Through 34 games, the Carolina Hurricanes are 15-12-7 which puts them on pace for 89 point which would be another step up from last season’s 86 points but would also likely leave the team 6-8 points short of an elusive playoff berth.
Preseason concerns mostly unfounded thus far
Entering the season, many would have pegged lack of scoring and potential goaltending issues as 2 weaknesses with the potential of holding the Hurricanes back in 2016-17. Neither has been an issue. After a rough but very brief start, Cam Ward has been at least good enough and often better than that. In a season that sees the top netminders’ save percentages up in a .930 range, I would not call Ward elite, but his .918 save percentage safely ranks in th emiddle of the pack at 22nd out of 46 NHL netminders who qualify statistically.
The Hurricanes offense has similarly been at least deent and arguably better than expected. There was a dry stretch during a road-heavy late fall schedule, but the team is at least okay ranking 18th in goals per game and 9th in terms of power play proficiency.
Especially with regard to scoring, there is room for improvement, but the situation is not bad.
When I go back through the ups and downs of the 2016-17 season thus far, 2 somewhat related Achilles’ heels jump out.
Even with a slow 1-3 start at home, the Hurricanes are a sizzling 10-3-1 at home including a 9-0-1 mark in the current 10-game home point streak that dates all the way back to the team’s last home loss in regulation on November 10. But the road has been another story. The Hurricanes have limped to a 5-9-6 record away from Raleigh.
Based on the record, one might assume that the Hurricanes were regularly taking lumps on the road, but a deeper look tells a different story. To go with the 6 overtime/shootout losses, the Hurricanes also have 6 other regulation losses by a single goal. That makes for 12 games in which another goal would have yielded at least 1 more point in the standings and possibly 2 after pushing regulation losses into overtime to play for an extra point.
Inability to hold a lead away from home
In seeing that the Hurricanes have lost 12 of 15 road games by a single goal, one might assume that the Hurricanes have just been unable to push ahead on the road. That too is not accurate. The Hurricanes troubles have not been with establishing leads on the road but rather with protecting them late in games.
The Hurricanes have lost 6 games that they were leading entering the third period (5 in overtime, 1 in regulation). The Hurricanes have also lost 5 more games in which they entered the third period tied (1 in overtime, 4 in regulation). No matter how you slice and dice the numbers, the Hurricanes have not been good in third periods on the road especially defending leads and have left up a ton of points on the table because of it.
* 2-12-6: The Hurricanes record in third periods on the road.
* 6: Number of road losses for games in which the Hurricanes were leading entering the third period (5 overtime, 1 regulation).
* 5: Number of road losses for games in which the Hurricanes entered the third period tied (1 overtime, 4 regulation).
* 16: Number of points left on the table (not earned) in road games in which the Hurricanes entered the third period either tied or with a lead
For the Carolina Hurricanes, taking another step up and into the playoff chase will require more points earned on the road over the rest of the 2016-17 season. Through 20 games, the Hurricanes have been pretty good through 2 periods on enough nights but good 40-minute efforts have been regularly sabotaged by abysmal third period play. A look through the first 20 road games suggests that the Hurricanes are a single period and some finishing ability away from doing much better on the road and winning the points necessary away from home.