From December on last season, wins were pretty few and far between for the Montreal Canadiens. But even when things started to look particularly grim, it was always nice to see the Carolina Hurricanes coming up on the schedule.
It wasn’t that the Hurricanes weren’t competitive. In fact, their 86 points placed them right in the middle of the Eastern Conference standings, and kept them alive in the playoff race long after many would have expected them to bow out. And it wasn’t that the ‘canes weren’t organized. Bill Peters’s squad had solid possession numbers, especially relative to the talent he had to work with, and maintained one of the best penalty kill units in the league.
Fundamentally, the Hurricanes just weren’t doing two things that successful NHL teams have to do: they weren’t scoring goals, and they weren’t making saves.
Looking to the future, Carolina re-upped both Peters and General Manager Ron Francis over the summer, banking that the two would find a solution to these important problems. Six weeks into the 2016-17 season, it looks like only of the issues is anywhere near resolved.
How to Watch
Puck drop: 7:30 ET/4:30 PT
In the Canadiens region: SNE (English), RDS (French)
Elsewhere: NHL Gamecenter, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|50.38||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||53.74|
|1.61||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.86|
The Hurricanes are generating a few more shot attempts per sixty minutes that they did last season, and even better, a higher proportion of those shots are going in. The offence, by and large, is flowing through the top line of Jeff Skinner, Victor Rask (he of the newly-minted 24 million dollar contract extension), and free agent pickup Lee Stempniak.
Carolina is also getting a contribution from their second line (veteran Jordan Staal, newcomer Teuvo Teravainen, and youngster Sebastian Aho), and have complemented their improved even strength prowess with a a powerplay much healthier than they one they iced last season.
Unfortunately, the jump from last year’s pathetic offensive output to something closer to league average hasn’t been enough to buoy Carolina in the standings, especially with the team weighed down by some atrocious goalkeeping.
Starter Cam Ward is again posting a below average save percentage at .908. Meanwhile, backup Eddie Lack is estimated to have allowed six more goals than an average goaltender would have, and he’s played in only four games this season!
Of course, none of this guarantees Montreal’s success. The Canadiens, despite carrying the play for the most part, lost earlier this week to a Florida team still trying to find its footing this season. And if you’re willing to swap the narrative around the Panthers’s lack of scoring for Carolina’s goaltending woes, the tonight’s situation starts to look pretty similar.
With games against the Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, and a rematch with these Hurricanes lying just over the horizon, the Canadiens should have lots of opportunities to pick up points over the next week. But even with one of their most dangerous offensive players unavailable, they should have more than enough firepower to start picking those points up tonight.