Despite being shutout 3-0 last night in Montreal, the Carolina Hurricanes are amidst their best stretch of the season — 10-4 since the final day of 2013. They’re, for the moment, clinging to the final Wild Card spot, and have averaged nearly 4 goals per game over their last seven. But something is still missing.

Over the same stretch, the Canes have gone just 2 for 24 on the powerplay and have seen their success rate drop to 14 percent, good for 27th in the league. They’re winning more often than not in the new year, but with little help from the powerplay. And its absence has been felt.

In Buffalo, trailing 3-2 early in the third, the Canes were afforded a 4:00 opportunity to tie it up thanks to a Zemgus Girgensons high stick on Riley Nash. On the attempt, however, they recorded just four shots on goal, all in the first 90 seconds, and spent most of the last 2:30 chasing the puck down the ice. Though they would go on to record two even-strength goals in the period in the victory, other results weren’t so fortunate.

Against Tampa Bay, a comeback was thwarted after a 1 for 5 effort on the man advantage. Even the Hurricanes’ third shutout in their last four losses could have been avoided. They beat Carey Price twice, but each glanced off the post and harmlessly away.

Jim Rutherford has been well aware of the issues on special teams. In John-Michael Liles, he acquired his long sought after puck-moving defenseman, and thought the problem was resolved. While the powerplay looks better, the results don’t; they’ve gone just 5 for 38 (13.1 percent, worse than their season average) since he started suiting up for the Hurricanes, and those opponents include some of the worst penalty-kills in the NHL.

So what is the issue with the powerplay?

“It’s one thing to get a lot of shots, but we weren’t getting quality chances with bodies in front,” said Manny Malhotra. “Those second and third opportunities that we always talk about. It’s one thing to a get shot total up there, but it’s a different story to actually get in front of him and give him a hard time.”

Liles has provided better movement of the puck, but if no one is screening the goaltender, then saves can still be relatively routine. Tuomo Ruutu plays less than 2:00 per game on the powerplay, but is one of the few willing to pay the price in front. It’s no coincidence that they cash in at a goal-and-a-half higher rate per 60 minutes while he is on the ice — best differential of any forward not named Eric Staal. And that includes Alex Semin.

While most of Rutherford’s criticisms of Semin have been unfounded, the high-scoring winger has been more hesitant to shoot on the powerplay than he has at even-strength. He’s averaging fewer shots on goal per 60 minutes than Justin Faulk, and has a high percentage of his chances blocked.

The Hurricanes have just one player who ranks in the top 50 in shots on goal: Jeff Skinner at number 40. Given that Carolina has had the 15th most powerplay time, it’s concerning that so few of their stars are able to get shots through. Eric Staal has just 18 shots, fewer than Ruutu despite getting almost double the time and playing a different role. Over the years he’s typically been among the league leaders in powerplay shots.

The production from the blue-line has been largely absent as well with just 5 goals on the season. Andrej Sekera is capable of looking like a Harlem Globetrotter on ice, but his shot isn’t much of a threat. In fact, the Hurricanes have just 3 powerplay goals that have come on slapshots from the back end. There is no reliable bomb from the point, and it leads to an easier time of clearing the front of the net, which is a rare occurrence in itself.

So while the movement has become more common, quality chances are still scarce, and goals have been scored mostly off of Skinner’s blazing shots. A varied approach — more shooters, more screening of the goaltender, more slapshots from the point — will yield more results.

About The Author

Andrew Luistro graduated from Appalachian State University. An avid sports fan, he began beat writing for the Sunbelt Hockey Journal, part of The Hockey Writers Network, with a focus on the Carolina Hurricanes. Andrew also actively follows the Boston Red Sox and Carolina Panthers, among other teams. Follow him on Twitter @ndrewL7

38 Responses

  1. dabrams2021

    CanesReport ndrewL7 PP no better, prob worse w JML. Also zero net presence other than Ruutu or Lindholm

  2. ndrewL7

    dabrams2021 The results are worse, but I’m not sure I’d actually call it worse. They used to chase the puck all 2:00. Now mostly keep it in

  3. ndrewL7

    dabrams2021 As opposed to transitioning for all 2:00? JML reminds me of a better, stronger McBain. Passing, holding zone, not much else.

  4. dabrams2021

    ndrewL7 For the record JML’s only goal was ES goal when Canes were beating Leafs 3 to 1 before he made it 4 to 1. Padding stat goal

  5. dabrams2021

    ndrewL7 JML is a $4 million vet who adds very little to team calculus.

  6. dabrams2021

    ndrewL7 when all is said, done, JML will cost a couple more games than he is strong contributor to wins. Watch goal 2 in Sens game for ex.

  7. ndrewL7

    dabrams2021 That goal had nothing to do with the PP. That’s where Liles’ value is, and where it looks better. Take bad with good.

  8. dabrams2021

    ndrewL7 Why pay $4 million for that when a team has Ryan Murphy?

  9. CarolinaMatt63

    dabrams2021 ndrewL7 Because that is less than what they were paying Tim Gleason who couldn’t crack the lineup?

  10. ndrewL7

    dabrams2021 Because Gleason had to go, and Murphy still makes mistakes too.

  11. dabrams2021

    CarolinaMatt63 ndrewL7 Gleason was ever so slightly more expensive. JML doing nothing to justify trade.

  12. ndrewL7

    dabrams2021 CarolinaMatt63 Both Gleason and JML needed a fresh start. Plus both were redundant w/ their teams. Made sense, makes sense.

  13. dabrams2021

    ndrewL7 CarolinaMatt63 It was a bad trade even to consider. Is a bad deal now. Will be a bad deal until JML is traded or bought out.

  14. dabrams2021

    ndrewL7 CarolinaMatt63 JML hasn’t held down fuul time NHL dman job in years. Canes engaged in wistful thinking.

  15. CarolinaMatt63

    dabrams2021 ndrewL7 Canes put $1M in their pocket in trading a press box player for a guy who though not perfect is in the lineup. (shrug)

  16. RobertGilday

    dabrams2021 ndrewL7 Who’s a rookie and who was getting worn down. A full season in Charlotte would have benefited him greatly.

  17. dabrams2021

    RobertGilday ndrewL7 Now Canes have JML on books long after Murphy is ready. An ugly overbuilt house is hard to sell even in best market

  18. dabrams2021

    RobertGilday ndrewL7 Better odds to keep Gleason w wistful hope he recuperated thantake on
    a poor positioning small dman

  19. RobertGilday

    dabrams2021 ndrewL7 Yes it is. Having Murphy play full season in Charlotte allows him to be better prepared for the pace/speed. 1/2

  20. dabrams2021

    RobertGilday ndrewL7 Yes. True. Canes cannot become another Red Wings org until guys like Murphy cook in AHL

  21. RobertGilday

    dabrams2021 ndrewL7 Playing against older/faster/more skilled competition is huge leap. Goes back to other Detroit model conversation.

  22. dabrams2021

    RobertGilday ndrewL7 Canes also won’t become Red Wings org by trading Gleasons for JMLs.

  23. RobertGilday

    dabrams2021 ndrewL7 Tim seemed to be at loggerheads with coaches.We all lived his grit, but his time here was coming to a close.

  24. ndrewL7

    RobertGilday dabrams2021 Bingo. Gleason had little value, and contract for contract was the only option. Wanted Gardiner, wasn’t happening

  25. dabrams2021

    RobertGilday ndrewL7 No real rush even if Tim was grouchy. JML is a step backwards. Inevitable.

  26. RobertGilday

    dabrams2021 ndrewL7 We’ll just continue to disagree on this and leave it at that. To play uptempo you need racehorses not plow horses.

  27. dabrams2021

    RobertGilday ndrewL7 Race horses w high hockey IQ who aren’t turnover machines & who understand defensive positioning. Didn’t get that.

  28. RobertGilday

    dabrams2021 ndrewL7 Tim wasn’t having his issues in that department?

  29. dabrams2021

    RobertGilday ndrewL7 Gleason was faster, more structurally sound than either Harrison or Komisarek. Slower but higher hockey IQ than JML

  30. RobertGilday

    dabrams2021 ndrewL7 Agreed. Jay’s play has tailed off. Komisarek has had good and bad moments, which are due in part to long layoff.

  31. RobertGilday

    dabrams2021 ndrewL7 There’s slow, then there’s Kevin Hatcher slow.

  32. Ih8theriders

    ndrewL7 this is gonna be a good test tonight. I just hope we aren’t down the usual 2-0 five mins in

  33. ndrewL7

    Ih8theriders Couple days off, WC team at home (where they’ve usually fared well). No excuses

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