If you've been following this blog for any amount of time then you probably know that I've been tallying and posting the Hurricanes scoring chance numbers on a game-by-game basis and now it's time to reveal the team's overall performance. However, before we get into that, let's provide some context to the team's numbers. Last week, I discussed how the Hurricanes have been a very good puck-possession team for most of the season but their scoring chance numbers had been steadily declining for the final 18 games or so. It's a weird phenomenon because scoring chances and puck-possession are usually strongly related to each other but it wasn't for the Hurricanes this season. Taking an individual look at each player's scoring chance differential will help us identify who contributed to that. I'll also post their Fenwick percentage to show how they controlled scoring chances compared to puck-possession.
In addition to that, I'm also going to post each player's individual scoring chance rate to show which players were creating the most chances. It'll be a way to identify who was creating the most offense on each line and show who could be in for a breakout season next year. Without further ado, let's take a look at the numbers.
CF = Chances For, CA = Chances against, Chance% = Scoring Chance Percentage, Fenwick% = (CAR Shots + CAR Missed Shots For/Total Shots + Missed shots), OZ% = Offensive zone start percentage, Chance/60 = Individual scoring chances per 60 minutes
One thing that should stand out to you here is that no one on the first line had a positive scoring chance differential at even strength, meaning that the team was giving up more chances than they were creating when this line was on the ice. Creating offense wasn't the problem for Eric Staal, Alex Semin & Jiri Tlusty since they each produced over 5 chances per 60 minutes, but they gave up just as much in their own end. That doesn't exactly bode well for their chances of replicating what they did this season in future years. Don't get me wrong, Semin managed to stay above water in possession, but considering the zone starts they were given, they probably should have been a lot better at controlling both scoring chances & puck possession. Staal and Semin have been very good in both departments in past seasons, so I'm interested to see how this plays out.
A reason why these three were able to get such cushy zone starts is because of the play of pretty much everyone on Jordan Staal's line. Jordan was the only Hurricanes regular forward to start more than 50% of his 5v5 draws in the defensive zone and he crushed these assignments in terms of territorial play. The Canes owned nearly 53% of the shot attempts with him on the ice and over 54% of the scoring chances. The Canes also created over 5 scoring chances for every sixty minutes he was on the ice, showing that Jordan's scoring woes this season were a product of bad luck more than anything else. I would expect him to have better numbers next season given that.
The reason why the Canes traded for Jordan was to given the team two strong centers and I think that goal has been accomplished even with his so-so boxcar stas. Jordan has been able to do his job in terms of carrying his line, as just about everyone who played with him (Skinner, Dwyer & Ruutu) were well above 50% in both scoring chances & possession. It's why I love what Jordan has brought to the team even though his scoring numbers were down this year.
Another player who performed well despite weak scoring stats was his linemate, Jeff Skinner. Skinner has been taking a fair bit of criticism this year and went through a scoring slump after returning from a concussion in February, but if you look at how much offense he was creating, it's tough to say that he wasn't doing his job. Individually, Skinner created over nine even strength scoring chances per 60 minutes, good for best on the team and he was also creating more chances than he was giving up. He was also doing this while playing tough minutes on Jordan Staal's line for a majority of the season.
I'm disappointed that it didn't translate into goals and points, we all are, but I really, really like what I saw from Skinner this season and he hasn't even turned 21 yet, so his potential could be through the roof. On top of that, I'm not sure what to say about his shooting percentage slump because there wasn't a whole lot he could do about it. Is it fair to criticize Skinner for not finding the back of the net despite creating over nine chances per 60 minutes. Seems kind of ridiculous to me since he was doing his job there. We just have to hope he continues to play well and the results should come next season.
I don't have much complaints about how the top-six performed but the rest of the forwards aren't as innocent. Tim Brent was the only bottom-six forward to be on the ice for more of Carolina's chances than the opposition and he produced barely any offense at even strength so it didn't really matter a lot. An interesting thing about a lot of the bottom-sixers is that while they were poor at controlling scoring chances, many of them were winning the territorial battle. Nash, LaRose & Bowman all had decent possession numbers but struggled mightily at controlling shots of higher quality. Is this just random noise or evidence of Bowman & LaRose's tendencies to "shoot from everywhere" and have defensive breakdowns. I'd love to see how it would look in a full-season, but I would also have a tough time saying that either of these two players were good this past season. As much as these three struggled, they do not nearly match the incompetence of Tim Wallace and Kevin Westgarth. People love their toughness but that only gets you so far when you are liabilities at even strength, which is exactly what these two were.
Scoring chances and possession also disagree here with a major one being Jamie McBain. He got absolutely pasted in his own end when it came to giving up scoring chances but was apparently able to control territorial play fairly well. Going by the eye-test, McBain is prone to a lot of mistakes that end up in the back of his net, so I'm not terribly surprised that he got lit up in scoring chances but the fact that his Fenwick percentage is so high is kind of interesting. He seemed to play better once he got moved back to the third pairing but overall I would say this year was a struggle for him.
This season was also a struggle for Tim Gleason, who got lit up in both metrics while playing some very tough minutes on top of that. I can't say that this isn't concerning because of how much weight he carries on his shoulders but Gleason was also playing with a broken foot for part of the season, so that likely played a role. Still, these are some ugly numbers right here.
Another thing both metrics agree on is that Justin Faulk played very solid in a tough-minute role. He ended up a bit underwater but his scoring chance percentage isn't that bad when you take his territorial assignments into consideration. Faulk was also on the ice for fewer scoring chances against than any other defenseman, which speaks volumes about how well his defensive game is at such a young age. The offensive part of his game is what hasn't come around yet, which is strange if you remember all of the scouting reports lauding him as more of a power play quarterback than a shutdown defenseman.
A couple other things agreed on her eis that Marc-Andre Bergeorn & Bobby Sanguinetti both did a great job at controlling territorial play but they did it with very easy assignments. Bergeron was basically never allowed to start a shift in the defensive zone while Sanguinetti was stapled to the third-pairing whenever he was healthy. Don't get me wrong, they performed well from an offensive stand-point but they have their limitations and the coaches gave them a boost with these assignments. Bergeron was also on the ice for quite a few scoring chances against despite the soft assignments and that isn't good. Joe Corvo also had this problem and he struggled to break even during five-on-five play, so I doubt he will be brought back next year.
None of these guys played enough minutes to draw any conclusions about them, but I tink it's fair to say that Brett Bellemore was the team's most impressive call-up. He performed fine as a third-pairing defenseman during his brief time in Carolina and I would really like to see a larger body of work from him.
There were also a few players who I would have liked to been given more of a chance in the bottom-six and among them were Chris Terry & Jeremy Welsh. Terry had an impressive debut and was used on the fourth line for his next two games while Welsh didn't play many minutes at all with the Canes. The team needed better depth players and these two could have potentially given it to them but they weren't given much fo a change despite playing well in limited ice-time. Andreas Nodl is someone who I also would have liked to keep on the team for a little longer since he was useful as as defensive forward.
After reviewing all of this, it's pretty clear to see that the Hurricanes struggled to win the scoring chance battle relates to their top-line's weak defensive play and most of their tough-minute defensemen giving up more chances than they were producing. It wasn't always like this since the Canes were controlling scoring chances well earlier in the season but it got worse as the year went on and never recovered. I'm not sure if the shortened season played a role in this and if their numbers would have looked any different after 82 games, but it was a problem nonetheless.