Hitting the net

Even through the Hurricanes recent struggles, one thing the team has been doing well is controlling territorial play. They are a top-10 team in the NHL in controlling 5v5 shot attempts and are around the same area in close game situations. This suggests that the Hurricanes recent struggles are nothing they can't pull out of and they should be able to get back on track if they continue to control territorial play. However, something that I have been noticing is that while they are controlling the shots & territorial play, they are not getting the better end of scoring chances at even strength. Carolina has been outchanced in all of their last four games despite having more shot attempts than the opposing team, which makes me a little more skeptical about how they'll perform down the stretch.

One reason why the team's scoring chance percentage is lower than their possession rate could be due to how often they miss the net. I mentioned how this was a problem in the New Jersey game and it really goes beyond that. How many times this season have we seen the Hurricanes set up a good looking play in the offensive zone only to have a shot go just wide of the net or not get a shot away at all? Most Canes fans will answer "too many times." Some scoring chance counters do count missed shots as chances but I do not, so missed shots could be a reason why they are struggling in this department.

The question is how often to the Hurricanes miss the net compared to the rest of the league and who are the greatest offenders on the team? Thanks to Hockey Analysis, we can find out the answer to this.

According to Hockey Analysis, the Hurricanes are fifth in the league in total number of missed shots during 5v5 play. This looks pretty bad at first glance, but when you look at what percentage of their shots have missed the net, they are slightly better in the rankings.

Team Miss%
Winnipeg 22.7%
Dallas 22.6%
New Jersey 22.4%
Calgary 22.3%
Los Angeles 22.3%
Anaheim 22.1%
Toronto 22.1%
Phoenix 22.0%
Nashville 21.8%
Carolina 21.7%
Montreal 21.5%
Pittsburgh 21.5%
Ottawa 21.5%
San Jose 21.2%
NY Rangers 21.0%
St. Louis 21.0%
Philadelphia 20.7%
Vancouver 20.7%
Detroit 20.5%
Boston 20.3%
Tampa Bay 20.1%
Florida 20.1%
Edmonton 19.9%
Washington 19.9%
Colorado 19.7%
NY Islanders 19.6%
Minnesota 19.5%
Chicago 18.7%
Buffalo 18.6%
Columbus 18.1%

Carolina ranks only 12th in terms of how many of their shots miss the net, which isn't that bad but it's still in the top (or bottom) half of the league, so missing the net is a problem for the Hurricanes. Having a lot of missed shots doesn't necessarily mean that a team is firing blanks because shots off the goal-post count as misses, but I feel that a lot of skilled players have the ability to "pick corners" and get pucks on net. Being able to create any sort of shot helps your team generate possession but creating shots and chances ultimately lead to more goals and the Hurricanes are having some trouble finding the net this season. Not as much as the Dallas Stars or their division rival Winnipeg Jets, but they are still pretty high up on the list.

This problem isn't team-wide, as the Canes have plenty of guys who have been able to get the puck on net from dangerous scoring areas, but they also have a few guys who seem to have a busted radar when it comes to shooting the puck at even strength. Thanks to Behind the Net's shooting stats, we can see who these players are.

Player Shots Misses Sh% Miss%
Alexander Semin 66 35 5.0% 34.7%
Patrick Dwyer 41 20 6.6% 32.8%
Jussi Jokinen 41 20 4.9% 32.8%
Tim Gleason 19 9 0.0% 32.1%
Jamie McBain 17 8 4.0% 32.0%
Chad LaRose 27 12 2.6% 30.8%
Tim Wallace 19 8 3.7% 29.6%
Eric Staal 55 23 15.4% 29.5%
Jeff Skinner 68 28 6.3% 29.2%
Drayson Bowman 47 18 3.1% 27.7%
Justin Faulk 29 11 2.5% 27.5%
Jay Harrison 24 9 6.1% 27.3%
Riley Nash 18 6 12.5% 25.0%
Joe Corvo 32 9 7.3% 22.0%
Joni Pitkanen 22 6 3.6% 21.4%
Bobby Sanguinetti 23 6 3.5% 20.7%
Tim Brent 12 3 0.0% 20.0%
Jordan Staal 53 13 9.1% 19.7%
Jiri Tlusty 57 14 16.9% 19.7%

The Carolina player who has missed the net on most of his 5v5 shots is Alexander Semin, and this shouldn't surprise anyone who follows the team. Semin shoots the puck more than anyone else on the team and while he does get it one net a fair bit, he also has a ton of missed shots, too. He has seven more misses than the next closest player, Jeff Skinner, and misses the net nearly 2% more than Jussi Jokinen & Patrick Dwyer. Semin has been a phenomenal territorial player for the Canes this season and has created a ton of scoring chances, and he could have even more if he hit the net more often.

You might also notice that I included each player's 5v5 shooting percentage in this chart, as well. This is to differentiate the players who might be falling on bad luck (Jeff Skinner) and those who have a poor shooting percentage because they struggle to find the net (Patrick Dwyer & Jussi Jokinen). This has been a big problem for Jokinen this season, as he has gotten into prime areas to score numerous times but ended up missing the net or hitting the goal post on the shot. That's partially bad luck, but Jokinen has had some responsibility for his own shortcomings, as well.

Two players who haven't had trouble finding the net are Jordan Staal and Jiri Tlusty. The latter has gotten a ton of shooting luck this season with 12 even strength goals and the latter has scored only six times during 5v5 play. Personally, I think it would serve Staal well to shoot the puck more often because he has been able to get it on net often and the goals will eventually come to him based on the data here. Tlusty has received some good fortune with his shooting percentage, but he always seems to get into great scoring areas and has taken advantage of it.

Missing the net isn't the worst thing in the world if your team is trying to control territorial play and sometimes there isn't much they can do about it. However, this has been a problem for the Hurricanes the last few games when it comes to them winning the scoring chance battle and I'm not sure if there is much the team can do about it. The percentages will even out eventually for players like Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner and Drayson Bowman, but I'm not sure what to do about some of the guys who continually fire wide other than hope it improves.

Possession leads to shots, which eventually leads to scoring chances and goals. The Hurricanes have been doing one part of that equation by possessing the puck a lot and creating zone time, but it hasn't been leading to many chances lately. Not getting shots on net is a reason why and the most we can do is just hope it eventually improves.