Nothing in life is ever guaranteed, and the Carolina Hurricanes have learned this lesson the hard way this season.
While they’ve had their moments in the sun and moments not so much in the sun, none of it has been what they expected. So as they prepare to take on the Winnipeg Jets Tuesday night, it would be super easy to write this off as a given win and say the team needs to focus on the upcoming games and the playoff run after the 2014 Winter Olympics break.
That would be short-sighted and dumb.
While it remains fact that Winnipeg is at the bottom of the Central Division and more than likely will sit the playoffs out, take another glance at that division. They’re dealing with the likes of the Chicago Blackhawks and Colorado Avalanche — two really rough teams. The rest of the division looks like that too prompting the one thing a lot of people aren’t looking at.
Winnipeg has a better record than Carolina.
Both teams claim 59 points in the standings, but the Jets are 27-25-5 as Carolina is 25-20-9. That’s not something to be taken lightly. While Winnipeg enjoys the basement of their division, being in third place of the Metropolitan Division is nowhere near the level the Central is — or any of the Western Conference for that matter.
Sure the Hurricanes are surging, but so is Winnipeg. While Carolina is 6-4-0 in their last 10, the Jets are 8-2-0.
A team in chaos early in the year, Winnipeg abruptly dismissed head coach Claude Noel midway through January, replacing him with former Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice. Maurice hasn’t done too poorly in his charge to turn the team around. He knows what’s going on up there, and woe be it to the team who refuses to take him seriously. Maurice is a very competent coach, and his style is calm and fluid.
Keeping Alexander Semin, Eric and Jordan Staal playing like they have is going to be the key here. While current de facto starter Anton Khudobin possesses the skill-set to shut down Winnipeg’s top scorers, one cannot win without scoring goals. Getting a ton of pucks on goalie Ondrej Pavelec will pay off for Carolina. Simply allowing Khudobin to neutralize players like Andrew Ladd is only half the battle.
Winnipeg is a winnable game, but it is not going to be a cakewalk by any stretch of the imagination.