Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 03/16/11 at 12:11 AM ET
On Tuesday night, the Hurricanes were in an absolute must win situation on the road in Buffalo. It wasn’t the prettiest game in the world, but they got the job done with a 1-0 win to snap a four-game losing streak. It keeps their slim playoff hopes alive.
Brandon Sutter scored the game’s only goal at 19:18 of the first. Cam Ward made 40 saves including 22 in the first period alone.
With the win, Carolina closed to within two points of the eighth place Sabres with 12 games remaining. A regulation loss would have put them six points back, and it would have spelled the end of all realistic playoff hopes. It wasn’t all sweetness and light, though. While the Canes are thrilled to have gotten two points, they should be disgusted in their continued power play woes. They were 0-5 on the power play tonight. They have now gone six games without a power play marker. They’re zero for their last 27 on the man advantage, dating all the way back to March 1. This is not how a playoff team plays.
We’re all wondering when, or even if the Canes will ever end that snap. They’ve been very good shorthanded and they’ve been good five-on-five, but they’ve been awful on the power play. At this point, opposing teams know that they can foul Carolina’s skilled players and there’s nothing the Canes can do about it. Caniacs inside the RBC Center have been pleading with the team to “decline the penalty” every time one is called against the visiting team. Obviously that isn’t an option, but they literally are worse five-on-four than they are at even strength. Perhaps they should start taking deliberate penalties to even the terms on the ice.
That’s not a real suggestion. Just a joke.
Things are getting really tight in the East, and Carolina has their next three games against teams below them in the standings. Tomorrow, they’ll host the Maple Leafs, who are just four points back of Carolina and holding onto really really slim hopes. Maybe the Canes can build on tonight’s win and keep things going in the right direction. Maybe. On Friday, they’ll host the 14th-place Islanders. Next Tuesday, they’ll host the Senators, who are last in the East.
Meanwhile, the Devils continued their improbable climb up the standings with another win. They are six points out of eighth place with 13 games left. Since January 9, they have gone an astonishing 23-3-2 to put themselves, unbelievably, in the thick of things. This pace, which nobody believes they can sustain, would play out to a 140-point season if they did it for 82 games. As well as they’re playing, though, they’re going to need a lot of help. Any time a team above them earns even one standings point, it makes it more and more difficult for them to climb out of the ridiculous hole they were in.
Tomorrow night at home, the Hurricanes will have a chance to catch the Sabres in standings points AND in the crucially important ROW column of the standings. If the teams are tied in those categories at season’s end, it’ll go to the third tie-breaker of points earned head-to-head. With one game remaining between the teams, Carolina has earned four points against the Sabres and the Sabres have earned three against the Hurricanes. If Buffalo wins game #4 in overtime, it’ll go to goal differential, and Carolina will be doomed. They currently have a diff of -12 while Buffalo is +1. It’s unlikely that Carolina will make up that ground and equally unlikely that Buffalo will cede that ground. So now that fourth game becomes even more important.
Perhaps by then Carolina will have knocked themselves out of playoff position anyway, but we still have to entertain the possibility that the April 3 game will be the one that determines the fate of both teams.
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About Red and Black Hockey
David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science. He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows. Sometimes, all in the same day.