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Halfway There: How the Canes stack up in the current playoff picture

The league has passed the halfway point for the 2021-22 season, so let’s take a look at how the playoff picture is shaping out.

San Jose Sharks v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

The All-Star break presented the perfect halfway point in the 2021-22 season to pull together a lot of data from around the league to really see how teams were stacking up against one another.

Or, it would have if not for the 100+ postponed games around the NHL this season creating games-played gaps as high as nine and having some teams not quite at the halfway mark and then quite a few over it.

But it’s as good as it’s going to get, so it’s the reality that we will be working with and working around.

Regardless of that fact though, the truth is that the playoff picture has already started to take shape with the Eastern Conference teams practically figured out and most of the West starting to lock in a bid.

The Hurricanes are one of those virtually cemented teams in the East being a legitimate contender again. And with some key additions, the team seems ready for a longer run this time. But how do the Canes compare with the other playoff teams around the league?

Let’s take a look at some data for the current playoff picture.

Playoff Picture (as of 2/6)

Team Points Point Percentage GP W L OT RW ROW Goal Differential CF% HDCF% GF% SH%
Team Points Point Percentage GP W L OT RW ROW Goal Differential CF% HDCF% GF% SH%
Florida Panthers 69 0.734 47 32 10 5 24 30 +55 55.7 53.69 60.36 9.63
Colorado Avalanche 68 0.773 44 32 8 4 25 29 +54 53.15 51.84 57.98 9.53
Tampa Bay Lightning 66 0.717 46 30 10 6 21 28 +27 51.73 56.94 55.06 9.19
Carolina Hurricanes 64 0.762 42 31 9 2 27 30 +49 55.2 54.73 59.43 9.4
New York Rangers 64 0.681 47 30 13 4 26 27 +23 44.3 45.77 50.29 8.67
Pittsburgh Penguins 62 0.674 46 27 11 8 22 25 +30 52.5 53.47 55.49 7.99
Toronto Maple Leafs 61 0.726 42 29 10 3 24 27 +41 52.98 54.36 54.49 8.83
Nashville Predators 60 0.652 46 28 14 4 22 27 +19 49.83 52.02 53.22 8.81
Minnesota Wild 59 0.72 41 28 10 3 20 24 +41 51.5 51.02 56.99 9.13
Washington Capitals 59 0.628 47 25 13 9 20 23 +22 50.68 50.49 57.3 10.28
St. Louis Blues 57 0.648 44 26 13 5 23 24 +32 47.06 43.55 53.3 9.38
Vegas Golden Knights 57 0.62 46 27 16 3 21 23 +21 52.11 50.77 53.77 10.28
Boston Bruins 55 0.64 43 26 14 3 23 25 +11 53.45 54.93 49.4 6.87
LA Kings 55 0.585 47 24 16 7 20 22 +6 54.27 52.8 54.32 6.78
Anaheim Ducks 55 0.573 48 23 16 9 16 20 +4 48.08 48.8 49.16 7.61
Calgary Flames 52 0.619 42 23 13 6 19 21 +32 55.5 55.99 56.44 7.65

The playoffs look to be featuring a couple of titans and especially in the East where, undoubtedly, a few good teams will be eliminated in the first round.

The Florida Panthers lead the league in points with the NHL’s best offense, but out West, the Colorado Avalanche sit at the top with the league’s best point percentage helped along by a top-10 offense and top-5 defense.

A few dark horse teams have made pushes into the playoff picture as well like the New York Rangers, led by the league-best goaltending of Igor Shesterkin, and the LA Kings and Anaheim Ducks, who are making jumps out of what should have been longer rebuilds.

The Carolina Hurricanes are sitting pretty, fourth in points and second in point percentage, and they will try to pull away with the Metropolitan lead and compete for the Presidents Trophy in the second half of the season.


Offense

Offense

Team CF/60 HDCF/60 xGF/60 GF/60 Leading Scorer Goals Points
Team CF/60 HDCF/60 xGF/60 GF/60 Leading Scorer Goals Points
Florida Panthers 65.52 (1) 13.75 (2) 3.08 (1) 3.56 (1) Jonathan Huberdeau 17 64
Colorado Avalanche 60.19 (4) 11.11 (13) 2.5 (12) 3.18 (3) Nazem Kadri 19 60
Tampa Bay Lightning 54.18 (18) 12.96 (5) 2.52 (10) 2.67 (10) Steven Stamkos 20 52
Carolina Hurricanes 63.65 (3) 13.83 (1) 3.08 (2) 3.15 (4) Sebastian Aho 19 45
New York Rangers 47.51 (31) 10.38 (21) 2.19 (28) 2.26 (22) Artemi Panarin 13 52
Pittsburgh Penguins 57.53 (12) 11.55 (10) 2.62 (7) 2.66 (11) Jake Guentzel 23 46
Toronto Maple Leafs 59.87 (6) 13.16 (3) 2.89 (3) 2.92 (5) Auston Matthews 29 51
Nashville Predators 52.68 (22) 9.98 (24) 2.36 (18) 2.52 (14) Roman Josi 13 44
Minnesota Wild 57.23 (13) 10.95 (14) 2.46 (15) 3.31 (2) Kirill Kaprizov 19 53
Washington Capitals 55.74 (15) 10.69 (16) 2.46 (16) 2.76 (7) Alex Ovechkin 29 58
St. Louis Blues 49.93 (28) 9.62 (28) 2.35 (20) 2.74 (8) Jordan Kyrou 17 42
Vegas Golden Knights 59.28 (7) 12.32 (7) 2.75 (6) 2.84 (6) Chandler Stephenson 12 38
Boston Bruins 57.54 (11) 10.3 (22) 2.52 (11) 2.41 (15) Brad Marchand 21 49
LA Kings 60.12 (5) 12.98 (4) 2.84 (5) 2.33 (18) Anze Kopitar 14 42
Anaheim Ducks 52.91 (21) 10.87 (15) 2.36 (19) 2.25 (23) Troy Terry 25 41
Calgary Flames 63.97 (2) 12.13 (9) 2.87 (4) 2.71 (9) Johnny Gaudreau 18 54

The Hurricanes are one of the top five teams in the league, and in line with that, are in the top five for most offensive stats.

Carolina actually leads the way in terms of high-danger chance creation and is scoring nearly as many goals as expected based on model predictions.

While Sebastian Aho’s 45 points — tied for 20th in the league — aren’t eye popping, the well roundedness of the Canes’ offense will bode well come playoff time.

Carolina has five players at 30+ points and nine with 20+ points. Only three teams have more players with 30+ points and only two teams have more players with 20+ points.

The depth is real down in Carolina.

To the surprise of nobody who has been keeping up with the rest of the league, the Panthers lead nearly every offensive stat along with having the NHL’s leading scorer, Jonathan Huberdeau, on the roster.

The Panthers look like an offensive juggernaut and that’s the main reason why they lead the league in points. Their revamped roster looks poised to do some damage and maybe finally win a playoff series for the first time in decades.

The Ducks, Blues, Predators and Rangers are the biggest points of intrigue offensively as all four sit in the bottom half of the league in terms of overall shot generation, the quality of chances and actual goal scoring.

All four have been carried by strong goaltending, which makes them prime candidates to keep an eye on in the second half and even into the playoffs.


Defense

Defense

Team CA/60 HDCA/60 xGA/60 GA
Team CA/60 HDCA/60 xGA/60 GA
Florida Panthers 52.11 (8) 11.86 (23) 2.52 (19) 2.34 (13)
Colorado Avalanche 53.04 (11) 10.32 (10) 2.25 (5) 2.3 (11)
Tampa Bay Lightning 50.56 (2) 9.8 (6) 2.18 (3) 2.18 (8)
Carolina Hurricanes 51.66 (6) 11.44 (19) 2.64 (25) 2.15 (7)
New York Rangers 59.73 (28) 12.3 (27) 2.66 (27) 2.23 (10)
Pittsburgh Penguins 52.06 (7) 10.05 (8) 2.26 (6) 2.13 (5)
Toronto Maple Leafs 53.13 (12) 11.05 (16) 2.38 (13) 2.43 (17)
Nashville Predators 53.04 (10) 9.2 (3) 2.23 (4) 2.22 (9)
Minnesota Wild 55.71 (16) 10.51 (13) 2.29 (7) 2.5 (20)
Washington Capitals 52.49 (9) 10.48 (11) 2.3 (9) 2.05 (3)
St. Louis Blues 56.17 (21) 12.47 (28) 2.8 (31) 2.4 (16)
Vegas Golden Knights 54.47 (14) 11.95 (24) 2.51 (18) 2.44 (18)
Boston Bruins 50.12 (1) 8.45 (1) 2 (1) 2.46 (19)
LA Kings 50.66 (3) 11.61 (21) 2.49 (16) 1.96 (2)
Anaheim Ducks 57.15 (24) 11.41 (18) 2.64 (24) 2.32 (12)
Calgary Flames 51.28 (5) 9.53 (5) 2.3 (8) 2.09 (4)

The potential Achilles’ heel of the Hurricanes is the play in their own zone as they don’t rate too highly in defensive analytics.

They limit total chances very well, mostly due to their possession heavy game, but they give up a ton of quality on those limited chances.

Rated 19th in high-danger chances against and 25th in expected goals against, it has been on ongoing issue in Carolina for the past few seasons and marks potentially the biggest area of need, however there might not be much that new personnel could do when it is more than likely a stylistic weakness.

The Canes play an aggressive press offense that encourages the defense to jump and pinch which raises the chances for odd-man rushes the other way and in their own zone, the Hurricanes play a man-on-man system which is only as strong as its weakest link.

Among the rest of the playoff teams, the Boston Bruins are the best defensive team, being the best at limiting both high-danger and overall chances. However, the defense hasn’t led to better results in terms of actual goals against, mostly due to the weak goaltending the Bruins have gotten.

Eight of the top-10 defensive teams in the league are in a playoff position and four of those were also in the top-10 in offense — Colorado, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Calgary — names to definitely keep track of. The other eight are nearly all below average or at least in the lower half of the league.


Goaltending

Goaltending

Team Strarting Goaltender Wins Save Percentage Goals Against Average Goals Saved Above Expected Team Save Percentage Team Goals Saved Above Expected
Team Strarting Goaltender Wins Save Percentage Goals Against Average Goals Saved Above Expected Team Save Percentage Team Goals Saved Above Expected
Florida Panthers Sergei Bobrovsky 23 (T4) 0.92 (12) 2.56 (17) 21.8 (3) 0.91 (12) 18.1 (2)
Colorado Avalanche Darcy Kuemper 21 (T7) 0.915 (20) 2.55 (16) 9.9 (13) 0.906 (14) 2.5 (18)
Tampa Bay Lightning Andrei Vasilevskiy 25 (1) 0.922 (10) 2.23 (7) 17.4 (5) 0.906 (15) 10.5 (10)
Carolina Hurricanes Frederik Andersen 24 (T2) 0.929 (3) 2.01 (2) 22.4 (2) 0.917 (2) 20.9 (1)
New York Rangers Igor Shesterkin 22 (6) 0.937 (2) 2.1 (3) 24.6 (1) 0.92 (1) 15.4 (6)
Pittsburgh Penguins Tristan Jarry 23 (T4) 0.923 (7) 2.21 (6) 13.6 (8) 0.914 (10) 10.2 (11)
Toronto Maple Leafs Jack Campbell 21 (T7) 0.925 (5) 2.3 (8) 11.9 (11) 0.914 (9) 8.2 (14)
Nashville Predators Juuse Saros 24 (T2) 0.927 (4) 2.35 (11) 19.3 (4) 0.915 (5) 15.3 (7)
Minnesota Wild Cam Talbot 18 (10) 0.913 (22) 2.81 (30) 1.8 (35) 0.912 (11) 5.9 (15)
Washington Capitals Ilya Samsonov 14 (T16) 0.902 (38) 2.88 (34) -3.6 (74) 0.905 (16) -1.2 (23)
St. Louis Blues Ville Husso 9 (T30) 0.941 (1) 1.9 (1) 16.2 (6) 0.916 (4) 12.7 (8)
Vegas Golden Knights Robin Lehner 19 (9) 0.91 (31) 2.76 (26) 10.4 (12) 0.901 (21) 10.1 (12)
Boston Bruins Linus Ullmark 16 (13) 0.913 (23) 2.64 (22) -1.2 (60) 0.905 (17) -0.8 (22)
LA Kings Jonathan Quick 12 (T23) 0.912 (25) 2.6 (19) 15.3 (7) 0.905 (18) 18 (3)
Anaheim Ducks John Gibson 15 (15) 0.922 (9) 2.49 (13) 13 (9) 0.917 (3) 11.1 (9)
Calgary Flames Jacob Markstrom 17 (T11) 0.923 (8) 2.2 (4) 9.3 (14) 0.915 (6) 8.8 (13)

The biggest reason why the Hurricanes’ defensive woes haven’t affected them too much though is because of the elite goaltending support they have gotten to mitigate that weakness.

Frederik Andersen has been playing at a Vezina level all season, being third in save percentage and second in wins and goals saved above expected. It isn’t just him either, as Antti Raanta has been great as well, but we’ll only be looking at starter stats as that is what matters in the playoffs.

Because as everyone knows, a hot goaltender is the key to playoff success.

It’s the biggest reason why the Tampa Bay Lightning were back-to-back champions and why the Montreal Canadiens were even in the Final at all last season.

And this season seems like it will be a battle between a lot of solid netminders with 13 of the top 15 save percentages being in a playoff position.

In terms of goals saved above expected, only four of the 16 starting goaltenders in a playoff position have less than 10 goals saved above expected and shockingly two of those goaltenders — Linus Ullmark and Ilya Samsonov — have a negative value.

Of the four teams in both the top-10 for offense and defense, only Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh are getting just as good goaltending.

Regardless, goaltending is the hardest position to predict and it will all be a matter of who can be the most consistent and then peak at the right moment.


Special Teams

Power Play

Team PP% PP Goals For Shorthanded Goals Against PP TOI/60
Team PP% PP Goals For Shorthanded Goals Against PP TOI/60
Florida Panthers 21.1 (13) 31 4 5:04 (7)
Colorado Avalanche 25 (9) 41 3 6:03 (1)
Tampa Bay Lightning 20.1 (15) 29 4 5:20 (3)
Carolina Hurricanes 25 (8) 31 3 4:45 (17)
New York Rangers 25.9 (5) 36 2 4:34 (23)
Pittsburgh Penguins 22.1 (11) 30 4 4:38 (21)
Toronto Maple Leafs 30.5 (1) 36 0 4:20 (30)
Nashville Predators 25.2 (7) 35 2 4:49 (15)
Minnesota Wild 19.4 (17) 25 1 5:03 (8)
Washington Capitals 15.3 (28) 21 6 5:01 (10)
St. Louis Blues 28.5 (2) 37 3 4:44 (18)
Vegas Golden Knights 20 (16) 24 5 4:26 (27)
Boston Bruins 26.4 (4) 34 3 4:43 (19)
LA Kings 16.3 (24) 24 7 5:24 (2)
Anaheim Ducks 25 (10) 32 3 4:27 (26)
Calgary Flames 21.1 (12) 26 1 4:56 (12)

Because the rulebook mostly gets thrown out once the postseason starts, it’s much harder to score in the playoffs with everyone checking, holding and grabbing opponents. As such, every special teams opportunity that is actually handed out is that much more important.

The Hurricanes have had a few postseason runs sunk by poor power play performances, so it will be integral that they can be consistent heading into the postseason.

Scoring a quarter of the time on the man advantage, the Canes are in the right place so far with the added talent really helping to flesh out a second unit. That is also while having only the 17th most power play time per game on average.

Solidifying a second power play quarterback could be a big step, although Jaccob Slavin has done well in that spot this season.

However, looking at the rest of the playoff teams, there doesn’t seem to be much correlation between power play success and overall success so far, but again, that may be a different case come playoff time.

Penalty Kill

Team PK% Shorthanded Goals Allowed Shorthanded Goals For PK TOI/60
Team PK% Shorthanded Goals Allowed Shorthanded Goals For PK TOI/60
Florida Panthers 78.8 (19) 31 7 5:11 (26)
Colorado Avalanche 76.9 (23) 31 6 5:08 (25)
Tampa Bay Lightning 80.6 (14) 26 4 4:54 (20)
Carolina Hurricanes 89 (1) 16 2 6:06 (32)
New York Rangers 82.6 (10) 24 4 4:55 (21)
Pittsburgh Penguins 87.5 (2) 14 2 4:06 (2)
Toronto Maple Leafs 84.4 (3) 18 5 4:35 (12)
Nashville Predators 82.2 (11) 28 0 5:36 (30)
Minnesota Wild 80.3 (15) 27 1 5:36 (31)
Washington Capitals 79 (18) 26 6 4:22 (5)
St. Louis Blues 84.3 (5) 20 6 4:49 (19)
Vegas Golden Knights 79.5 (17) 26 7 4:33 (9)
Boston Bruins 83.2 (8) 24 3 5:28 (28)
LA Kings 73.4 (29) 34 5 4:33 (8)
Anaheim Ducks 83.5 (7) 22 5 4:40 (14)
Calgary Flames 84.3 (4) 19 3 5:01 (23)

The number one penalty killing team in the league is none other than the Hurricanes, who take great pride in how well they manage to play while down a man.

What is even more impressive is that Carolina has the best penalty kill, all while having the most shorthanded time per game on average among the entire league.

However, this simply won’t cut it in the playoffs, because no matter how good you may be on the PK, eventually one of those chances is going to bite you.

This is probably, legitimately, the one area where the Canes need to improve the most in the second half of the season because you can’t be taking four to five penalties in a playoff game.

The Hurricanes are also the only team in the top four to even be one of the top-10 PK teams with the Panthers, Avalanche and Lightning all being at or below league average.

The rest of the playoff teams run the gamut from having eight of the top-10 units to some in the bottom half and even into the low 20s.


The Hurricanes have a top-5 offense, a top-10 power play, elite level goaltending and the number one PK halfway through the season. They grade out very well in comparison to the rest of the playoff teams with their only real shortcoming being the quality that they give up defensively.

There are some really good teams this season, a statement backed by both data and actual results, but if the Canes can stay consistent, they should be able to hold their own against anybody.

Data collected from NHL games up to 2/7/22
Data from NHL.com, NaturalStatTrick.com, MoneyPuck.com