Are the Hurricanes Safe at Thanksgiving?

Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone. Traditionally, the standings as of American Thanksgiving have been a huge indicator as to what the group of playoff teams will look like into the spring. From 2013-14 to 2017-18, 62/80 teams in a playoff spot at Thanksgiving qualified for a playoff spot that year-a staggering 78%. This stat and more supporting data can be found in this phenomenal article by Mike Johnston for Sportsnet. Last year, in the Eastern Conference, 7/8 teams in a spot at Thanksgiving qualified for the playoffs, with only Pittsburgh overtaking Columbus, and in the West only 5/8 teams in the same scenario qualified, with Los Angeles, Dallas, and Nashville shockingly overtaking the Vegas Golden Knights.

If this trend is to be continued, Carolina will make a fifth consecutive playoff appearance, which isn’t the end goal and anything less would be considered a catastrophic failure. However, you can’t win the Cup without first qualifying, and the Metropolitan division has looked more competitive than I initially believed. If you go back to my season preview, you’ll find some abhorrent takes, such as when I labeled the Islanders as “basement-dwellers” and decided that the Devils would be too young and inexperienced to seriously contend this year. Those two lead the division, with Carolina in third, and the New York Rangers, whom I labeled as Carolina’s strongest competition for a Metro division title, are currently right behind the Penguins for the final wild-card spot.

So far, the Hurricanes have fared well against divisional opponents, boasting a 4-1 record with the lone loss coming against the New York Islanders, a game the Hurricanes let slip away in the late stages, giving up four unanswered goals. They were tested on the road against Pittsburgh, eventually coming away with an overtime win. While Thanksgiving is a solid indicator of playoff positioning, the standings on the holiday give more insight towards long-shot races than close ones. Carolina will want to avoid the much taller task of the wild-card team, which could potentially result in facing two of Boston, Toronto, and Tampa Bay in the first two rounds. Boston has battled injuries and still lost just 3 games the entire year, while Toronto and Tampa Bay have experienced slower starts but are still offensive powerhouses.

The Penguins are right on the Hurricanes’ heels-and likely will be battling for playoff positioning all season long.

Playoff positioning is critical, and therefore so is every divisional game, especially this one because of how close Pittsburgh and Carolina currently are in the standings. Gaining ground on the Penguins went a long way last night, even with the win coming in overtime. Keep a close eye on the Metro division, which is surprisingly one of the more competitive divisions in hockey this year.

PREGAME NOTES:

  • Teuvo Teravainen will accompany the team on their road trip, and is hopeful to play at some point over the four games. Those contests come in Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Los Angeles, and Anaheim, a road trip stretching from November 29 to December 6.
  • Teravainen practiced with the team while wearing a non-contact jersey.
  • Frederik Andersen and Max Pacioretty both skated before the team’s practice today.
  • Carolina has lost their last three road games, all three coming in overtime.
  • Seth Jarvis has begun to heat up a little, tallying three points in the last four games. It’d be nice to see Jarvis take the next step forward after a slower start than expected (4 goals, 9 points in his first 22 games.

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