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By the Numbers: Investigating the Strong Start to 2019

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The Hurricanes have put up a strong start to the new year. We take a look at what’s been driving the favorable results.

Jamie Kellner

With an overtime loss last night in Calgary, the Carolina Hurricanes have played 11 games since the start of the new year. They’ve won seven of them and lost just three in regulation, picking up 15 out of a possible 22 points. A renewed pace was badly needed after an abysmal month of December that may have set them back too far in the standings for a miraculous playoff run. So what’s been driving the strong play in 2019? To put it bluntly, the Hurricanes really haven’t looked like the Hurricanes lately.

Rod Brind’Amour’s club was 30th in the league in goals scored coming into the new year. Since then, they’re fourth in the league in goals scored with 39 over the course of just ten games. Team defense hasn’t been particularly good —they’ve allowed 35 goals in the same frame, sixth worst in the league.

But when you’re scoring at such a high rate, defensive lapses don’t sting nearly as much. I think most people would agree that the eye test suggests goaltending could have been better over the past few weeks. That may be true, but the Canes have been allowing scoring chances at a higher rate than all but six NHL clubs in January, indicating that the team hasn’t been doing the goaltending tandem many favors lately.

The Hurricanes are still playing an offensively exciting game as they’ve generated 233 scoring chances since the new year — good for seventh best in the league. But what’s most interesting to me is that they haven’t been dominating the opposition in possession since the start of their improved play. The Canes own a Corsi For Percentage of 52.08% over the last 11 games (50.66% before the loss in Calgary last night).

This shouldn’t be all that surprising given the fact that they’re surrendering goals at a higher rate than they were in the beginning of the season. But perhaps the most mind blowing fact is that their High Danger Corsi For Percentage sits at just 46.88% and 22nd in the league since the new year hot streak began. That’s a far cry from their 57.81% HDCF% from October through December — good for second best in the NHL.

The most redeeming quality about the Hurricanes’ play of late is their shooting percentage, which is an even 10% in the month of January. That’s well above league average and has definitely been making up for looser team defense and less quality scoring chances for than earlier in the season.

I’m being honest when I say I don’t know what’s going on with the Carolina Hurricanes. I wouldn’t expect for a month in which the team allows significantly more scoring chances and goals against than usual to also produce the first five game winning streak in over two years. I also wouldn’t expect for shooting percentage to peak while possession metrics hit a season low.

The only way I can rationalize that is by applying the law of large numbers given that the Canes had the league’s worst shooting percentage over the first few months of the season. We talk a lot about luck in the NHL and maybe this is what happens when a team gets a couple of member’s bounces. But I really don’t think that double digit shooting percentages are sustainable with the current roster construction, so the Hurricanes will need to tighten up defensively in order to continue their success down the stretch.