Off and Running – Carolina’s first ten games

After yesterday's overtime loss to the Flyers, I did a quick Twitter poll to see what the general feeling was about Carolina's first ten games. There were a lot of mixed responses but the most common answers I got from fans were were "improving," "fun to watch" and "inconsistent." So the general consensus among fans seems to be that this team is heading in the right direction but they still have issues that they need to sort out before they get to where they want to be. Overall, there were more optimistic/hopeful responses than negative, so fans are a little more optimistic about this team.

Fans spirits appear to be higher than they were a year ago, which is why it might surprise some people that the Hurricanes also had 11 points after their first 10 games last season. Their records were very different as the Canes have won at least half of their games whereas last season they were only 4-3-3 and gained a few points from overtime/shootout losses. Their goal differential of -2 is also the same as it was after 10 games last year, which is pretty interesting because of how badly things unraveled after that point. 

The good news is that this team appears to be less in danger of falling off a cliff and out of the playoff race early like last year's squad was. Their goal differential might be the same as it was after ten games last year, but the Canes have done a much better job at controlling the shot battle, which should lead to more positive things if they can keep it up. More importantly, they are also a much stronger team when it comes to even strength play.

Score effects (i.e. playing from behind due to giving up the first goal) have obviously played a role in the Hurricanes high shot totals, but they are still producing a lot of offense and are controlling possession more often than not. The only time they struggled to do so for an entire game was against Ottawa this Thursday. It's also worth noting that the Canes are outscoring their opponents at even strength (granted, it's only by one goal) so their goal differential is beginning to match their play in that area of the game.

Last season, the Canes were getting plowed in the shot battle at even strength even during close games and the percentages eventually caught up to them, which resulted in a poor month of November. Will winning the shot battle lead to a stronger next ten games this season? That remains to be seen, but history suggests that it will. That being said, I'm expecting their shot percentage to decrease a bit over the next few weeks because it's unsustainably high right now at over 60%. Scoring chances also paint a positive picture with the Canes outchancing their opponents 147-132 at even strength through the first ten games. It's much stronger than where they were at this point last year and should hopefully lead to some more wins.

Aside from special teams, the big concern with this team is their defense. They have been able to produce enough offense to be a net positive overall, but they are still giving up over 30 shots per game and 18-19 chances…at even strength. It was kind of expected with the defense corps being over-populated with puck-moving defensemen and not enough shutdown-type players. This style of run-and-gun hockey is very fun to watch and probably more suited for this roster, but it puts a lot of strain on the goaltending and I'm not sure how successful it will be in the long-run.

I mentioned in a recap that the Hurricanes aren't going to be able to outscore their problems every night and they haven't been able to so far this year. Their team shooting percentage at 5v5 is only 6.6% so they are probably due for some regression there but overall point remains. That being said, the Canes first 10 games this season have me feeling somewhat confident about this team but there obviously some concerns and holes to fill. They're still playing well territorially and are due for some bounces to go their way, so I think Carolina finishes these next 10 games with a record above .500.