Whether you call it November or “Mo-vember”, one thing is for sure — it seems to be the month for the Carolina Hurricanes, as they’ve gone 4-1-1 in the first half of the month. While fans were more than ready for a turnaround, nobody could foresee the huge wins over both the Colorado Avalanche and Anaheim Ducks. Haters can call those two wins “flukes” or “lucky” but in reality, Carolina is actually that good.
With the Boston Bruins coming to town Monday night, it’s go time for the Hurricanes. This is the chance to show that the previous week was not luck and continue the assault on the rest of the Metropolitan Division.
Boston is no cakewalk by any stretch of anyone’s imagination. At 5-4-1 in their last 10, the Bruins are on a little tear of their own. With Loui Eriksson on a five-game point streak and with 15 players skating in the plus, the numbers are frightening.
Plus/minus is possibly one of the greatest metrics in hockey and possibly all in of sports because it accurately quantifies a player’s actual value on the ice. While it’s impossible to give an entire line assists for a goal, the plus/minus credits an entire shift for goals scored, and penalizes goals against. It more or less measures teamwork.
As a team, Boston is at a +16. A perusal of the team roster shows three players at a +9, and Dennis Seidenberg at a brain-hurting +10. The three guys at nine? You may have heard of them — David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla. This is a big deal.
This presents a problem for Carolina. Applying the same plus/minus metric, the Hurricanes are at a minus-10, close to the bottom of the league. This might seem damning, but it’s where plus/minus begins to fail as a statistic. Carolina’s minus-10 is a season plus/minus. Taking a look at the overall numbers for the last five games, and the tune changes. Strap on your pocket protectors — this gets weird.
In the last five games, Carolina has allowed an average of 27 shots on goal, while taking a slightly higher average of 27.2. In that period of time, they have scored the exact same number of goals as they have allowed– 10. Basically, this means Carolina’s five-game average of goals for is only slightly higher than goals against at just south of one.
In five games, the Hurricanes have won three of four games with a one-goal difference, giving them a .750 percentage of wins in this scenario. On the season, Boston is only .500 in single-goal games.
With Carolina’s defense only allowing 10 goals in five games, holding the Bruins to a one-goal game is entirely conceivable since Justin Peters has been remarkably reliable in goal. As if the universe hates things when it’s simple, there’s a caveat: Cam Ward is starting for the Hurricanes.
Coming off of a long stretch on injured reserve, Ward is reclaiming his starting spot, according to head coach Kirk Muller. This can be great, because a healthy Ward is among the elite goaltenders in the league. This can also be a disaster because Ward may or may not be 100 percent. He can effect the game either way, which is what statisticians call an “independent variable”, or “who knows?”
Whether or not Ward is Ward again, coupled with output from the defense that is consistent with recent numbers, and Boston might easily become the next victim on Carolina’s November hit list.