However, advanced statistics indicate that under-the-radar improvements in both the power play and penalty kill could soon yield tangible results.
At the moment, the Hurricanes' special teams picture looks bleaker than Raleigh's holiday weather.
The power play ranks 27th in the NHL with a 12.5 percent conversion rate and is just 4-for-38 (10.5 percent) in the last dozen games.
The penalty kill, meanwhile, ranks 23rd with a 79.5 percent kill rate and has been torched for four goals (on seven appearances) in the last five periods.
Add the two numbers together, and Carolina's overall special teams rating stands at 92.0 percent, third worst in North America. That informal statistic places the 'Canes ahead of only the Islanders (88.6) and Panthers (84.1) and behind even the Sabres (92.8).
Metropolitan Division-leading Pittsburgh, conversely, tops the NHL with a 114.0 rating. The Penguins will face the Hurricanes Friday, once Carolina concludes its meeting with Columbus (101.5, 12th) Monday night.
Yet the 'Canes are actually playing much better in non-five-on-five situations than the surface rankings suggest.
According to Extra Skater data, Carolina has a minus-74.8 shot attempt (a.k.a. Corsi) differential per 60 minutes on the penalty kill. That relatively strong play spots them third in the NHL, behind only Philadelphia (minus-66.2) and New Jersey (minus-73.2) and ahead of Pittsburgh (minus-96.4) and league-leading Chicago (minus-87.2), among many others.
The Hurricanes power play is also marginally better when viewed with an advanced stats lens, as well. Carolina's plus-82.2 power-play shot-attempt differential per 60 minutes ranks 23rd, several ticks higher than their on-paper position.
Add those two numbers together, and the 'Canes are not only in the positive range—plus-7.4—but also in the upper half of the NHL.
Compare the team's performance in special teams shot-attempt differential to every other franchise in the chart below:
|Team||Power Play Diff.||Penalty Kill Diff.||Total Diff.|
|San Jose Sharks||+109.8||-92.1||+17.7|
|New York Rangers||+91.3||-74.8||+16.5|
|Los Angeles Kings||+91.8||-79.4||+12.4|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||+91.7||-82.7||+9.0|
|St. Louis Blues||+87.4||-79.0||+8.4|
|Detroit Red Wings||+90.5||-86.0||+4.5|
|New York Islanders||+85.7||-89.8||-4.1|
|New Jersey Devils||+60.9||-73.2||-12.3|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||+86.0||-102.7||-16.7|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||+70.8||-98.5||-27.7|
What does such a lack of correspondence between Carolina's special teams efficiency and productivity mean?
- The 'Canes must work on their finishing abilities under pressure.
- The 'Canes might be due for better luck in the coming weeks or months.
Will the 'Canes special teams improve?
It's hardly a secret that the current squad has fallen far from their old "Cardiac 'Canes" moniker; if their stark impotence to convert chances into goals on the power play doesn't prove that, their 2-8 overtime/shootout record certainly does.
Nonetheless, a much-needed friendlier stretch of bounces might also be awaiting the club—the concept known as regression to the mean is often the best catalyst for a slump-reversing winning streak.
The Hurricanes' special teams are primed to become an even more prominent storyline as the winter wears on.