According to the statistics, the Carolina Hurricanes' overall play has declined significantly over the course of the past month.
The 'Canes' success on the scoreboard, however, has trended in the opposite direction—and Anton Khudobin is largely to thank for that.
After a five-game losing streak ruined the holiday season around Raleigh in spite of Carolina's generally productive offense, a dramatic four-game winning streak has revived optimism and playoff aspirations. Khudobin is at the center of the turnaround.
He's a perfect 3-0-0 in the 2014 calendar year and a perfect 5-0-0 as a Carolina Hurricane, a team with which he signed last summer for less money than his previous contract with Boston. Such success has improved the former seventh-round pick's career NHL record to a splendid 19-5-1 with a 2.02 goals-against average (GAA).
I just was really, really pumped before the first game. I tried to put my emotions back in my head and I tried to focus on stopping the pucks.
Well, we know the situation that every game right now is really important for us. So we just pretty much go out there, win or die.
|Khudobin's 2013-14 Starts with Carolina|
|Oct. 6||2-1 W vs. PHI||17||18||.944|
|Oct. 10||3-2 W vs. WSH||30||32||.938|
|Oct. 13||No Decision vs. PHX||18||20||.900|
|Jan. 2||4-3 OTW vs. WSH||38||41||.927|
|Jan. 4||3-2 W vs. NYI||38||40||.950|
|Jan. 5||2-1 W vs. NSH||31||32||.969|
The return and immediate game-changing hot streak of No. 31 could not have come at a better time for the Hurricanes.
Despite another concerning injury to slump-ridden Cam Ward and the inevitable cooling-off stretch for career AHL player Justin Peters, Carolina has revived a campaign which, one week ago, seemed spiraling out of control.
I wrote on Dec. 26 a plan to revitalize the Hurricanes' 2013-14 season; while they certainly haven't resolved all of their problems yet, revitalization is beginning to look like a reality.
Yet the 'Canes, when evaluated by the standard advanced numbers, are not playing better at all. They accumulated more shot attempts (aka Corsi) than their opponents in four of five nights during the losing streak; since, they've finished with fewer attempts than the opposition in three consecutive contests (all Carolina victories).
Examine their shot attempt differential over the past nine games in the chart below:
The unusual disparity between the declining efficiency outlined above and the box score results can be explained through Khudobin and Khudobin only.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of No. 31's presence on the Carolina roster is not his ongoing run of invincibility, but rather his absolute lack of recorded weakness. To put it simply, Khudobin has never had a counterbalancing cold streak—in defiance of most theories of modern-day NHL stat analysis, there's no definitive proof that he'll eventually succumb to regression.
With his sparkling .940 save percentage this season only a few decimals above his .935 career average, it's possible Khudobin could remain spectacular over a period of months or years—not just a week or two.
Have the Carolina Hurricanes stumbled onto the gold mine of the NHL goaltending market? It might be a little early yet to praise the 5'11" Khudobin to that extent.
But the possibilities and confidence that No. 31 supplies to the entire lineup are exciting indeed.