Southeast Division and Playoff Race Update: Canes Still Alive

The Hurricanes were able to end a seven-game winless skid in Saturday's game against Winnipeg and that win had a ton of significance in the Hurricanes playoff aspirations. They got a road win (in regulation) against a divisional opponent, gained some ground on the Jets and were able to keep pace with the rest of the bubble teams in the Eastern Conference. The Hurricanes probably had no business staying in the race after losing seven games in a row, but they are still right in the thick of things and can still make the post-season and possibly win the division if they have a good run to close the season. It's bad that they let themselves get into this position after leading the Southeast for a fairly long time, but the fact that they are still in the race is still good.

Actually going on that run is going to be the difficult part because, you know, this is a team that went two weeks without winning a single game and only amassed one point in the standings during that time. Thankfully for the Canes, the Devils, Rangers, Flyers, Capitals and Islanders are all in a similar position right now and it's going to be a really tight race for the last two/three playoff spots. The Jets are also at a bit of a disadvantage due to games in hand, so their lead in the Southeast is far from safe. It may even take less than the 55 points I had set as the cutoff point earlier in the season since a lot of these teams are going to need to earn points in 70-80% of their games to reach that.

What will the Hurricanes need to do to make it in over these teams is the question. We'll explore that after the jump and look at their odds of winning the Southeast, as well.

Southeast (55 Points)

Team GR Pts Available Needed Point%
Winnipeg 12 38 24 17 70.8%
Carolina 15 34 30 21 70.0%
Washington 13 34 26 21 80.8%
Tampa Bay 14 31 28 24 85.7%
Florida 12 28 24 27 N/A

GR = Games Remaining, Pts = Points, Avail. = Points available, Needed = Points needed to 55, Point% = Percentage of games they need to earn points to get to 55, Div. = Divisional games remaining 

The caps might be breathing down the Canes neck in the standings here, but this is where having two games in hand on them helps. Washington needs to earn points in a little over 80% of their games to get to 55 points while the Canes need about 70 points to do that. The Hurricanes game against the Caps on Tuesday night is pretty much the closest thing to a "must win" the Hurricanes have had this season, since it will put a huge dent into Washington's playoff hopes and give them one fewer team to worry about. Winnipeg and Carolina appear to be in the same position after factoring in games-in-hand and this is why Carolina's win over them on Saturday was so crucial. Their hope in the Southeast may have been all but gone if they lost or even let Winnipeg get a point in that game.

Things are a little different if we adjust the cutoff point to 52 points.

Team GR Pts Available Needed Point%
Winnipeg 12 38 24 14 58.3%
Carolina 15 34 30 18 60.0%
Washington 13 34 26 18 69.2%
Tampa Bay 14 31 28 21 75.0%
Florida 12 28 24 24 100.0%

Winnipeg and Carolina remain in a similar situation with the Jets needing to do slightly less to get into the playoffs. Needing only 52 points also helps out the Caps quite a bit since they won't need to earn points in such a high amount of their games to get there. This could easily change if they lose to Carolina on Tuesday night, though. Realistically, it's looking like Winnipeg, Carolina and Washington all have a shot of making the playoffs if they can get hot at the right time and go on a run to end the season. Which one of these teams has the greatest chance of pulling that off, though?

Team GF GA FenClose 5v5 Sh% 5v5 Sv% PP SF/60 PK SA/60
Winnipeg 89 106 50.27% 7.8% 0.91 41.6 45.3
Carolina 92 97 51.54% 8.7% 0.923 50 57.9
Tampa Bay 110 103 44.99% 11.2% 0.906 37.6 47.2
Washington 102 101 46.87% 8.5% 0.92 45.7 60.1
Florida 88 125 51.62% 6.7% 0.902 47.6 50.2

Based on each team's possession metrics, I would not rule out Carolina going on a strong run to close the season. It seems unlikely after how poorly they've been playing lately but they've been controlling play at even strength better than both Washington and Winnipeg. They are only slightly better than Winnipeg, though and still have one game remaining against them this year, so that's obviously going to play a huge impact. Carolina should also continue to get healthier as the season goes on and that will help them along with their powerplay, which has been slowly improving lately. I still think Winnipeg can win the division, though since they seem to be good enough and have a slight advantage in the standings right now. They just need Ondrej Pavelec to play above average the rest of the way.

Here's how Carolina's situation looks compared to the rest of the playoff bubble teams.

Team GR Pts Available Needed Point%
New Jersey 13 39 26 13 50.0%
Rangers 14 35 28 17 60.7%
Islanders 13 35 26 17 65.4%
Carolina 15 34 30 18 60.0%
Washington 13 34 26 18 69.2%
Philadelphia 13 33 26 19 73.1%

The Canes have games remaining against every team here except for New Jersey, who have an upper-hand on the rest of the bubble teams. They currently own the 7 seed and have been gaining a lot of points through over-time losses, which could end up what gets them into the post-season. That brings the final playoff spot down to the Rangers, Islanders and Hurricanes with the Caps and Flyers having an outside edge. Next to the games against Washington and Winnipeg, the Canes two remaining games against the Rangers are going to be very, very important for their playoff chances. They managed to get a point from the Rangers earlier in the season, but they'll need to make sure they win at least one of those remaining games down the stretch.

Carolina is very, very lucky to be in the playoff hunt right now after how the last two weeks went, and they can easily undo all of that by playing well in their final 15 games. Whether or not they have the horses up front with all of the injuries remains to be seen, though. They basically control their own fate from now on and will need to earn as many points as they can the rest of the way. Having games in hand is something that's playing to Carolina's advantage right now, but they need to win more for them to actually matter.