Hurricanes feeling very Metropolitan
Posted October 23, 2013
Updated October 24, 2013
After about a month of NHL play, Carolina Hurricanes fans should rest easier about the league's big changes this offseason.
The new Metro Division brought in big spenders to Carolina’s neighborhood and with October coming to a close, the Hurricanes look like one of the teams the division should have been worried about.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Rangers, Flyers and Devils have as many wins combined that Carolina has (4) and none of those franchises look like they are going to figure it out anytime soon. The Rangers haven’t adapted to their new coach Alain Vigneault, the Flyers have already made a coaching change this season dismissing Peter Laviolette just three games into the year and the Devils have struggled to play like the team in New Jersey that we have seen the last 20 years.
The Hurricanes ran through a gauntlet to start the season and came out standing up. Ironically, it might have been a loss that showed this edition of the team how to win. Down 2 goals after 20 minutes on the 15th against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, and outplayed in that period, the Canes found their game. A two goal rally in the third sent the game to overtime, which was dominated by Carolina even despite losing in the skills competition. The team came out of that with a confidence in its game that has carried over to a road trip that has added two more wins to the cache.
The top line seems to be rounding back into the form it displayed last season after a slow start that can be attributed to injuries and high expectations. Eric Staal was coming off a serious knee injury from the world championships and his linemates, Alexander Semin and Jiri Tlusty, both were injured and missed time at training camp. The team has also been without alternate captain Tim Gleason for the first 9 games of the year due to a concussion and top pick Elias Lindholm has been in and out of the lineup, both are expected to return on the second leg of the road trip either in Minnesota or Colorado.
Kirk Muller’s group has put themselves in a position to keep pace in their division every month instead of trying to play catch-up. A team doesn’t make the postseason in October, but as Hurricane fans have seen through the years, a rough start makes it pretty difficult.
Add in the changes the NHL has made to qualifying for the playoffs, and finishing October in the top three of the division becomes a bigger key to extending the season.
Gone are the three division winners and top five point getters, so a magic number really is irrelevant this year.
The top three teams from each division advance to the playoffs with two wild cards. In the old days 1981-1994 (I know), all you needed to do was finish in the top four of your division, point totals did not matter. While the number of points a team earns will impact the seeding, all the Hurricanes have to do is what they have started with and that is stay in front of the majority of teams in the division. While the Atlantic division, or even the wildcard, might need 96 points to secure a playoff spot, the Metro might only need 90 to secure a second place finish. It harkens back glory days of the Norris division, okay maybe not glory days and if you don’t know what I am talking about, feel free to google Norris division standings.
Yes it is early, but Carolina has put a cushion between their space and three of the teams that many experts thought would be well in front of them by years end. I know that the team got off to a solid start last year, but last year was an abbreviated season. It was a year when an injury and limited games derailed a good beginning, as it did to the Hurricanes year.
This first month doesn’t guarantee that there will be more than 82 games this year in the Triangle, but it doesn't hurt.