Perhaps the current Carolina Hurricanes defense is not as bad as many think it is.
Even though the team earned 11 fewer points last season than they did the season before with Kirk Muller at the helm, the "eyeball test" seemed to indicate that the team was playing systematically better under new head coach Bill Peters.
There are also some stats to back that up.
Of course, much has already been said about the club's improved special teams. At times during the season, Carolina had the number one rated penalty kill in the league. They finished at number four.
The powerplay was inconsistent at times but finished at 18.8%, good enough for 15th place in the NHL. That was a nice jump from the previous season in which they were successful just 14.6% of the time, putting them at 28th in the league.
But there was another big improvement last season which has not been talked about as much.
The Hurricanes allowed the third fewest shots on goal per game in the league last season. Their 27.3 shots against average per game was the lowest for them in 10 years and a big improvement from the previous year's 30.9 per game average.
The Canes usually hover around the bottom of the league in this stat and for two straight years finished dead last, allowing 33.2 per game in 2010-11 and 32.4 in 2011-12.
At the other end of the rink, the team averaged taking 30.8 shots on goal per game. Obviously, this is a positive. You always want to have more shots than your opponent.
Only one playoff team in the NHL took fewer shots than their opposition last year and that was Montreal. Carey Price was really a difference-maker for them.
Getting back to the Hurricanes, even though they had fewer shots against per game, they still need improvements in other areas before they can be considered contenders.
Simply put, they need to score more goals and they need better goaltending.
While they finished third in the league regarding shots against, they finished 18th in the league in goals against. With at least league average goaltending, this stat will improve.
Maybe the worst stat of them all was the 2.23 goals scored per game average, which put them at 27th in the league. We will talk more about the specifics of that stat in our next article.
So, what can be attributed to this big reduction in shots allowed?
The Hurricanes have tightened things up a bit in the back end. Gone are the multiple odd-man rushes allowed per game and repeated breakaways which used to occur. While there are a few at times, they didn't seem to happen as much as they did in previous seasons.
The team is not blocking anymore shots than they normally do. Last season they finished 22nd in the league with 1090 blocks. The year before they had 1096, which was also at 22nd.
It would seem that the biggest reason for the change is puck possession.
Last season they won 53% of their faceoffs, good for third place in the league. No doubt, that helps possession.
According to Hockey Analysis.com, the Hurricanes finished sixth in the league regarding both team "Corsi For" and team "Fenwick For"
CF, (Corsi For) is the total shots attempted, the number of shots on goal, missed shots, and shots that were blocked. FF, (Fenwick For) totals the number of shots on goal and missed shots. The results of both of these indicate good puck possession numbers.
The New York Islanders came in first in both categories.
Obviously, possession stats alone don't win you hockey games. You need good goaltending, (the Canes finished 27th in the league with a team save percentage of .9021), and bottom line you need to score more goals than your opponent.
Has Peters got the Hurricanes moving in the right direction? They are regarding this particular stat.