How has the Hurricanes powerplay improved?

Last season, the Hurricanes had one of the worst powerplays in the league as they ranked 24th in powerplay percentage and were in the bottom-five in getting shots on goal. Things weren’t expected to get much better this season with the departures of both Erik Cole and Joe Corvo but if you can believe it, Carolina’s powerplay has actually improved a lot when it comes to getting shots on goal. They rank 9th in the league in that department but they are still having problems finding the back of the net. Going from having the 24th ranked powerplay to 19th looks like an improvement but the powerplay is still clicking at only 16.4%, which is less than a percentage better than they were last season? They also have scored 40 5-on-4 goals this season and aren’t on pace to top their 49 goals from last season.

So, if the Canes aren’t scoring goals that many goals with the man advantage, how has their powerplay improved? We’ll look at that after the jump.

For starters, the Canes have spent less time on the powerplay this year than they did last season, This might not sound like a big difference because they are still 6th in the NHL in powerplay time but remember, the Hurricanes had more powerplay opportunities than anyone else last season and have spent 100 fewer minutes with the man advantage this year. That’s obviously going to impact how many goals they score and the amount of powerplays they get effects their overall percentage. 

The general rule of thumb when determining how effective a powerplay is looking at how many shot attempts a team is getting with the man advantage. According to Rob Vollman, you want to have at least two shot attempts per minute on the powerplay and from the looks of things, the Hurricanes are doing that. They are getting 50.4 shots per 60 minutes when playing 5-on-4, which is very good and their powerplay should be scoring a lot more than they have this year. So, what’s been going wrong? Opposing goalies are stopping 88.2% of the Hurricanes powerplay shots but that’s a pretty average number so I don’t think you can attribute their powerplays woes to bad luck. The problem could be that they aren’t producing enough scoring chances on the powerplay because their scoring chance numbers with the man advantage are much lower than their shots. It’s very possible that we’re having too many defensemen taking shots from the point while the forwards are doing enough to generate scoring chances. 

After looking at some stats from Behind The Net, it appears that this might very well be the case.

5v4 TOI/60 5v4 P/60 5v4 SF/60 5v4 On-ice Sh% PP Points
Pitkanen 3:56 2.15 55.2 8.33 4
Harrison 1:31 3.77 51.6 10.87 5
Jokinen 2:38 4.57 51.5 11.73 15
McBain 2:26 3.3 49.2 8.84 9
Spacek 1:35 4.2 46.2 12.7 5
Skinner 3:14 4.05 45.5 10 12
Staal 3:23 4.62 44 12.56 21
Ruutu 2:24 0.8 42.5 7.76 4
LaRose 1:46 2.93 40.4 14.81 6
Brent 1:25 4.23 39.3 19.75 7
Faulk 2:52 3.67 36.7 15.25 11

Notice how four of the top five players who are getting shots on goal are defensemen and strangely enough, Justin Faulk isn’t one of them. He leads all team defensemen in powerplay points but he’s getting much fewer shots on net than anyone else. I do not have access to the scoring chance data right now but as of March 1st, he was one of the team’s better players at getting chances on the powerplay so this could show that Faulk is more effective on the powerplay than basic shot stats indicate.

You’ll also notice that Tim Brent isn’t getting many shots despite having seven powerplay points. Brent was also one of the team leaders in powerplay scoring chances so I’m not completely sure how valid the data is here. One thing is for sure, the Canes seem to be finding the back of the net on the powerplay when he is on the ice but a shooting percentage of 19.75% isn’t going to keep up, especially with Brent’s low shot rate.

When comparing the powerplay to last year, you’ll notice that the one area the team has improved on is shot totals.

TOI/60 GF/60 SF/60 On-ice Sh% PP Points
Cole 2:35 2.27 44.9 9.71 8
Stillman 3:01 2.75 43.1 10.75 6
Corvo 3:52 4.17 43 12.36 23
Ruutu 2:52 3.56 42.3 12.17 16
Staal 4:18 4.69 41.1 14.93 29
Jokinen 3:14 4.24 40 11.7 18
Joslin 1:09 1.53 39.9 16.13 1
Gleason 2:03 0.071 39.7 6.67 1
McBain 2:40 2.37 38.7 12.67 8
Pitkanen 3:58 2.31 38.6 12.38 12
Skinner 2:56 3.5 37.7 12.21 18

Stillman’s numbers include those with Florida.

Skinner, Jokinen, Pitkanen, McBain and Staal have all improved their powerplay shot rates by considerable margins, but the difference is that many of them aren’t scoring as much. Staal, Jokinen and Skinner are scoring at similar rates on the powerplay as they were last season but everyone else is not. Ruutu, for instance, is producing the same amount of powerplay shots as he was last year but the team is shooting at a much lower percentage which one reason why he has only four powerplay points this year.

Another thing is that three of the team’s top powerplay shot producers from last season are all gone but they have been replaced. The improvements from Jokinen, Pitkanen, Skinner and McBain along with the addition of Jay Harrison on the powerplay have softened the blow of Corvo, Cole & Stillman leaving. Jaroslav Spacek has also been very productive on the powerplay during his time in Carolina and is scoring at a rate similar to Corvo last season. Unfortunately, his health has prevented him from putting up similar numbers.

What does this all mean? Hopefully something good in the big picture because the Hurricanes poweprlay has at least improved their ability to get shots on net despite having a few players leave and goals will come to a team that consistently gets shots and chances on net. The Hurricanes have one area down, but they need to work on getting some more quality chances out of their powerplay if they want to be a more dangerous team.