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Tidbits: Looking At The Hurricanes Through Five Games

I had the pleasure of escaping to the beautiful North Carolina mountains this past weekend, and not only was the four-day hiatus from the bustle of daily life refreshing, but also devoid of all things hockey. So Sunday evening I hunkered down to catch up on the Friday and Saturday games I missed, unaware of the results for both games. So after a DVR-paced four hours of hockey (finishing a little after 2 a.m.), I came away with a few observations, plus I have some statistical tidbits from the early season's happenings. A little bit of this overlaps with Bob's Early Season Stat Check — great minds think alike.

  • I questioned the inclusion of Tom Kostopoulos in the penalty killing rotation at forward, but his strip of Bryan McCabe and subsequent shorthanded goal in Friday's game against Florida showed why he belongs in the mix on the PK. While the Canes are rotating six forwards on the kill, Kostopoulos is seeing the fourth-most shorthanded ice time of any forward on the Carolina roster (3:06). Part of this, of course, is because of the abundance of penalties the Canes are taking. But it is still more than the less than two minutes his previous three seasons. In 2005-06, he averaged 3:03 of shorthanded ice time with the Kings in the penalty-happy first year following the lockout. Regardless, he and Stephane Yelle have settled in as a reliable pairing on the kill and on the fourth line.
  • I felt bad for Alexander Salak, who stepped in for a shell-shocked Tomas Vokoun in Florida's 7-2 loss to the Canes Friday. With Scott Clemmensen away from the team for personal reasons, the 22-year-old rookie was forced into his first NHL action on a night when the team in front of him was clearly overwhelmed. He didn't help himself much, either, allowing a softie to Rod Brind'Amour and another — on a blistering, perfectly placed shot — to Jay Harrison on just seven shots. With Vokoun looking shaky at best — he single-handedly blew the game against Tampa Bay last night — Clemmensen's return can't come soon enough for coach Peter DeBoer.
  • I understand that the schedule was thinning out this week, but it seems Paul Maurice is already lacking confidence in backup Michael Leighton. On the second back-to-back sequence of the season, Maurice again looked to Cam Ward in both games. The team's record in those four games? 1-3. Ward played very well, but there's something to be said for letting Leighton getting a chance to play early in the year. Instead, he'll likely ride the pine for another week — or more.

Time for some statistical tidbits ...

  • The plus/minus statistic can oftentimes be misleading, but in the case of Scott Walker, I think it tells the story perfectly. Walker is a team-best plus-4 in the early going (T-16th in the NHL) and has been a visible presence on every shift he's jumped over the boards.
  • Like we mentioned, penalties have been a problem. Shockingly, the Canes have four players in the top 25 in PIMs: Tim Gleason (19, T-6th); Kostopoulos (14, T-18th); Andrew Alberts and Harrison (both 13, T-23rd). Granted, all five have fighting majors on their resumes early in the season, but that's still way out of character for Carolina.
  • Eric Staal hasn't registered an even-strength point yet this season, but his two power play goals — his only points — are good for a 20-way tie for fifth in the league.
  • On the flip side, Kostopoulos' shortie makes him one of 14 in the league to register one so far this season.
  • Tuomo Ruutu, not Staal, leads the team in shots with 21 (T-13th in the NHL). Staal is one behind (T-17th), but his 13 missed shots are second in the league.
  • Joe Corvo, while not yet contributing on the scoresheet, has been an absolute minute-muncher through five games. Only transplants Jay Bouwmeester (28:05) and Chris Pronger (27:47) are averaging more minutes than Corvo's 27:13, and he's also No. 1 in the league in power play ice time with 7:23 per game. Staal ranks 10th among forwards at 21:39 a night.
  • Staal, Matt Cullen and Ray Whitney have also seen lots of time with the man advantage. Cullen's 6:15 on the PP is fifth in the NHL and second among forwards (even though he plays the point). Only Alex Ovechkin averages more among forwards (6:51). Staal is seventh/fourth at 5:57 and Whitney is seventh/12th at 5:40 per game. 
  • Aaron Ward has played only one game with expected partner Joni Pitkanen, and the shuffling around might be the reason he leads the team in goals allowed while on ice with nine — tied for 11th most in the league. On the flip side, departed Dennis Seidenberg is tied for worst in the league in goals allowed on the PK with seven for Florida. Vancouver's Ryan Johnson has also been on the ice for as many.
  • Jussi Jokinen leads the team in scoring with five points (two goals, three assists) through five games, and he's doing it in just 14:53 ice time per game. All five of his points were scored in the division, good for a tie for third in the NHL, while his four points at home are tied for 18th in the league.
  • Conversely, the Canes have gotten just six points from their defense, and no one has more than one point. Alberts is the only d-man of the seven who have played to be held without a point thus far.
  • Alberts' 20 hits at tied for fifth in the league, while Aaron Ward's 13 blocked shots are good for a tie for 12th. Ruutu leads all forwards in hits with 13 (27th among forwards in the NHL).
  • Cam Ward's been busy in October. He's faced 150 shots (sixth in the NHL), made 137 saves (T-fifth) and has a 2.86 goals-against average (28th, but ninth among goalie who have played at least four games). His .913 save percentage is tied for 19th in the league.
  • Carolina is tied with five teams for 20th in goals scored at 2.4 per game, while they are tied for 23rd with Vancouver in goals allowed (3.4).
  • The Canes 5-on-5 play is below par, with them managing 0.88 goals per one goal scored by opponents (20th).
  • The power play sputtered early in the season but is starting to show some signs of life. Carolina is currently at 12.9 percent (26th). The big problem has been at home, with the team scoring just once on 16 chances (6.2 percent, 26th). On the road, the Hurricanes are 3 of 15 (20 percent, T-19th).
  • The penalty kill has improved dramatically after a horrible start. At 75.8 percent, the Canes currently rank 19th in the league. They have allowed just three goals on 19 kills at the RBC Center (84.2 percent, 11th), but have given up five goals on 14 road kills (64.3 percent, 25th). Mark that up to the debacle in Boston.
  • Not to beat a dead horse, but at 24.4 minutes per game, the Canes are last in the league in PIMs.
  • The team has stumbled some in the faceoff circle, winning just 48.8 percent of their draws (17th).
  • Finally, one totally random fact: the Minnesota Wild — the team from "The State of Hockey" — is the only team in the NHL yet to play a U.S.-born player this year. The Canes are one of several that have played seven, while Los Angeles and Buffalo lead the way with eight each.