Originally written on Shutdown Line  |  Last updated 10/7/14

The Hurricanes finished January with a record of 5-3-4 which is the first winning record they have had in a month this season. Definitely a huge milestone for a team that has struggled as much as the Canes have this year. Things do seem to be getting better under Kirk Muller, though. They are winning slightly more games, they earned points in over half of their games in January and if they don't win, they are at least competitive. The one thing that seemingly hasn't improved is the team's underlying numbers as they are stuck on a treadmill there. Their scoring chance percentage at even strength improved by only .01% from December to 47.4%, which is still pretty bad in the grand scheme of things. No one said that climbing out of the basement of the Eastern Conference would be easy.

Cam Ward was a big reason why the Canes earned 14 points in the standings in January as he had his best month of the season. Carolina was also outchanced in half of their games which is actually not bad compared to the rest of the season but still could use some improvement. Regardless of what the underlying numbers say, I have seen some improvements with this team and hopefully they can start to outshoot and outchance their opponents on a more regular basis because that is what is going to lead to more success. As of right now, Ward is dictating most of our success which is fine but not stable with how much goalie performance can vary. Most of the time, it's all about the 18 skaters in front of the goalie.

Let's see how those skaters have performed through scoring chances after four months of hockey.

Forwards

Player EV TOI 5v5 SCF 5v5 SCA EV CF/15 EV CA/15 SC% Ozone% Dec. Diff Jeff Skinner 529.2 173 150 4.904 4.252 0.536 52.4 0.002 Jussi Jokinen 635.23 178 161 4.203 3.802 0.525 52.6 0.004 Chad LaRose 627.85 187 176 4.468 4.205 0.515 42.9 -0.011 Drayson Bowman 175.73 52 50 4.439 4.268 0.51 50 -0.024 Eric Staal 837 243 237 4.355 4.247 0.506 53.4 -0.003 Tuomo Ruutu 727.25 205 203 4.228 4.187 0.503 55.4 -0.012 Jerome Samson 38.05 12 12 4.731 4.731 0.5 66.7 N/A Riley Nash 38.58 5 5 1.944 1.944 0.5 69.6 0.125 Jiri Tlusty 660.38 155 157 3.521 3.566 0.497 49.1 -0.007 Alexei Ponikarovsky 474.85 139 146 4.391 4.612 0.488 49.5 0.008 Zac Dalpe 137.4 32 34 3.493 3.712 0.484 63 0.079 Average


3.651 4.051 0.474

Patrick Dwyer 635.02 117 138 2.76 3.26 0.459 37.4 0.024 Brandon Sutter 740.97 163 202 3.3 4.089 0.446 36.3 0.005 Andreas Nodl 391.3 48 71 1.84 2.722 0.403 46.9 0.093 Tim Brent 406.9 68 101 2.507 3.723 0.402 48.6 0.052 Anthony Stewart 371.93 56 86 2.258 3.468 0.394 54.3 0.021 Brett Sutter 108.8 11 24 1.517 3.309 0.314 41.5 N/A

EV TOI = Even strength time on ice, 5v5 SCF = Scoring chances for at 5v5, 5v5 SCA = Scoring chances allowed at 5v5, EV CF/15 = even strength chances created per 15 mins., EV CA/15 = even strength chances allowed per 15 mins, OZone% = offensive zone start percentage, Dec. Diff = Scoring chance differential compared to December.

Jeff Skinner is at the top of the pack here as he is the Canes best forward in terms of creating chances. His play away from the puck could use some improvement but he is proving to be dynamic offensively as he leads the team in chances created by a mile. That's after missing a month of play, too. As for the rest of the top forwards, Jussi Jokinen was the only one whose numbers improved as he has quietly been one of the Canes best forwards this year. He hasn't lit the lamp much but he's contributing at both ends of the rink.

Ruutu and Staal both saw their numbers dip but Ruutu's was much more extreme. He definitely had a bit of a down month and is treading water in scoring chances right now. Both he and Staal are creating chances with no problem at all but they are giving up way too many in their own end to stay afloat. The difference between the two players is that one had 12 points in January while the other only had four. I'll let you guess who is who.

Andreas Nodl was the most improved player in January as he has found a home on the third line with Patrick Dwyer and Brandon Sutter. After not being sure about him for awhile, he has been a terrific defensive winger and may have a permanent spot on this team. The one issue with him is that he has little to no offensive upside and we may look for someone who is more skilled in that area. Dwyer and Sutter both saw improvements in January, too with Dwyer taking a big step forward and proving to be terrific defensively. He's above the team average in chances allowed and that's with 37.4% of his draws coming in his own zone.

The usual fourth liners (Brent & Stewart) also saw improvements as they continue to climb out of the hole they dug themselves in early in the year. You can say that they haven't been given enough ice time to succeed but they only 40% of the even strength scoring chances are going in the Canes favor with them on the ice and that's just not going to cut it.

Defense

Player EV TOI 5v5 SCF 5v5 SCA EV CF/15 EV CA/15 SC% Ozone% Dec. Diff Jaro Spacek 200 64 51 4.8 3.825 0.556 59.7 -0.076 Bryan Allen 849.75 190 182 3.354 3.213 0.511 42.8 -0.012 Justin Faulk 638.77 176 186 4.133 4.368 0.486 51.9 0.02 Jamie McBain 755.17 192 204 3.814 4.052 0.484 47.7 0.001 Derek Joslin 261.6 59 64 3.383 3.67 0.479 60.9 0.003 Average


3.651 4.051 0.474

Jay Harrison 712.9 193 215 4.061 4.524 0.473 50.2 0.006 Tim Gleason 911.22 210 235 3.457 3.868 0.472 41.2 0.018

Bryan Allen has actually seen his play decline over the last month or so but he is still leading tough minute defensemen in scoring chances. This was with most of his playing time coming with Tim Gleason on the top pairing, too. Speaking of Gleason, he was our most improved defenseman last month and is doing a fine job of limiting chances. He's still facing the toughest competition on the team among defensemen.

The highest rated defenseman is still Jaro Spacek but he's also playing the softest minutes, so he is basically doing his job. He is still outperforming Derek Joslin, who had to play a few games after Spacek suffered a facial injury. The "new guy" on the bottom pairing, Jaime McBain, saw his performance mostly stay the same as last month. He's playing slightly easier minutes but is above the team average in scoring chances.

Justin Faulk and Jay Harrison are the offensive studs of the defense corps as they are creating chances at a rate that is high above the team average. With Joni Pitkanen out until at least March, the Canes need an offensive presence from the blue line and these two are filling the void. It's the reason why they are getting so much ice time now. The problem is that they are giving up chances at a rate that's way higher than the team average, and that's with more of their shifts starting in the offensive zone. Harrison and Faulk have a bit of a high-risk game as they tend to make questionable pinches and have been spotty with coverage in their own zone, so this was expected. Faulk is still only 19 and learning how to play in the NHL while Harrison has never had this kind of responsibility before, so there's a bit of a learning curve with both of them right now.

 

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