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By The Numbers: What is Wrong With This Hockey Team?

The Hurricanes’ long slump following a hot start to the season yields more questions than answers.

After an electric start to the season, the Hurricanes are one of the only two teams in the NHL to have won just two games out of their last 10. Despite a thoroughly disappointing stretch since a surprisingly strong start, head coach Rod Brind’Amour has mostly kept on a brave face in front of the media, stressing that he’s been largely satisfied with the teams level of play through the seemingly endless slump.

The confusing reality of the situation is that, in a way, he’s right. The numbers bear him out:

Since the beginning of the ten game frame on October 13th in which the team has accrued a record of 2-7-1, the Hurricanes lead the NHL in Scoring Chances For Percentage (SCF%) posting a 57.11%. This statistic compares the total number of scoring chances that a team (or subset of players) has logged versus their respective scoring chances against. So the Hurricanes are generating a little more than seven percent more scoring chances on average than their opponenets over their last 10 games. That’s the best statistical difference in that category in the league.

The Canes also lead the league in High Danger Corsi For Percentage (HDCF%) at 62.11%. SCF% and HDCF% are deeply related, and if you want to read more about what War-On-Ice defined as a scoring chance you can do that here. But the takeaway is that the Hurricanes are producing a league leading differential between themselves and their opponents in scoring chances and high danger shots.

But if we dig a little deeper we find a disconnect. Despite impressive shooting metrics, the Hurricanes are the second worst team in the league in Scoring Chances Goals For Percentage (SCGF%) at 37.11% since October 13th. This means that even though they’re generating a lot of scoring chances (shots in high danger areas), they’re actually capitalizing on those chances at an almost 13% lower rate than their opponents. Only the slumping Los Angeles Kings are scoring at a lower rate with respect to their opponents. And the Hurricanes’ High Danger Goals For Percentage (HDGF%) is the third lowest in the league at 38.10%, indicating that opponents are scoring with significantly higher frequency with shots in high danger areas.

So what’s the issue with this team? Maybe the goaltending has been unusually bad this season. Tighter netminding would bring the Canes’ SCGF% and HDGF% up a bit to more realistic and believeable numbers that would be in line with how much the Canes are outchancing their opponents. The goaltending has definitely been a bit below league average thus far, but maybe the massive discrepancy between scoring chances and goals scored between the Canes and their opponents here is pointing to a deeper problem in net.

Perhaps the forward corps is underskilled and lacks the finishing touch that other offenses do. Its been a narrative in Carolina for a long time, but I just don’t buy it as much as I have in the past. Maybe the club just isn’t getting the bounces and puck luck that they need to make things happen. I counted three posts in Tuesday’s loss to the Blues — two of which came off the stick of Sebastian Aho. Bad luck is definitely a possiblity.

The reality is most likely that it’s a combination of all these traditional Hurricanes excuses and shortcomings. Or maybe there’s something missing on this roster or in the Brind’Amour system that I’m not seeing, I really don’t know. Perhaps there’s a stat that hasn’t been unearthed yet that would bridge the gap between the theoretical world and the real world. But one thing is certain, 2-7-1 over a ten game stretch isn’t going to cut it. Good teams don’t do that.