Southeast Division Update: Losing Ground

It's been a pretty tough week for the Hurricanes. They lost all three of their games, one of them coming to the bottom-feeding Florida Panthers, gained only one point in the standings and now sit four points behind the Winnipeg Jets in the Southeast Division. To make matters even worse, the Washington Capitals have undergone a bit of a resurgence winning all four of their games and are now only two points behind Carolina for the second place spot. The breathing room that Carolina once had at the top of the division is now all but gone and things are going to be ultra tight from here on out. One advantage the Canes have right now is that they still have three games in hand over Winnipeg and Washington but those will not mean much if they don't take advantage of them.

A month ago, the Canes were in the driver's seat in the Southeast and all they needed to do was not completely bottom-out for them to remain in that spot. Since then, they've won only four of their last ten games, are currently stuck in a five-game losing streak and have injuries at key positions. My hopes for the Canes playoff chances are still cautiously optimistic because of what the bottom of the Eastern Conference looks like, but the margin for error right now is very, very slim.

Southeast Division Standings

55 Points

Team GR PE Available Needed Point%
Winnipeg 15 36 30 19 63.3%
Carolina 18 32 36 23 63.9%
Tampa Bay 16 27 32 28 87.5%
Washington 16 31 32 24 75.0%
Florida 15 24 30 31 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 

52 Points

Team GR PE Available Needed Point%
Winnipeg 15 36 30 16 53.3%
Carolina 18 32 36 20 55.6%
Washington 16 31 32 21 65.6%
Tampa Bay 16 27 32 25 78.1%
Florida 15 24 30 28 93.3%

I added another scenario this week since it looks like 55 points will be what clinches a playoff spot in the East while 52 points will give a team a good enough chance. Either way, Carolina and Winnipeg need earn points in the same percentage of their remaining games and the Hurricanes have a slight advantage thanks to three games in hand. Again, they are going to need to take full advantage of those three extra games for them to mean anything, especially their two upcoming matches against the Jets. The Canes are going to need to win at least 10-11 of their remaining games if they want to be in the playoffs, which is doable but they can not afford to go winless in another week.

Washington's recent run might make things exciting towards the end, but they will need to sustain this hot streak if they want to make it to the playoffs. That's tough to do no matter who you are, but the returns of Brooks Laich and MIke Green could help give them a boost at the right time. Tampa Bay appears to be all but eliminated barring a miracle run and Florida is pretty much done, as well. 

The room for error is low for the Hurricanes right now, but the numbers are slightly in their favor over Winnipeg.

Team GF GA FenClose 5v5 Sh% 5v5 Sv% PP SF/60 PK SA/60
Winnipeg 84 98 50.35% 8.1% 0.908 42.5 44.3
Carolina 85 86 51.99% 8.8% 0.926 49.2 59.2
Tampa Bay 103 98 44.50% 11.1% 0.906 36.5 49
Washington 92 90 45.95% 8.6% 0.924 47.2 59.8
Florida 78 116 50.97% 6.9% 0.901 47.8 48.8

The difference between Carolina and Winnipeg's underlying numbers are slim. Carolina is slightly a better team at even strength but you have to ask yourself how much of a difference that will make with only 18 games remaining. The better team doesn't always come out on top in a small sample size and that's especially true if they aren't getting any bounces in their favor. The Canes have actually been receiving better puck-luck than the Jets since they have high on-ice shooting and save percentages at even strength for the entire season. It's been the other way around lately and it's also possible that Carolina's even strength play and goaltending can decline due to the injuries to Justin Faulk and Dan Ellis respectively. The Canes still have three games remaining against Winnipeg and they need to win those to get back in the driver's seat in the Southeast. I'm not convinced that Winnipeg is a better team than Carolina (one hot streak does equate to a full season) but they are in a good position now and could end up winning the division if they beat them in their three remaining head-to-head matchups.