The Carolina Hurricanes, overwhelmingly overridden with terrible goaltending, out-of-position players and an endless swath of injuries, have tried seemingly every available excuse to explain their ongoing 1-13-1 collapse.
Perhaps it's time to acknowledge one excuse—one completely unsatisfying and entirely ambiguous excuse—that could be pushing this trainwreck-like slide:
Yes, second- and third-string goaltenders Dan Ellis and Justin Peters have posted a dreadful .889 save percentage during the 15-game slide.
Yes, the 'Canes have, at many times, seemed disengaged and apathetic with their game in front of them.
Yes, many of the shots they've thrown at the net have arrived with chances slimmer than 21-year-old Brandon Sutter of going in.
But the Hurricanes' incredibly consistent ability to run into a "hot" goaltender on the other end is—although probably partially dependent on their general shot-happy strategy—also producing a remarkable statistical streak.
One must only look at the team's PDO numbers (the sum of save and shooting percentage), a rating often known as the "blind luck stat," to see this bad luck illustrated visually. Per Corey Sznajder of ShutdownLine.com via Twitter:
Half of that free fall can be explained by Carolina's horrendous attempts to keep the puck out of their own net, as the 'Canes nightly save percentage and defensive performance has fallen off a cliff since Cam Ward's injury.
The other portion—the offensive portion—is a lot less simple, though.
Despite the return of Tuomo Ruutu, the emergence of Riley Nash and the continued health of the Eric Staal-Alexander Semin-Jiri Tlusty trio, the Hurricanes' goal scoring has absolutely tanked over the past four weeks.
From the beginning of the 2011-12 season through Mar. 12—the final game before the Canes' collapse began—the team scored on 8.784 percent on their shots on goal. Since then, however, Eric Staal & Co. have seen their scoring rate per shot attempt drop by almost half:
|Mar. 14 vs. WSH||38||2|
|Mar. 16 vs. TBL||22||1|
|Mar. 18 vs. NYR||30||1|
|Mar. 19 vs. FLA||34||1|
|Mar. 21 vs. NJD||18||1|
|Mar. 26 vs. WPG||39||1|
|Mar. 28 vs. TOR||22||3|
|Mar. 30 vs. WPG||28||3|
|Apr. 1 vs. MTL||19||1|
|Apr. 2 vs. WSH||34||3|
|Apr. 4 vs. TBL||45||0|
|Apr. 6 vs. NYR||49||1|
|Apr. 8 vs. BOS||42||2|
|Apr. 9 vs. PIT||28||3|
|Apr. 11 vs. WSH||44||1|
In just the last five games, moreover, the 'Canes have scored on an abysmal 3.365 percent of their shots, taking more than 40 for four consecutive games and coming up almost empty in all of them.
Fortunately, the Hurricanes' luck is bound to change eventually.
The Tampa Bay Lightning, after beginning the 2013 season 6-0-1, experienced a PDO reversion to the mean of their own back in January-February. Per CBS Sports writer Adam Gretz's Feb. 15 column, the Bolts' scored on 18 percent (37 goals) of their 201 shots during the hot start but then just eight percent (12 goals) of their 147 shots during their following 0-5-1 slide.
"They were a team that was riding some ridiculous percentages that simply weren't going to last," he wrote. "It was a mirage."
Is luck a legitimate excuse for the Hurricanes' struggles?
The 'Canes may well be in store for a revival in the PDO column during their season's final eight games; it's simply hard to believe that a team could have such terrible scoring luck for such a long period of time.
Conversely, with the campaign already doomed in terms of making the playoffs, losing out and landing a top-five draft pick would probably be best for the future of the franchise.
Whether luck will allow that to happen, though, is a different story.