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Carolina Hurricanes vs. New Jersey Devils Series Preview: Defensemen, Penalty Kill

The Canes and Devils will square off in second round, with a familiar face leading the New Jersey blue liners.

NHL: APR 27 Eastern Conference First Round - Rangers at Devils Photo by Andrew Mordzynski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Carolina Hurricanes handled their business in the first round, knocking out the New York Islanders in six games.

The New Jersey Devils were taken to game seven by the New York Rangers, prevailing with a 4-0 win Monday night to give the Devils their first series win since 2012.

Now the Hurricanes and Devils will square off starting Wednesday night in Raleigh, as the high-scoring defensive corps in Carolina will meet a team with plenty of blue line production of its own, led by the former Hurricane Dougie Hamilton.

Ahead of this second-round series, we’ll take a look here at how the Canes and Devils match up on the blue line and the penalty kill. We did this same exercise here for the first-round series, and the Canes’ side of things will be copied-and-pasted from that article with some first-round stats added in.

So, here’s how Carolina and New Jersey match up defensively and on the penalty kill:


By the Numbers:

Defensive Stats

Stat Carolina Hurricanes New Jersey Devils
Stat Carolina Hurricanes New Jersey Devils
Goals Against 210 (2nd in NHL) 222 (8th in NHL)
GA/GP 2.56 (2nd) 2.70 (8th)
xGA/60 2.56 (1st) 2.79 (3rd)
Unblocked Shot Attempts Against/GP 35.65 (1st) 40.63 (5th)
Shots on Goal Against/GP 26.0 (1st) 28.2 (5th)
Goals from Defensemen 59 49
% of Team Goals from Defensemen 23% 17%
Points from Defensemen 195 188
% of Team Points from Defensemen 28% 24%

Defensemen Leaders

Category Carolina Hurricanes New Jersey Devils
Category Carolina Hurricanes New Jersey Devils
Goals Brent Burns, Brady Skjei (18) Dougie Hamilton (22)
Assists Brent Burns (43) Dougie Hamilton (52)
Points Brent Burns (61) Dougie Hamilton (74)
Hits Calvin de Haan (84) Brendan Smith (102)
Average TOI Brent Burns (23:13) Dougie Hamilton (21:46)
Plus/Minus Jalen Chatfield (+23) Ryan Graves (+34)

Playoff Leaders

  • Goals - Jaccob Slavin (1) / Dougie Hamilton, Jonas Siegenthaler (1)
  • Assists - Brent Burns (5) / Dougie Hamilton, John Marino, Damon Severson (2)
  • Points - Brent Burns (5) / Dougie Hamilton (3)
  • Hits - Brady Skjei (19) / Kevin Bahl (15)
  • ATOI - Brent Burns (23:51) / John Marino (22:57)

Anticipated Pairings

Carolina Hurricanes

Jaccob Slavin - Brent Burns
Brady Skjei - Brett Pesce
Shayne Gostisbehere - Jalen Chatfield

Extra: Calvin de Haan

New Jersey Devils

Jonas Siegenthaler - Dougie Hamilton
Ryan Graves - John Marino
Kevin Bahl - Damon Severson

Extra: Brendan Smith

The Breakdown

For the second series in a row, the Hurricanes’ elite defensive corps is facing another team with a strong grouping on the blue line. The big name is obviously Dougie Hamilton, who put up simply insane numbers this season for New Jersey and was a big reason the Devils were as strong as they were.

Copied from the Canes-Islanders preview, here’s a bit on the Canes blue liners:

From the blue line standpoint, the Hurricanes have been one of the best teams in the league all season long. The Canes’ have gotten an insane load of goals from defensemen, with both Brent Burns AND Brady Skjei tying a team record with 18 goals in the regular season.

Beyond just the offensive production, the Canes rank second in the NHL in goals against per game, first in xGA/60, first in unblocked shots against and first in shots on goal against. Simply put, the Hurricanes have had the best defensive corps in the NHL this year.

Looking into the actual pairings, there weren’t many duos in the NHL better than both of Carolina’s top two defensive pairs. In expected goals for (minimum 200 minutes played together), the Slavin-Burns duo was best in the NHL at 67.2% expected goals.

So who was number 2?

That’d be Skjei and Pesce at 65.2%.

It’s not just the scoring ability that jumps out though. When looking at expected goals against per 60 minutes (again, minimum 200 minutes played together), the best pairing in the league was Gostisbehere and Chatfield with just 1.46 xGA/60. In that category, Slavin-Burns were 16th best among 171 qualified pairings at 2.1 xGA/60, while Skjei and Pesce were 27th at 2.24 xGA/60.

And for some new analysis, the Hurricanes’ defensemen were actually slightly less offensively productive against the Islanders than they had been in the regular season.

Brent Burns was phenomenal with a team-high five assists, but Carolina had just one goal from defensemen (Jaccob Slavin) in the series with the bottom two pairings (Pesce, Skjei, Gostisbehere, Chatfield) combining for just four points. That’s not to say they were bad — they weren’t — but it just was a bit more of the forwards carrying the scoring load than it had been in the regular season.

On the other side of the ice, New Jersey also boasts a blue line that can contribute with the puck offensively without giving up too much on the other end. The Devils ranked fifth or better in the NHL in unblocked shot attempts against, shots on goal against and xGA/60, with still a pretty good chunk of offensive production.

New Jersey Devils 2022-23 5v5 Defense

The obvious contributor was Hamilton, who smashed his career highs this season with 22 goals and 74 points, 24 more points than he had ever scored in a season before. The Devils’ top pairing of Siegenthaler-Hamilton was fifth in the NHL this season with 51.6 expected goals for, while the Graves-Marino pairing was also top 20 at 37.3.

Defensively though, none of the Devils’ pairings were quite as strong as Carolina’s. As mentioned above, both Carolina’s Gostisbehere-Chatfield and Slavin-Burns pairings were top 20 in the league in xGA/60 (minimum 200 minutes). For New Jersey, the pairing of Smith-Severson (unlikely to be seen in the playoffs) was 19th, while Bahl-Severson was 24th. Graves-Marino was 43rd, while Siegenthaler-Hamilton was 59th.

Limiting Hamilton will be a huge key to this series for the Hurricanes, and his ability to produce is far greater than even what Burns offers the Canes. That being said, from a defensive standpoint this matchup gives the clear edge to the Hurricanes.

Penalty Kill

By the Numbers:

Penalty Kill

Stat Carolina Hurricanes New Jersey Devils
Stat Carolina Hurricanes New Jersey Devils
PP Goals Against 40 (T-3rd in NHL) 40 (T-3rd in NHL)
Times Shorthanded 256 (14th Most in NHL) 230 (26th Most in NHL)
PK% 84.4% (2nd) 82.6% (4th)
PPGA/GP 0.49 (T-3rd) 0.49 (T-3rd)
TS/GP 3.12 (14th Most) 2.80 (26th Most)
Shorthanded TOI/GP 5:16 (9th Most) 4:49 (21st Most)
Shorthanded Goals For 11 (4th) 9 (T-8th)

Playoff Penalty Kills:

Carolina Hurricanes - 94.4% (1/18)

New Jersey Devils - 82.1% (5/28)

Most-Frequent Penalty Killers:

Carolina Hurricanes

  • Jaccob Slavin — 2:42 (Average Shorthanded Time on Ice)
  • Brett Pesce — 2:24
  • Jordan Staal — 2:21
  • Brady Skjei — 2:18
  • Brent Burns — 2:05
  • Jordan Martinook — 2:00

New Jersey Devils

  • John Marino — 3:00
  • Ryan Graves — 2:24
  • Jonas Siegenthaler — 2:13
  • Nico Hischier — 2:05
  • Yegor Sharangovich — 1:59
  • Erik Haula — 1:56

Shorthanded Goal Scorers:

Carolina Hurricanes: Sebastian Aho (3), Teuvo Teravainen (2), Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Seth Jarvis, Brady Skjei, Jordan Staal, Jordan Martinook, Jalen Chatfield

New Jersey Devils: Nico Hischier (3), Erik Haula (2), Yegor Sharangovich (2), Dawson Mercer, Damon Severson

The Breakdown

Another series, another matchup of exceptional penalty kills.

The Canes’ PK was the second-best in the NHL in the regular season. The Devils’ was fourth. The difference this series is the Devils’ PP was 13th, much better than both the Hurricanes’ (20th) and Islanders’ (30th).

New Jersey Devils 2022-23 Penalty Kill

But still, two strong penalty kills will make man advantages a battle still. In the opening round, Carolina’s penalty kill was 17 or 18 (94%) as it absolutely stifled the Islanders, while the Canes’ power play was 5 for 25 (20%). The Devils’ penalty kill was 24 for 29 (83%), though that’s not the worst effort against the deadly PP of the Rangers. New Jersey’s power play was 4 for 24 (17%) in the series.

The penalty kills are good on both sides, folks.