The Hurricanes closed out the last three games of their home stand by going 1-1-1 and slightly outchancing their opponents at even strength by owning 52.5% of the scoring chances. This will be the second week in a row that the Canes outchanced their opponents in the span of the week, which is a good sign for the team moving forward. Although, it's worth mentioning that they only outchanced one team this week (Tampa Bay 16-10) and it was by a wide margin so that likely had a an impact on their overall score. I still think it's a good sign that this team isn't getting shelled at even strength every game like they were earlier in the year and are actually managing to keep things close with most of their opponents. They could have easily been 2-1-0 this past week but they still have some areas they need to work on, one of the biggest being staying out of the box. After the jump, we will take a closer look at how the Canes did this past week and single out some top performers.no comments
There is about 20 games left in the NHL season and we still have yet to see one team emerge as the favorite in the Southeast Division. The Florida Panthers currently sit in first place by four points but I've seen biggest leads evaporate before, so this race is far from over. To get an idea of who will come out of this logjam in first place at the end of the year, I am going to take a look at each team's underlying numbers and determine who is more likely to win the division and earn that much desired playoff spot.
I'm going to do this at the end of every week until the season's over so we can see how things progress over time.
|Team||W||Pts||Corsi Tied.||Fen Close||GF||GA||Exp. W||Exp. Pts||Pace|
Before we get into anything, I'll break down the table for you. I have displayed the team's wins, points, even strength possession stats, how many goals they scored compared to how many they gave up and their expected win and point total going by Pythagorean expectations. If you don't know what that is, it's basically an expected winning percentage based on how many goals a team scores compared to how many they surrender. For instance, the Canes have scored 171 goals while giving up 197, which would give them an "expected" winning percentage of 46.4%. That equals to about 28 wins.
This method is a good way to see which teams are beating their opponents more handedly and relying less on overtime/shootouts for points. You can see the the Hurricanes have gotten the shaft in that department because they "should" be about four wins better than they are right now but the 14 OT/SO losses bring them down.
Right now, there doesn't seem to be a clear favorite in the division. All of the top four teams are separated by one win and six points and none of them are that great. Florida has been a solid team this year but the main reason why they are leading the division right now is the 12 points they've earned from overtime and shootout losses. The Panthers aren't blowing out teams this year at all as they have the same amount of "clear victories" as Carolina (10) and have earned points in 26 of the 31 one-goal games they were involved in. It's also worth mentioning that they are tied with the Caps for the division lead in fewest goals allowed, showing that good goaltending has been one of the reasons for their success. Florida technically has more points than they "should" right now but they have an edge on the Winnipeg Jets with games in hand and are slightly better at controlling possession than Washington. Their margin of error is also a bit larger than the Caps right now.
The Jets playoff chances are very realistic right now but the fact that they trail Florida by four points and have played two more games might hurt them. They haven't been overwhelmingly better than Florida this year, but I would not be surprised if they ended up winning the division when all is said and done, especially with the Caps seemingly in free fall mode. Although, Washington leads the division in clear victories (16) and have finally broke the .500 mark in corsi tied so they could possibly make a run for the division. Time is not on their side, though.
As for Tampa's recent surge, I still don't think they can take the division. That team has been awful at controlling possession all season and it hasn't changed much at all. The reason for their resurgence is due to some extremely high shooting percentages that aren't sustainable in the long run. Their goaltending is still worst in the league, too even if Mathieu Garon has improved lately. That and their depth is incredibly weak with Vinny Lecavalier and Victor Hedman out of the lineup. Steven Stamkos' line and Eric Brewer are going to need to carry this team the rest of the way if they want to make the playoffs. The Anaheim Ducks basically did the same thing last year so it's possible, but very unlikely.
That's how things look right now. I'll be interested to see what changes next week.no comments
Once upon a time, Zach Boychuk was the Carolina Hurricanes top prospect. He was selected in the first round of the 2008 NHL draft and was known for having great hands and huge scoring upside that any team would welcome. At the time, he had 82 goals and 214 points in 194 games in the WHL so it's easy to see why he was such a high draft pick. Everyone, myself included, thought that he would be playing in the Hurricanes' top six at this point but he has still yet to find a full-time spot on the roster and was just reassigned to Charlotte again.
Boychuk has shown that he can score at junior and the AHL level but he still has not been able to carry over that success into the NHL. Some say that the reason for this is that he is undersized, which is a valid point because at 5'10" and 185 lbs., he isn't exactly a big player and can get knocked off the puck easier than others. Other say that his game is more suited for a bigger ice sheet but his high scoring rate in the AHL suggests otherwise. Whatever the issue is, he just doesn't seem to fit well with the Hurricanes no matter who the coach is.
In last night's game against the Lightning, Boychuk played about eight minutes and a grand total of two shifts after the first period. When I first watched the game, I didn't notice him make any glaring mistakes and wondered what caused Kirk Muller to pull the plug on him. So, I went back and re-watched all of his shifts and jotted down anything noteworthy that he did when he was on the ice. After I examined his play more closely, I'm still a tad confused but noticed some of the deficiencies in Boychuk's game.
We will take a look at those shifts and examine Boychuk's NHL career a little closer after the jumpno comments
Cory Lavellette of Canes Country mentioned on Twitter this morning that the Hurricanes have three defensemen with at least seven goals (Harrison, Faulk & McBain) and 29 goals from their blue-line this year. That's a pretty big surprise when you consider that their best offensive defenseman has been out for over half of the season, but it did get me thinking about where the Hurricanes rank in the NHL when it comes to the amount of offense they get from defensemen.
When you think of how much "offense" a team is getting, most will look at goals as a way to judge that. As most of you probably know by now, there is a lot of luck involved with scoring goals and that is especially true when it comes to defensemen, so we have to look at more data here. For this study, I went to Behind the Net Hockey's shot data page and looked at how many even strength goals, shots on goal and missed shots each team's defense had. I also included their average shooting distance and shooting percentage for good measure. I'm going to do this with only five-on-five data for now to weed out some of the noise that special teams create, but I will include some powerplay data along with it.
After the jump, we will take a look at how much offense the Hurricanes defensemen are really supplying and where they rank in the NHL.no comments
"Progress" is a word that you will hear pundits say when referring to the Hurricanes for the rest of the year. A horrible start buried them from playoff contention and ever since Kirk Muller took over, the main thing we are looking for is effort and progress when it comes to the team's future. The effort has been there on most nights but progress was coming at a slow pace during both December and January. Last month, however, we saw the Canes on-ice performance take a few bigger steps forward. They went 6-1-4, have slowly climbed their way out of the cellar of the Eastern Conference and look like a better team. They also did not lose a game by more than a goal for the entire month. The question is, do the underlying numbers show that Carolina is improving?
Sort of. Their overall corsi tied and scoring chance percentage have made minimal improvements from the last month and they are still underwater in both categories. This is mostly because their possession metrics were so poor for the first few months but during February, their EV scoring chance percentage was 49.4%. That's actually a lot better than their performances in other months but still mediocre. Their corsi tied percentage, however, was a much stronger 51.7% during the 11 games they played in February. Considering that they were without Tuomo Ruutu for most of those games, that's very impressive.
So yes, Carolina is making progress and played some very good hockey this past month. I don't think that they are a good team yet but they are a hell of a lot better than they were in October and November. Muller has been able to get the most out of a lot of players on this team but I still think the Canes are missing a few pieces if they want to be a contending team next year. After the jump, we'll take a look at which players were controlling the scoring chances for Carolina.no comments
In an enormous three game sample, the Hurricanes did the impossible and managed to outshoot and outchance their opponents at even strength. Before we start celebrating, I should also tell you that they won only one game this past week and lost the other two via the shootout. What went wrong? In cases like this, goaltending is usually the problem but not this week. Justin Peters was outstanding in all three of his starts and the only reason they got a point against Florida. The reason why the Canes went 1-0-2 last week was because they couldn't stay out of the box against Anaheim and played a lousy third period against Florida where they sat on a two-goal lead.
The team is still learning and we're seeing some improvements but they clearly have a long way to go before they're a good team again.
After the jump, we'll take a look at some individual standouts from the past week.no comments
The situation that the Hurricanes have with their current free agents has been scrutinized to death over the past few weeks and we all got a little relief a couple of days ago when Tuomo Ruutu was re-signed to a new deal. There is still one important player whose future with the team is uncertain and that, of course, is defenseman Bryan Allen.
With names like Nicklas Grossman, Hal Gill and Pavel Kubina being traded away for 2nd round picks and more, it would make sense for Carolina to trade away Allen because his return will likely be high. He is better than all three of those defensemen and is younger than all of them except Grossman. If they are going for second round picks, Rutherford should be able to get that and more in return for Allen.
Although, is it possible that Rutherford sees Allen as an important part of the team going forward and doesn't want to trade him? Absolutely. Allen has been phenomenal in a shutdown role this year and has been one of the team's best defensemen. Carolina's playoff chances are bleak, which means the general rule of thumb is for the Canes to sell off pending free agents and other assets for draft picks and "future considerations." Jim Rutherford has done the opposite of that, signing both Tuomo Ruutu and Tim Gleason to new contracts. After the jump, I'll explain why Allen could be the next guy who is inked to a new deal.no comments
It was a short week for the Hurricanes but a successful one as they went 2-1-0 and have only lost two games in regulation over the last month. The Canes playoff hopes might be all but finished, but it's nice to see the Canes win some more games and play better than they were at the beginning of the season. That said, the Canes were outchanced both overall and at even strength this past week and one of the main reasons they won two games was because of their special teams. They created 15 scoring chances on the powerplay, scored three times and had a shorthanded tally to boot. They also allowed three powerplay goals but two of them came in the game against Montreal and there was a span of five periods where they didn't allow a PPG.
With that in mind, let's break down some of the Canes individual standouts this week.
There's been some changes in the Canes' players roles and the biggest one is probably Jussi Jokinen receiving softer minutes. He's being sent out in the offensive zone more against weaker competition which is probably why he's seen his scoring pick up lately. Jamie McBain has also drifted to near below average territory in quality of competition which is a result of him playing on the third pairing with Jaroslav Spacek. Jiri Tlusty has actually seen his assignments get tougher as he's used in the offensive zone less than 50% of the time and he's around the same level as Eric Staal in quality of competition. Aside from taht, everything here looks like it has all season.
Eric Staal - The captain's "off-year" continues to look more like just a slow start. The bounces have been going in his favor for the last couple of months and he's been quietly accumulating points during that time, as well. Five points in three games for Staal and both his scoring chance and corsi rating led the team this week.
Jussi Jokinen - Easier zone starts have been a good thing for Jokinen as he netted a goal and added two assists this week. To make things even better, his scoring chance rate was 55.2% at even strength.
Justin Peters - Played remarkable against San Jose stopping 35 of 37 shots and did a solid job in relief duty against the Islanders, as well. Now if only we could stop allowing so many shots and chances when he he's in net...
Jamie McBain - McBain had an awful game against San Jose, but he played well against Montreal and the Islanders which is enough for me to give him a positive marker. Plus, he still recorded a point in that San Jose game.
Jiri Tlusty - Tlusty was under .500 in terms of even strength scoring chances this week but he continued his seven game point streak with two goals and an assist. I'm not sure how long this pace will last but I'm fine with it continuing for as long as possible.
Jay Harrison - The Canes were out-corsied by 13 at even strength when Harrison was on the ice, and he was also on ice for two powerplay goals against. Not the best week for him.
Patrick Dwyer - Had a nice assist on Brandon Sutter's goal against the Islanders but other than that, Dwyer produced little to no offense. He was on ice for only five Carolina scoring chances and 12 of the opponents. The one saving grace was that he wasn't on ice for an even strength goal against. Instead, it was two powerplay goals.
Jeff Skinner - He was poor against Montreal and San Jose but scored on a bit of a flukely goal against the latter. Still, the Canes were getting outshot and outchanced heavily when he was on the ice this week and his entire line looked off for whatever reason. He had a strong game against the Islanders but Skinner's defensive shortcomings were on full display the past week.
Tim Brent - Did next to nothing at even strength but was on ice for all 10 of the Canes powerplay chances. Like I said, we've got a powerplay specialist here.
Anthony Stewart - 58.8% of the even strength chances went in the Canes favor when Stewart was on the ice last week, but most of that is from the Montreal game when he was placed on Staal's line. I will say that he and Derek Joslin could become Carolina's version of the Bash Brothers if they keep playing the way they have. Just hope some offense comes with all of that physicality.
Bryan Allen & Tim Gleason - Both had identical numbers and were outchanced at even strength this past week. They also were on ice for only one even strength goal. The PDO gods are kind to them.
Justin Faulk - He was even in terms of scoring chances but the Canes were getting possession moving in the right direction when Faulk was on the ice, which is great news. He also scored a beautiful powerplay goal Friday against San Jose.
Drayson Bowman - Responded from a poor game against San Jose with a monstrous game against the Islanders where he was on ice for six even strength chances. It's a shame that none of them went in because he could really use a goal right now.
Jaro Spacek - Was outchanced despite playing soft minutes but he scored two goals this week and that includes one against his former team. Hard to give a player who is scoring a negative marker.
Brandon Sutter - He had trouble containing the Tavares lines (then again, who didn't?) on Saturday night but played well against San Jose and Montreal. He also had nine shots on net and scored his 13th goal of the season this past week.
If you were to look at which Hurricanes forwards are creating the most scoring chances on the powerplay relative to their ice time, you'll see some familiar names. Jussi Jokinen, Eric Staal and Tim Brent. Wait, Tim Brent? The guy who we signed to center our fourth line and play on the penalty kill? Well, it's true. Brent trails only Jussi Jokinen in powerplay scoring chances per ice time with 9.64 chances per 15 mins. He only has a goal and an assist while playing with the man advantage but he's been creating scoring chances and has been on ice for eight powerplay goals. Muller's done some interesting things with the lineup and adding Brent to the powerplay is one that seems to be paying off.
Brent was used sparingly on the powerplay in Toronto last year so this isn't anything new to him but the general thought among Carolina fans that Brent's role would be limited to the fourth line and penalty kill. He's still the team's fourth line center but if you look at his special teams ice time, you'll notice that his powerplay and penalty kill usage have shifted in the opposite direction and the change started right around the time that Muller took over. The strange thing is that Brent has actually been very efficient on the powerplay. Remember, he is second among regular forwards in creating powerplay chances. This isn't what you'd expect from a defensive center who struggles to drive possession but for whatever reason, Brent is getting the job done on the powerplay.
What exactly is Brent doing to be so operative on the powerplay? The initial thought is that he would be a good body to create traffic in front of the net. While he can play that role, he's actually been working the point on most nights. That might come across as a surprise to some, but he's actually done a fine job in that position. Brent playing the point has helped the Canes with their zone entries on with the man advantage and he's been doing the little things that help make the Canes powerplay better.
After the jump, we'll jump into the film room and look at an example of how Brent's been helping the powerplay.no comments
The injury bug hit Carolina again earlier this week when it was announced that Tuomo Ruutu would miss three weeks with an "upper-body injury." With the trade deadline approaching and the Hurricanes needing to make a decision on what they want to do with Ruutu in the future, this injury came at the worst time possible. Just to rub salt into the wound, Ruutu has been a key part of the team's first line for the past two months and replacing him with call-ups from the AHL is going to be a tough task.
This did get me thinking about something, though. Which call-ups from Charlotte have seen the most success this year and who is the most likely to land a permanent spot on the Canes? The injury to Ruutu opens up the door for a few players and I would imagine that a few other roster spots will open up after the trade deadline depending on what happens. Carolina has quite a few forward prospects with decent upsides, so using the rest of the season to see if they fit into the team's plans wouldn't be a bad idea.
As of right now, Drayson Bowman and Jerome Samson are the two call-ups who are going to be depended on to replace Ruutu's production and then some. My guess is that both of them will get a look on the first line during the next few weeks as an audition. Both have played in the top-six roles before, so playing with Eric Staal shouldn't be anything too foreign for them. Bowman has seen modest success with the Canes and Samson has only been here for four games this season so the jury is still out on him.
How do Bowman and Samson look outside of their point totals and what other forwards could we expect to see in Raleigh? We'll explore that after the jump.no comments