Many assumed the trade acquisition of John-Michael Liles on New Year's Day would finally boost the Carolina Hurricanes' chemistry-flashing but largely unreliable power play over the hump.
Instead, the man-advantage unit has only further devolved into a utterly useless and momentum-killing mess—and it's dragging the Hurricanes' once-promising postseason optimism down to the cellar with it.
In two arguably season-killing losses this week to Buffalo and Dallas, the Canes have gone a fruitless 0-for-10 on the power play. Despite five opportunities in both games—well above their average per-game average—the unit has yet to find the back of the net since the Olympic break.
The dry spell knocks the Hurricanes to 28-for-207 on the season; that 13.5 conversion rate ranks 29th in the NHL, ahead of only Florida and behind such bottom-feeders as Calgary, Buffalo and Edmonton.
By comparison, the Canes have scored on a goal in 8.2 percent of their 1,770 total two-minute segments of play (59 games of 60 minutes each) at all situations this season.
The addition of Liles, who came to Raleigh with a reputation as a capable power-play quarterback, has actually worsened the unit's efficiency—an impressive feat, considering just how ineffective they were beforehand.
|Hurricanes' Power Play: Pre-Liles vs. Post-Liles|
|Oct. 4 to Dec. 31||21||147||14.3%|
|Jan. 2 to Feb. 28||7||60||11.7%|
|Per NHL.com Stat Database|
On Dec. 23, I wrote a column about the Hurricanes' potential for special teams improvement, noting that the team still "must work on their finishing abilities under pressure."
If anything, their finishing abilities have become even shakier in the two months since.
Unsurprisingly, Carolina's wins in 2013-14 also correlate to power-play success. In 26 victories, they boast a 16.9 percent (15 for 89) power play conversion rate. In 33 losses, they have an 11.0 percent (13 for 118) conversion rate.
Now trailing the third Metropolitan Division automatic seed by five points and the second Wild-Card seed by seven points, and entering a hellish California road trip through Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Jose, the Canes' playoff chances look slimmer by the day. Only a roughly 16-7 record down the stretch could squeak into the postseason.
At this point, they can only look back on all of the one-goal losses that have sent the team into this situation and contemplate the effects that just a few more power-play goals could have had.
Special teams, yet again, have proven a fatal shortcoming in the Canes team design.