American Thanksgiving is often referenced as a milestone for determining an NHL team’s likelihood of making the post-season, given that about a quarter of the season has been completed and three quarters of the teams in the playoff mix at this point in the season stay there. With 2016-17 starting later due to the World Cup of Hockey, the end of November seems a reasonable time to take a look at the numbers to date to see what can be learned about the Carolina Hurricanes. It also dovetails nicely with last season’s turning point in early December, when the team fell to last place in the league and prompted a few key roster moves.
A Look at the Standings
Here’s where the team stands today, compared to last season:
|Thru 11/30/16||Thru 11/30/15||2015-16|
|Division Rank||7 Metro||7 Metro||6 Metro|
|Conference Rank||14 EC||15 EC||10 EC|
|Last 10 Games||6-4-0||2-4-4||4-4-2|
|Streak||Lost 1||Lost 2||Lost 2|
While not an exact comparison (24 games played by Nov. 30 last season versus 22 this season), the Canes are slightly better during the same time period. This season has started out with a tougher home/road split, and even if the Canes lose the next two games they’re still two points ahead of last season’s pace. That said, having missed the playoffs by 10 points last season, a two point improvement doesn’t feel like quite enough to move the needle.
As Zeke Lukow mentioned earlier today in his Metro division recap, the teams in the middle of the conference are tightly packed. Looking at the teams ahead of the Canes in the battle for the second wild card spot:
|New Jersey Devils||22||10||7||5||25||8||0.568|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||22||10||8||4||24||10||0.545|
|Detroit Red Wings||23||11||10||2||24||8||0.522|
Three teams are ahead of the Canes by three points, and three are ahead by two points, with all but the Flyers within one game played. So while a wild card spot is still well within reach, there are a lot of teams to jump to get there.
|Thru 11/30/16||Thru 11/30/15||2015-16|
|Goals/Game||2.41 (19)||2.08 (28)||2.39 (27)|
|Goals Against/Game||2.64 (18)||2.88 (23)||2.70 (18)|
|Shots/Game||29.9 (14)||30.7 (7)||29.9 (14)|
|Shots Against/Game||27.3 (5)||25.3 (1)||27.6 (5)|
|ES Corsi For %||53.1% (4)||54.6% (2)||51.4% (11)|
|ES Sh%||7.0% (18)||5.5%||7.0% (24)|
|ES Save %||91.2% (27)||90.6%||91.5% (28)|
|ES PDO||98.1 (27)||96.1 (30)||98.4 (29)|
|Power Play % (Rank)||19.7% (11)||12.5% (30)||17.7% (24)|
|Penalty Kill % (Rank)||89.7% (1)||74.5% (28)||77.3% (6)|
|Faceoff %||52.7% (2)||54% (1)||53.7% (2)|
|PIM/Game||06:43 (2)||05:45 (1)||06:51 (2)|
Wow, what an improvement on special teams! There is still inconsistency game-to-game on the power play, and both special team situations are likely to suffer with Jordan Staal out, but the strong performance here has to be a confidence boost.
Outside of special teams, it’s interesting to note that the team stats through Nov. 30 are eerily similar to last season’s overall stats. The Canes dug a hole they were never quite able to climb out of last year, but if they’re at least picking up where they left off last season, perhaps the trajectory will land them closer to the playoff cut line. Goals for and against are trending in the right direction, and the possession battle remains strong. Team save percentage remains low though individually it’s improving (more to come on that).
But then there’s this:
|Leading after One Period (Rank)||3-2-1 (28)||16-4-5 (27)|
|Leading after Two Periods (Rank)||6-1-3 (30)||24-2-3 (20)|
|One-goal games (Rank)||6-5-2 (23)||20-9-16 (21)|
|When scoring first (Rank)||3-4-2 (30)||26-8-8 (24)|
|Overtime (Pt%)||0-3 (.000)||8-11 (.421)|
|Shootout (Pt%)||1-1 (.500)||2-5 (.285)|
|Home (Pt%)||6-3-0 (.667)||19-15-7 (.549)|
|Away (Pt%)||3-6-4 (.384)||16-16-9 (.500)|
Yeah, this will not come as a shock but the Canes aren’t doing too well when it comes to holding on to a lead. The Canes are finding the win column in slightly more than half their games when they lead after one or two periods. That's a league worst. Plus, if the game heads into overtime, they have only converted that into a win 20% of the time. Again, some of this may be attributed to the tough early start on the road with unfamiliar players and an abbreviated camp for the head coach. But unless this improves, especially on the road, the Canes will find it hard to climb up the standings.
On the bright side, how about that home record?
|Jeff Skinner||21||9||10||19||0.90||53.2%||28-23-51 (.62)|
|Victor Rask||22||8||9||17||0.77||50.7%||21-27-48 (.60)|
|Teuvo Teravainen||22||5||5||10||0.45||56.5%||13-22-35 (.45) CHI|
|Lee Stempniak||22||4||6||10||0.45||51.3%||19-32-51 (.62) NJD, BOS|
|Jordan Staal||21||5||4||9||0.43||59.6%||20-28-48 (.59)|
|Noah Hanifin||22||1||7||8||0.36||52.2%||4-18-22 (.28)|
|Viktor Stalberg||21||6||1||7||0.33||52.9%||9-11-20 (.27) NYR|
|Justin Faulk||19||3||4||7||0.37||53.2%||16-21-37 (.58)|
|Elias Lindholm||22||2||5||7||0.32||52.2%||11-28-39 (.48)|
|Ron Hainsey||22||1||5||6||0.27||52.9%||5-14-19 (.23)|
|Jaccob Slavin||22||1||5||6||0.27||53.7%||2-18-20 (.32)|
|Joakim Nordstrom||22||1||3||4||0.18||52.0%||10-14-24 (.34)|
|Brett Pesce||22||0||4||4||0.18||55.2%||4-12-16 (.23)|
|Klas Dahlbeck||9||1||2||3||0.33||49.7%||2-6-8 (.11) ARI|
|Andrej Nestrasil||11||1||2||3||0.27||52.5%||9-14-23 (.42)|
|Derek Ryan||9||1||1||2||0.22||45.0%||2-0-2 (.33)|
|Matt Tennyson||9||0||2||2||0.22||52.6%||1-3-4 (.14) SJS|
|Bryan Bickell||7||1||0||1||0.14||49.4%||0-2-2 (.08) CHI|
|Jay McClement||22||0||1||1||0.05||48.8%||3-8-11 (.14)|
|Ryan Murphy||4||0||1||1||0.25||53.5%||0-10-10 (.29)|
|Jakub Nakladal||3||0||0||0||0.00||41.6%||2-3-5 (.19) CGY|
|Brock McGinn||6||0||0||0||0.00||48.7%||3-1-4 (.19)|
|Phillip Di Giuseppe||12||0||0||0||0.00||59.3%||7-10-17 (.23)|
Give Jeff Skinner and Victor Rask an ‘A’ and they’ll reward you by being on pace for 73 and 63 points, respectively. Both players are exceeding their team-leading 2015-16 output by a decent margin, which is a good thing, because for the most part, scoring from the rest of the roster is merely okay. Sebastian Aho remains strong in his rookie campaign with a very respectable 40-point pace, Noah Hanifin is tracking to improve to 30 points, and who would have predicted that Viktor Stalberg would rank third on the team with six goals?
But on the flip side, Elias Lindholm’s scoring woes have already been heavily reported, Lee Stempniak is off his 51-point pace from last season (split between the Devils and Bruins), and while Teuvo Teravainen is matching the 35-point pace from last season in Chicago, the Canes are expecting more given his increased role. Jordan Staal (even pre-injury) and Justin Faulk are off their pace from last season. Secondary scoring from Joakim Nordstrom, Andrej Nestrasil, Phil Di Giuseppe are all lower than expected, and outside of Hanifin, so is offense from the defense.
That Corsi, though.
|Thru 11/30/16||Record||Sv% (ES)||GAA|
|Cam Ward||7-7-3||.915 (.917)||2.29|
|Eddie Lack||1-2-1||.856 (.827)||3.79|
|Michael Leighton||1-0-0||.939 (.957)||2.00|
|Thru 11/30/15||Record||Sv% (ES)||GAA|
|Cam Ward||7-8-3||.898 (.905)||2.53|
|Eddie Lack||1-4-1||.871 (.888)||3.28|
|Cam Ward||23-17-10||.909 (.916)||2.41|
|Eddie Lack||12-14-6||.901 (.903)||2.81|
In net, both goalies struggled at the outset but Cam Ward has returned to a respectable overall record, better than his overall record from last season and miles ahead of where he started last season. If he can maintain his current pace, the majority of the starts in net should remain stable. Eddie Lack remains a mystery, with limited starts and limited success and no word as to where he is in his concussion recovery (now a week plus since the diagnosis). Michael Leighton was stellar in his single performance but the sample size is too small to count on just yet.
Overall, it ‘feels like’ the Canes are moving in the right direction, and the numbers for the most part support that. Home ice should work in their favor when the schedule evens out. Their ability to maintain strong possession numbers and special teams play should benefit their overall game and hopefully resolve some of the early issues playing close and with a lead. They do need more offensive balance throughout the lineup, and as always, goaltending needs to remain steadfast. Despite some of the early bumps, they’ve stayed in the playoff mix and close enough that a spot is still within reach with 60 games remaining.