Going into the season, no one was quite sure what to expect of the Carolina Hurricanes.
The franchise had a new head coach, had traded their best player in Jeff Skinner, and given the conference that they play in and the many talented teams it has, were probably expected to miss the playoffs once again.
Don’t look now, but the Hurricanes are doing everything they can to surprise everyone to make the postseason for the first time since the 2008-09 season. The team is currently in the midst of a season-long five-game winning streak after beating the New York Islanders 4-3 on January 8.
As of this writing, the team is still on the outside looking in when it comes to being one of the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference. With that said, they are not out by much as they currently sit just six points out of the second wild-card spot.
That may seem like a lot of points to overcome for a team like the Hurricanes, but with the way they are playing right now, they are at least showing their fans and the rest of the league that it is at least a possibility. Heck, if they can get more puck luck, it may even be a reality come April.
There are a few reasons why this team is hot right now. The first reason is that this team is learning how to play well in tight games.
In the five straight games that this team has won, they have all been decided by two goals or less. Sure, it makes for some very tense moments for the team and their fans, but they are showing that they are starting to figure out how to hold on in these kinds of games.
Speaking of their current winning streak, the team was lucky to get a few games against the likes of the Philadelphia Flyers (two) and Ottawa Senators (one). Both of those team are non-playoff teams who have been playing horribly and are at or near the bottom of the league standings.
As such, the Hurricanes did what teams should do against weaker opponents and that takes care of business and pick-up two points. Yes, the games against these two teams were close, but in the end, all that matters is that the team found a way to win and pick-up six of a possible six points in those three games.
The team is also getting strong play from their All-Star Sebastian Aho. The 21-year-old currently leads his team with 45 points (16 goals and 29 assists) and if this team wants have a legitimate shot of getting into the top eight in the conference, they are going to need for him to continue his fine play.
Another important part of their current streak has been the play of their netminders. Curtis McElhinney, a career back-up prior to joining the Hurricanes, has been great this season as he is currently (10-5-1 with a 2.25 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage.
Petr Mrazek also has not been that bad for this hockey club. Mrazek, 26, 8-8-2 with a 2.69 goals-against average, a .900 save percentage, and one shutout. While those numbers don’t jump off the page, they’ve been good enough to help get this team gets back to being relevant in the East.
With half the season still left to be played, the Hurricanes will need to be clicking on all cylinders if they hope to change their history and make the playoffs for the first time in about 10 years.
Photo: Associated Press