The fantastic start that the Charlotte Checkers got off to at the beginning of the year is looking rather important right now, as the team still sits in first place in the South Division despite losing their last five games. It was said that the Checkers were playing over their heads a little bit during October and November and that they would eventually cool down, which seems to be happening now. The Checkers high-powered offense has been limited to only nine goals over their last five games and they have been outscored 23-9 overall. It was very unlikely for the Checkers to keep scoring at the rate they were previously, but the offense has dried up a bit during the last few games and it doesn't help that they are giving up a lot at the other end of the rink, either. Has the Checkers performance on the ice been as ugly as it looks on the scoresheet, though?
In some ways, yes but they haven't been playing as bad as one would think.
Charlotte's Last Five Games
Other than goal differential, some of the Checkers numbers from the last five games aren't that horrible. The only game where they were completely destroyed was the 7-2 shellacking they took against Oklahoma City. Other than that, they have been fairly competitive in most of these games despite the terrible goal differential. Even with that stinker against OKC, the Checkers have been getting barely outshot during this stretch. So if the team hasn't been playing that poorly then why are they getting outscored so much?
The answer to that all comes down to shooting percentage, something that a lot of players on the Checkers have been getting the better of this season. There was a point where the Checkers scored on over 30% of their powerplay opportunities and had a few players with shooting percentages over 20%. Anyone who has taken a basic statistics course should know that those numbers aren't going to sustain over time and are going to come down eventually and that's exactly what we're seeing happen to the Checkers here. As a team, they have been shooting at only 5.8% during this stretch and their powerplay has converted only three times out of 20 opportunities. The first number is a much more extreme case of regression as the Checkers have seen their luck go in the complete opposite direction of where it was earlier. I don't think the team will get back to scoring as much as they were earlier in the season, but the offense should pick up a little if they continue to stay somewhat competitive in games.
On the other end, you have the team giving up 23 goals in 5 games and that can be traced back to goaltending. Dan Ellis and Justin Peters have a combined save percentage .865 during this stretch, which just isn't going to get it done. I'm not usually one to blame the goaltenders for everything because the defense obviously has to help them out a little but a save percentage under .900 during any stretch of time is usually a bad sign no matter what. I'll cut them some slack in the second OKC and first Rockford games, as the defense gave up a ton of shots those nights but it's hard to defend them in the three other contests. This is only five games and their true talent level is above what they have shown in this small sample size, but these two are going to need to play a little better.
That last statement sums up the Checkers last five games fairly accurately, too. This team isn't as good as what we saw for most of October and November but they aren't as bad as they've played the last five games either. I would expect them to get on track soon and they have a good chance to turn things around for the rest of the month with seven of the remaining 11 games coming at home. The Checkers seem to have a knack for extremes, so we could be in for another roller coaster ride later on in the year.