The curious case of the Carolina Hurricanes

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Maybe it’s their system.

Maybe it’s their goalies…or their defense…or their forwards.

Or maybe it’s just really, really bad luck.

Whatever it is, the Carolina Hurricanes are off to another tough start, and this start is looking a lot like last year’s start.

Recall last November when GM Ron Francis said of his 6-10-2 squad: “The frustrating thing for us is that in five of our losses we clearly were the better team but did not win.”

It’s a similar story this season. The ‘Canes are 3-5-4, dead last in the league, and in all five of their regulation losses, they ended up outshooting their opponents.

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Which — you guessed it — brings us to the goaltending. Cam Ward was good last night in New Jersey, but on the season his save percentage is just .899. That’s better than Eddie Lack‘s disastrous .856 mark, but it’s still not very good.

Now, before we bash the goalies too much, consider what head coach Bill Peters had to say a couple of weeks ago after a 4-2 loss in Detroit:

“They had some odd-man rushes, a few we would like back. (There were) too many easy goals; too many soft plays.”

For example, this breakaway by Dylan Larkin:

And here’s Thomas Vanek getting wide open in the slot for a one-timer:

So it’s not all on the goalies. It never is.

But let’s face it, every team has defensive breakdowns, and that’s when the goaltender has to step up. Francis gambled when he brought Ward and Lack back, and right now it doesn’t look like a very smart gamble.

That’s the goaltending story. Let’s talk about the forwards now, because you have to score in order to win, and that’s another area where the ‘Canes and their 21st-ranked offense are again falling short.

Elias Lindholm has 27 shots, but no goals.

Sebastian Aho has 24 shots, but no goals.

Joakim Nordstrom has 17 shots, but no goals.

In fact, of all the NHL forwards who have yet to score a goal, three of the 10 with the most shots play for the Hurricanes.

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Typically, we’d chalk this up to bad luck, and we’d say it was due to even out over the long run.

Except, as mentioned, the same sort of stuff happened last year, when the ‘Canes finished with the second-lowest shooting percentage (8.0%) in the league. This season, it’s slightly higher (8.5%), but not by much.

So, are the shooters not good enough at shooting? Are they not getting to the scoring areas? Is the system too conservative?

All good questions. We’re just not sure of the answers.

What we can say is this:

There’s a stat called PDO that combines shooting percentage with save percentage. It’s mostly used as a measure of luck, because over an 82-game season it’s expected to settle in the neighborhood of 100.

Last season, the highest PDO finished at 101.7, by the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals, the lowest at 98.0, by the 30th-place Maple Leafs.

Here’s where the ‘Canes have ranked in PDO the last few years:

2012-13: 28th (97.9)
2013-14: 25th (99.1)
2014-15: 28th (97.4)
2015-16: 29th (98.2)
2016-17: 29th (95.9)

When it keeps happening, it’s probably not just bad luck.

So whatever it is, the ‘Canes need to figure it out, because the fan base is clearly tired of all the losing. Sunday against the Devils, just 8,650 bothered to show up to PNC Arena, and that’s not going to quell the relocation speculation.