A 3-2 win last night against Florida started off the Canes "Holiday Homestand" on a high note, while also continuing a fairly nice run so far in December.
However, the Hurricanes are still 13 points out of eight place in the Eastern Conference and eight points away from the 29th spot in the NHL standings, and it looks like this will just have to end up being a rebuilding year for Carolina.
Despite that, though, you have to go through and look through the statistics to find out exactly what a team is having a underachieving (or, at times, overachieving) year. Even a quick glance at the team statistics can give you a point of view at why a team is losing or winning so much, and what key factors must be focused on to either continue the winning streak or stop the losing skid.
The Hurricanes definitely fit the requirements of a team that needs to look back on their first two and a half months and ask themselves, "Where did things go wrong?" With only nine wins and 24 points in 35 games, there has to be something that's not working right.
So, with that in mind, I came back and analysed four overlooked-yet-very important stats and how both the Hurricanes and their opponents fared in each of them.
I covered the categories of shots, powerplay, penalty kill, and faceoff winning percentage, and then found out the results of these four stats in three types of games: Wins, close losses, and larger losses. A close loss is an overtime loss or a one-goal regulation loss, not including empty net goals; a larger loss is everything else that doesn't put up any points in the standings.
In case you want to do the math yourself, the Hurricanes have had nine wins this season, 14 close losses, and 12 large losses.
So, with a 12 box chart in hand and several long scroll bars of statistics on the Carolina Hurricanes' website, I began to break down why the Hurricanes are having one of the worst years, so far, in franchise history.
When I finished, the results were bordering on shocking.
Statistic One: Shots For & Shots Against
As a common hockey term, there's said to be nothing more important than getting shots. It's even true in other sports, such as soccer or lacrosse. "The more you shoot, eventually you'll have to score. However, if you don't take the chance, it's never going to come out the way you want it to."
Apparently this "Law of Hockey" decided to skip over the Carolina Hurricanes this season, because the shot totals and differences do not seem to have any affect at all on the result. The findings, sorted by game result, are below:
Wins - outshot 265 to 267 (-2)
Close Losses - outshot 424 to 452 (-28)
Larger Losses - Canes outshoot opponents, 350-347 (+3)
Although all three stats are close to even, there's not much pattern to the differences.
It looks like we might have to move on to the special teams to find some solutions...
Statistic Two: Powerplay
Of the four analyzed statistics, the Hurricanes powerplay conversion rate may be the most reflective of how the game eventually turned out.
Wins - 11 goals on 39 opportunites (28.6%)
Close Losses - 6 goals on 49 opportunities (12.2%)
Larger Losses - 6 goals on 59 opportunities (10.2%)
As you can see, the powerplay jumps from around 10 percent on disappointing losses to nearly 30 percent on wins. Even though the close losses rate is very similar to the larger losses', this category is very reflective on success.
Also, as a side note, after the Canes powerplay finished Nov. 29 in the league, the unit is actually first in the NHL for the month of December.
Statistic Three: Penalty Kill
Even though scoring is great, keeping the puck out of your own net may be even more important. Therefore, it makes plenty of sense that the Penalty Kill is just as reflective of wins as the Powerplay.
Wins - 6 goals allowed on 39 opportunities (15.4% opponent powerplay)
Close Losses - 7 goals allowed on 49 opportunities (18.4 opp. powerplay)
Larger Losses - 17 goals allowed on 62 opportunities (27.4 opp. powerplay)
The last category there, involving large losses for the Hurricanes, is the stat that is the real eye-opener. Not only is the opponent powerplay conversion rate nearly one-third, but the 62 opportunities means that the 'Canes are giving up over five powerplays a game, compared to 3.5 in close losses.
Statistic Four: Faceoffs
Although I don't exactly have the stats calculated (simply because of the lack of information about them in the box scores of some games), from a glance through the games that they do have the rates for, this stat is nearly as worthless as shots this year.
The Canes are among the worst teams in the league at faceoff winning percentage, but of the three types of games I have categorized, the only type where they are above 50 percent at faceoff win percentage is the large losses section.
After that, the faceoff rate of winning decreases the better the Hurricanes end up doing in the game, with the rate in wins barely over 40 percent.
After a quick glance at just these four small parts of NHL games, it's obvious that (at least to the Hurricanes), the special teams units can make-or-break a game every time. While shots or faceoffs may be a little overrated in terms of importance, it just comes back to keeping the puck out of your net and getting it in your opponent's instead when you have the opportunities.