season the Hurricanes have taken 4.05 penalties a game, which means the Canes are killing off penalties a lot. If that penalty kill is anything but spectacular in the playoffs, the team will be in trouble.

Goaltending Coming Back Down To Earth

One thing every Canes fan can agree on, the team’s goaltending has won us more than their fair share of games. The duo of Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta have arguably been the best goaltending tandem in the league. Andersen has been a Vezina contender all season and Raanta has put up incredibly strong numbers in a backup role.

In the last month, the team’s goaltending has begun to regress to the mean. In the last month, both Raanta and Andersen have seen their numbers dip, but we’ll focus on Frederik because he will more than likely be the starter for the Canes in the playoffs.

From April 1st to April 12th (10 games) the Danish goalie has a record of 4-5-1, a save percentage of .907 and a GAA of 2.13. All of these stats are a far cry from his season totals. In 50 games Andersen has a record of 34-12-3 while rocking a .925 save percentage and a GAA of 2.07.

Frederik has for lack of a better word carried this team, so he earns more than the benefit of the doubt. One thing is for certain, the Hurricanes ride or die on the back of Frederik Andersen. With how many high danger chances the team gives up, if Andersen is not back to his usual superhuman form come playoff time, this team isn’t going anywhere.

First Round Matchup

It is impossible to win 4 rounds if you can’t even win the 1st. No matter who the Hurricanes play in the first round, it will not be an easy out. There will be a more in-depth article on how the Canes matchup against these other Eastern playoff teams, but this is a pick your poison situation.

If the Hurricanes win their division it is likely they will play whatever team finishes 4th in the Atlantic. It is likely that the team in the first wild-card spot will be either the Boston Bruins or defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Both teams have had playoff success against the Hurricanes recently, and both would be an incredibly difficult test in the first round.

If the team slips to second in the division, they have an almost inevitable date set with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Even if the Penguins have been struggling as of late, you can never count out that team. There are no good options in the Eastern conference, and there is an unfortunate chance the Hurricanes will be the victims of a first-round upset.

The playoffs are the most exciting time of the year, and despite some of the worries the Hurricanes may be facing going into the playoffs, there is still a good reason for Raleigh to be excited. The Hurricanes look to finish out strong with some massive games on the schedule, with 2 of their last 9 games being against New York at Madison Square Garden.

Question for Cardiac Cane readers: What are you most worried about heading into the playoffs?

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