A Christmas Wish for the Hurricanes

The Carolina Hurricanes season is like a clogged freeway. There is just no movement. Tuesday, they went out and lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs, 8-1. Thursday, they beat the Nashville Predators in their house, 4-1. Win or lose, the Hurricanes stayed in last place in the Metropolitan Division and within three to five points of a wild card playoff spot. Something has to give.

While the team has underperformed in many ways, they are still theoretically in the mix. Ironically, they have been given a gift. Like a wrapped present under the tree, with a gift card on which a note if neatly typed, “Your season up until now is not counting against you. What Christmas wish can I grant you?” I would open the present and hope for more productive offense.

Carolina Hurricanes forward, Victor Rask can play a huge part in getting his team going                   (Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

More Productive Offense Would Help

As of this writing, the Hurricanes and the Philadelphia Flyers are tied at the division-bottom with 37 points on the season. They are also both three points away from a wild card spot. For all of the complaining about how bad the season is going for the ‘Canes, the fact remains that there is still a lot of hockey to be played. The Hurricanes are not out of the playoffs.

In order to get to the playoffs, the team will have to score more goals. This would be my first wish. I wrote recently in ‘Carolina Hurricanes Offensive Offense‘ that a team has to score more than its opponents if they want to win. That is not profound in any way, but it is true. Taking a look at the goal differential this season provides all we need to know about how important getting this first wish granted will be to the team’s success.

The Hurricanes are ranked 24th in the NHL in goal differential, the difference between goals for and goals against. They are sporting a negative 12 goal differential. That is not good, nor is it the kind of statistic upon which playoff runs are made. Looking at the teams ahead of them in this statistic shows that teams that are getting the puck into the net are also showing up in the playoff race. The Tampa Bay Lightning have a +42 goal differential, and they are at the top of the NHL standings.

What is crazy about the analytics of this season is that the Hurricanes are at the top of the list in shots-on-goal differential. They have attempted 1,179 shots on goal and allowed 1,009. The team is firing away at their opponents’ goals. The puck has just not been finding its way into the net. For the optimist, this means that if the Hurricanes keep swinging, pretty soon they will start connecting and the scoring will resolve itself.

Rob Found wrote for thesportsjournal.org a study entitled, ‘Goal-based Metrics Better Than Shot-based Metrics at Predicting Hockey Success.’ While fairly detailed, Found made one statement that simplifies it all, and proves what I am trying to convey. Found wrote,

Goals can only come from shots, shots can only come from possession of the puck, and possession is an inevitable result of winning faceoffs, getting power plays, forcing turnovers, and so on.

That’s the nutshell of what the Hurricanes need to work on immediately. Getting command of the puck, shooting the puck, rebounding the puck and hopefully seeing the puck go into the back of the net. It sounds simple and easy, especially coming from those of us who are not wearing the skates and sweaters.

Derek Ryan
Carolina Hurricanes forward Derek Ryan (James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

The fact does remain that the Hurricanes can salvage their season. Amazing as that may sound, they can break free from the logjam that is the Metropolitan Division. But, time is running out. They need to keep shooting, but also do what head coach Bill Peters has asked and that is to liven front of the net and try to collect those “greasy goals.”

If the team can start to get more of their many shots-on-goal to convert to pucks in the net, then success will follow. But, time is going to be a factor, and that will be sooner rather than later. Christmas wishes don’t always come true, but with hard work for this team can get positive momentum moving for an extended period of time. They can turn this 2018 part of this season into something special.

My Christmas wish is for the Hurricanes to keep shooting and start making some of those many shots show up on the scoreboard. If my wish comes true, they might just be in the playoffs.

Make sure to use the comments section to give me your Christmas wish on behalf of your Carolina Hurricanes team.