Carolina Hurricanes: Breaking Down Hurricanes' Lack of Success in Shootouts

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Carolina Hurricanes: Breaking Down Hurricanes' Lack of Success in Shootouts
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Hurricanes again failed to collect the two points their effort deserved in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Minnesota Wild on Saturday.

The loss is the latest event in a long chain of shootout suffering for the 'Canes, who have won just two of their last 12 skills competitions over the past three seasons—with a 16.7 winning percentage, the worst team in the league in such regard.

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Cam Ward's .615 shootout save percentage (64 saves on 104 shots) is the fourth-worst among active goalies with 100 or more attempts against.

Justin Peters' .273 shootout save percentage (three saves on 11 shots) is dead last among active goals with 10 or more attempts against.

And the Hurricanes' forward stats for shootout scoring aren't much better, either:

Hurricanes Shootout Stats by Player
Player Goals Attempts Conversion Rate
Tuomo Ruutu 9 22 40.9%
Jeff Skinner 6 19 31.6%
Eric Staal 3 18 16.7%
Alexander Semin (with CAR) 0 3 0.0%
Jiri Tlusty 0 3 0.0%
Nathan Gerbe (with CAR) 0 2 0.0%
Riley Nash 1 2 50.0%
*Jussi Jokinen (with CAR) 10 27 37.0%

http://www.nhl.com/ice/shootoutstats.htm?season=20132014&team=CAR&viewName=shootoutSkaterCareerTotals

Why do the 'Canes struggle so much in shootouts?

It might be tied to their lowly rank of 27th in total goal scoring—but it also might not. In fact, out of the 10 lowest-scoring NHL teams from the 2012-13 campaign, seven actually had records of .500 or better in the shootout (and five had winning marks).

Rather, the Hurricanes' shootout struggles may rest more on the type of players they employ.

Many of the team's more significant offensive contributors, like Eric and Jordan Staal, Jiri Tlusty, Nathan Gerbe, Tuomo Ruutu and Patrick Dwyer, produce their points through strong passing, physical scrapping and good shooting instead of skating ability and fancy puck-handling—the two traits most highlighted in a one-on-one shootout attempt.

That lack of speed and finesse was clearly evident in the Hurricanes' games this fall against the Maple Leafs and Islanders, two of the quickest teams in the league. Yet the 'Canes also won all three meetings against those clubs, and all three in regulation time.

Moreover, Carolina goaltenders are noticeably and consistently overaggressive in shootouts, perhaps reflecting on how little time Kirk Muller spends on the subject in practice.

Compare how easily Justin Peters, playing far out of the crease, was fooled by Minnesota's moves...

...to how calmly Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby reacts in a shootout against the Wild just two days prior:

All of these aforementioned shortcomings have not only cost Carolina points in the standings but also innumerable confidence-building moments over the past two calendar years.

Fortunately, a younger generation of Hurricanes may soon help to turn around the team's woes. Chris Terry, fresh off a goal in his first career NHL attempt Saturday, stood out in Sunday's drill:

Meanwhile, slick youngsters like Elias Lindholm, Victor Rask and Sergei Tolchinsky could soon populate Muller's shootout lineup a year or two down the road.

Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images

However, for now, Carolina's problems in the skill competition will continue to plague its ability to pull out close wins. No matter how trivial and perhaps phony shootouts may be compared to traditional five-on-five hockey, their impact on the NHL hierarchy cannot be understated whatsoever.

The 'Canes have learned that lesson the hard way.

 

Mark Jones has been a Carolina Hurricanes featured columnist for Bleacher Report since 2009. Visit his profile to read more, or follow him on Twitter.

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