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Analyzing the First 5 Weeks of Carolina Hurricanes' Season with Advanced Stats

Mark Jones@@CanesReportSenior Analyst INovember 18, 2014

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 15 : Andrej Sekera #4 of the Carolina Hurricanes skates against the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden on November 15, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
Brian Babineau/Getty Images

The difference between the Carolina Hurricanes' performance in the NHL standings and on the ice has been drastic, surprising and, for the team, most unfortunate.

Despite having won just five of 17 games to date and sporting the second-fewest points in the league, the 'Canes have actually strongly outplayed their opponents in possession and shot production on most nights.

Their Corsi differential—another word for shot attempt differential—ranks ninth in the NHL, according to Hockey Analysis. And even with the season-to-date-long absence of Jordan Staal and partial absences of Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner, the team places even better in average shot attempts taken per game: seventh.

Nov 16, 2014; Raleigh, NC, USA; San Jose Sharks goalie Troy Grosenick (34) watches the shot during the second period against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

Since starting the campaign 0-5-2 and being out-attempted in six consecutive games, the Hurricanes have been in the positives in that category in eight of their 10 matches since. They most recently peaked in Sunday's game against San Jose, where they out-attempted the Sharks by a whopping 89-46 margin, the team's sixth-best performance in such regard in the past three years.

But the 'Canes rather unbelievably lost that game, 2-0, to drop both ends of a weekend back-to-back. They outshot and out-attempted Boston 34-25 and 55-47, respectively, on Saturday, but lost that one too, 2-1.

It seems almost certain that, if Carolina can maintain its nightly strong showings in the possession department, more fruitful results must be around the corner. Until then, however, its consistently upward-sloping moving average line is nothing but a perplexing frustration:

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Graphic by Mark Jones

Somehow, the steady production of shooting opportunities and Cam Ward's recent run of dominance isn't translating into victories. The 'Canes keep falling just short—excluding empty-netters, each of their last four losses have been by a single goal.

The squad is certainly missing some key attributes.

Jordan Staal's physicality and size, a great asset in board battles and screens, is missed; Alexander Semin's sniper shot is also notably absent, even though he himself may be healthy.

Outside of top-pairing studs Justin Faulk (who incredibly leads the 'Canes in shots on goal) and Andrej Sekera, no other defenseman has registered more than three points.

Additionally, offseason depth additions Jay McClement and Brad Malone have combined for just two points (no goals) in 31 man-games.

And Bill Peters and Co. can't seem to get both special teams units clicking at the same time. The power play (ranked 13th in the league) has improved significantly after an October slump, but the penalty kill has allowed a goal in five of the last nine games to fall to 17th:

Graphic by Mark Jones

The 'Canes begin a five-game road trip Tuesday in Dallas; three of the five matches are outside the Eastern Time Zone, and four of the five are against teams that made the playoffs last spring.

Advanced stats indicate the stretch, conversely, may not be as difficult as it seems: None of the first four opponents (Dallas, Los Angeles, Colorado and Florida) actually rank higher than 14th in the league (and thus, Carolina) in shot attempt differential.

The Hurricanes could quietly be poised for a breakout road swing, one that could re-ignite their ascent up the Metropolitan Division standings and finally translate performance into wins.

Mark Jones has covered the Carolina Hurricanes for Bleacher Report since 2009. Visit his profile to read more, or follow him on Twitter.