Points. In the NHL, it’s all about getting points out of every game possible. Last season the Carolina Hurricanes missed the playoffs by seven points. They wound up with 86 for the season and the last spot was filled by the Detroit Red Wings who garnered 93.
All things being equal, the Hurricanes will need to at least break the 90 point threshold and beyond. As a matter of fact, the Boston Bruins wound up with 93 and they did not make it in. At a bare minimum the ‘Canes need to shoot for 93-95 points in the upcoming season. No small task given the competition they face every season in the Eastern Conference overall, and the Metropolitan Conference specifically.
One of the Hurricanes’ weak spots last season was in the post-overtime period shootout. According to data assembled at www.sportingcharts.com, the team participated in seven shootouts and only won two. On the surface one might think, “That’s not a big deal.” But, doubling the wins to four is a plus-two in the points column. There’s a little chunk of those seven points.
I mentioned the Bruins earlier. They tied the Red Wings with 93 points but did not make the playoffs. Here is a glaring example of just how important a shootout loss can be:
— Carolina Hurricanes (@Hurricanes_News) April 6, 2016
Looking at overtime losses as a whole shows that the Hurricanes had 16 last season. Again, that’s 16 points that they left on the table at the end of games. If they improved to 50/50, they would have the magic seven points with one to spare. Silly, huh? You’re thinking, “Mark, there’s so much more that goes into a win or a loss than simply making up points on paper in hypothetical situations.”
Not So Advanced Analytics
To your point, a lower number of overtime losses doesn’t guarantee more overall points. In the two previous seasons the ‘Canes only had 11 overtime losses and in both years had fewer points, 93 in 2013-14 and 71 in 2014-15. Obviously the team has to win more games outright to gain points and advantage over the other teams in the conference. But, cutting down the overtime losses will help shave off a couple of the points needed to build upon last season’s total.
To my point, however, a look at the top of the standings last season shows that top playoff teams have fewer overtime losses. The Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup, and only had eight overtime losses during the regular season. Of the eight teams that made it into the Eastern Conference Playoffs, five had single-digit overtime losses. The stat is identical for the Western Conference.
In a Nutshell
I’m not asserting some Corsi-like analytic thing. I’m merely trying to point out that overtime losses are an important area for the ‘Canes to look at for improvement. Will cutting their last-season total of 16 in half guarantee a playoff spot? Not necessarily. But, for a team that needs at least seven points to get close, an extra eight would be very nice.
The bottom line is that this is an area in which Carolina can make efforts to improve. Doing so might just be what they need to be playing in May.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.