Two weeks ago, the Carolina Hurricanes were five games into the 2009-10 season, and the blame for the team's weak start was, to a great extent, blamed on the plethora of penalties the team had found itself killing off, over and over again. Here at Canes Country, our story analyzed these penalties to see if we could better understand the cause of our woes and perhaps even uncover a way to reduce them.
In that analysis, the Penalties in Minutes were divided between Major and Minor penalties. Then, the Minor minutes, which made the team so frequently short-handed on the ice, were further differentiated into "Aggression" types, which we characterized as "Good" or "Worth It", and "Positional" types, which we considered to be "Bad" or "Lazy".
You can review the original story, its reasoning, and its conclusions here: "Bin" there, Done that: Uncharacteristic penalties trip up Carolina
So folks, here we are two weeks and five more games (and five more losses) into the season, and after hearing the dreaded whistle ten (count'em, ten) times last night in the OT loss to the Minnesota Wild, I've repeated the exercise. Let's take a look at what is now 10 games on the books, to see what's changed, what's improved, and alas, where the Canes just can't get it right.
FIrst off, here is the break down of total penalties in minutes:
|Game (opponent)||TOTAL CAR PIM||Majors and misconducts (minutes)||Minors (minutes)|
|First 5 games||122||40||82|
|Second 5 games||102||50||52|
|TOTAL for 10 games||224||90||134|
The first 5 games we had 82 minutes in minor penalties, (the ones that lead to the disruptive and exhausting penalty kills) or over 16 PIM/game . Good news: Until last night, we stayed at or below 12 PIM, and averaged less than 11 minutes per game over the last 5 games. That's a reduction of over 30% - well done!
Next up, let's see how those minors break down between aggression varieties (roughing, cross-checking, elbowing) which we've asserted are acceptable and those that are caused by being out of position.
|Game (opponent)||Minor penalties called|
|First 5 games||41||8||33|
|Second 5 games||26||3||23|
|TOTAL for 10 games||67||11||56|
This is not-so-good news. For the first five games, 20% of the minor penalties fell into the "Aggression" column. For games 6 through 10, while the number of minor penalties dropped - great! - we see a jump in the proportion of those that were "positional". Nearly 90% of the minor penalties the last five games accomplished nothing but cold feet in the sin bin and one remarkable goalie forced to work like a madman to keep his team in the game with these 23 additional and unnecessary short-handed scenarios.
Remember seeing Sergei Samsonov's name at the top of the heap 2 weeks ago, with 10 minutes in bad penalties? I am glad to report that Sammy has turned that around and has not been to the box once since then. And remember the kudos I gave to Aaron Ward for his smart penalty-free play? Forget that now. Take a look at the current breakdown:
|# of positional minors|
|Player||1st 5||2nd 5||Total|
It is important to remember that the man at the top of the bad boyz list above, Eric Staal, leads all forwards with 220 minutesTOI. And Aaron Ward is fourth in that category with 188 minutes, but has significantly less ice-time the last 5 games than the first 5, when he was penalty-free. It seems that our man AWard has some 'splainin' to do. And how's about Joni Pitkanen tied for 2nd above? His lingering knee "discomfort" cost him a lot of ice-time, putting him way down at 15th for total TOI on the roster, with 118 minutes for the season. That's disappointing to see him so high on the list above, when his offensive and defensive acumen has been so outstanding since he returned to play in the game with the Devils last week.
Two players have been there only once for "laziness and/or bad choices": Joe Corvo, Tim Gleason Corvo is especially remarkable with his team-leading 271 minutes TOI and just the one hooking call, way back in the mayhem in Boston, October 3rd. Wow! Nothing "uh-oh" about those numbers.
So who's left with clean play? Erik Cole and Tim Conboy have less than 40 minutes TOI this season and neither has been called for a penalty that has lead to Penalty Kills (not often you see the term "penalty free" associated with Tim Conboy, eh?) Good enough - but here's a hockeymom glove-tap to Tom Kostopoulos, with the most totally penalty-free minutes (over 91 minutes TOI in 10 games.) Not bad for a new guy.
So is there anything else we can feel good about? Let's look at the remarkable improvement of the Penalty Kill:
|Game (opp)||W or L||Score (Canes first)||PK%||PP goals allowed||ES goals allowed|
|First 5 games||2-3-0||14-17||78%||8||9|
|Second 5 games||0-2-3||11-17||88%||3||12|
|TOTAL for 10 games||2-5-3||25-34||82%||11||21|
|(2 on SO)|
This is definitely something to build on. The Canes took a ho-hum 78% Penalty Kill rate the first 5 games and brought it to a top-shelf success rate of 88% these last 5 games, with 2 of the 3 goals allowed against the league-leading power play squad of the Avalanche. And while the first analysis after 5 games showed 47% of goals allowed came short-handed, that ratio the last 5 games has dropped to only 20%. I, for one, am impressed. Once again, we owe this success in some measure to D-man Joe Corvo who leads all skaters in short-handed minutes by a wide margin.
However, let's also hold up for careful consideration the fact that the primary backbone of "The Kill" these 10 games has been the Canes' workhorse in goal, Cam Ward. And the question I have, after all this: How much more can and should the Hurricanes ask of Wardo for the remaining 72 games before this season completely falls apart?