On November 30th, the Carolina Hurricanes owned a 12-9-4 record, good for third place in the Metropolitan Division. The team played 13 games in the following month. They won just four of those. The 16-17-5 record that they now carry into the new year is good for 37 points, landing them tied for sixth place in the Metro as well at an entire 10 points and four teams outside of the second Wild Card spot. Things are getting out of reach quickly.
It’s worth noting that Jordan Staal missed nine of the 13 tilts in December with a concussion, which you could attribute much of the team’s shortcomings over the past month to. The Canes’ lack of depth up the middle was certainly exposed.
In examining Carolina’s numbers over the past month, it’s not too difficult to understand why the record’s so lopsided. The Canes scored just 28 goals in the holiday month, the lowest mark in the league in that time frame. The next lowest scoring team in the Metropolitan Division in December was the New York Rangers, who buried 35. Every other team in the division outscored the Hurricanes by at least ten goals, most of them by many more.
The good news is that the club has been playing measurably better defense, allowing only 39 goals against, which is good for 12th best in the league. A lot of this can probably be attributed to the fact that goaltending has been significantly better thanks to the Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney tandem. But goaltending can only do so much when you have the second worst 5-on-5 shooting percentage in the NHL at 5.3%.
Now that the front office has slapped a band-aid on the decade old leak that is goaltending, the lack of goal scoring talent on the roster is much more clear. Parting with the club’s perennial leader in the subject in question during the offseason certainly didn’t help the case, but one would think this group could put up goals at a rate somewhat closer to league average.
And that rate would likely be a little bit higher if the power play had any life in the month of December. The special teams unit scored just five times on 47 opportunities last month for a success rate of 10.6%, good for fourth worst in the NHL. That’s an absolute dagger for a team that lacks middle six scoring talent — you can’t rely on your primary scoring forwards to be netting all of your goals in even strength situations.
More advanced metrics still tell the same old story. The Canes led the league last month in High Danger Corsi For Percentage with 59.46%. They clocked in at second to last in the league in Scoring Chances Goals For Percentage, meaning that they still really aren’t converting on the wealth of high danger opportunities that they produce.
The Carolina Hurricanes had an abysmal month of December — one that may set them back too far behind in the playoff race to make a realistic recovery. Regardless, the first step in that recovery is to pull the goal scoring rate out of the cellar. Thirty-first in the league isn’t going to cut it.