There has been a lot of talk of how much Carolina's defensive play has improved this year and it has showed over the last week or so. During this four-game point streak, the Hurricanes have allowed three goals and while Justin Peters deserves a lot of credit for that, the team's defensive play has also been praised. Kirk Muller has mentioned a few times that there has been a lot of focus on improving the team's play away from the puck and we have seen quite a bit of that in this young season. The penalty kill has improved drastically and the forwards have shown more commitment to playing in all three zones. How much has the defense improved compared to last year, though?
When I went through the numbers, I found some interesting results. One of them being that the Hurricanes defensive play at even strength is about at the same level it was last season from a shots allowed standpoint. The Canes are allowing almost one fewer 5v5 goal per 60 minutes than they were last season but they are still allowing over 30 shots per 60 minutes, showing that their improved defensive play is more related to goaltending. This isn't a terrible thing when you consider that Carolina has been using their third goalie for the last two weeks, but it's a little disappointing to see that the team's even strength defense hasn't improved much from last season.
That said, there are some positives to take from the Hurricanes play in their own end this year. I mentioned earlier that their penalty kill has improved and they have seen the emergence of a new shutdown defense pairing. Some might think I'm referring to Justin Faulk & Andrej Sekera, who have done the bulk of the heavy lifting, but the pairing in question is actually Ron Hainsey & Brett Bellemore. These two may not stand out that much to the casual fan, but they have quietly been Carolina's best defense pairing this season.no comments