For those who are tracking the Carolina Hurricanes early in the 2018-19 season, it is no surprise that the team has struggled on special teams early on.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe takes a look at both the magnitude of those struggles and also their effect on the results so far.
How bad is it?
The situation is literally and without exaggeration as bad as it can get. After another minus day for special teams on Saturday, the Carolina Hurricanes woke up on Sunday dead last at 31st in terms of penalty killing proficiency and also dead last at 31st in terms of power play productivity. Not surprisingly, the Hurricanes special teams goal differential of minus 8 is also the worst in the league.
But it will improve. Right?
Many suggest that the potential is there to improve both special teams units units and put this in the past. No doubt, special teams problems are something that can be rectified with coaching or just better play. But at the end of the day, one team is going to finish 31st in the league, so there are no guarantees that this will change. Rather, the coaching staff and/or the players must find a way to effect a change.
How much difference does it make?
One question that comes up is how and to what degree special teams troubles manifest themselves in game results. If one goes back through the Hurricanes eight games thus far and eliminates all special teams scoring, the Hurricanes would have pushed two losses into overtime and also had another overtime game still hanging in the balance. So if you count an overtime game as a half of a point (basically assuming Canes have 50/50 chance of winning in overtime), the team nets a certain 2 points and another 1.5 from three undecided overtime games. Three and a half points in only eight total games is a massive amount that prorates to a huge 35 points over the full season. That obviously is more than enough to be a difference in the standings.
How are the Hurricanes aside from special teams?
So with special teams dragging everything down so significantly, the question is how the Hurricanes have fared at even strength so far in 2018-19. The results are almost the exact opposite. At even strength, the Hurricanes rank a respectable 8th out of 31 teams in terms of goals allowed per game and an even better 3rd in terms of even strength goals scored per game. When you put the two together the Hurricanes are the tied for 2nd in the entire NHL In terms of even strength goal differential at an impressive plus 9. At a summary level, the Hurricanes are scoring three and allowing only two at even strength each game but are giving away the full plus one to the special teams deficit.
After three days off to make adjustments for Saturday’s game, the results were the same (minus one) and the eye test similarly did not suggest better results were imminent. The Hurricanes are back on the horse in Detroit on Monday but after that will have another three days at home to practice special teams before the next game. The time is now to figure something out before things drift too far in the wrong direction.
Saturday’s post-game interview with Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour primarily struck a tone of patience and not panic. On the one hand, a bit of steadiness might be right for the young roster especially considering the overall results are decent. But at the same time, the ‘things will get better if we just stick to it’ tone hearkens back to Canes struggles in the recent past. (Did anyone else find themselves having flashbacks and curling up into the fetal position watching that interview?)
If he is not there, I would think that Brind’Amour should be close to shifting a couple players around. If I was head coach, I would to simple first. I would stress a bias for shooting when possible and couple that with making sure players like Valentin Zykov are parked in front of the goalie when that happens. In addition, I would consider making adjustments to try to get more shots from the team’s best scorers.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Did you realize that things were as bad as they are (31st in both power play and penalty kill)?
2) What do you see as the biggest problem with the power play? If you were the coach, what changes would you make?
3) What do you see as the biggest problem with the penalty kill? If you were the coach what changes would you make?