It remains true they defeated both the Colorado Avalanche and Anaheim Ducks in the same week — a feat many thought to be impossible at the start of the season. Carolina fans deserved to crow about that one, but after Wednesday night’s win over the New Jersey Devils there’s a whole new and unexpected stat to brag over.
When Pat Dwyer took a breakout while killing a penalty, posterizing New Jersey veteran goaltender and known crybaby, Martin Brodeur, that shorthanded goal was the fifth for the Hurricanes this season thus placing them atop the NHL in shorthanded goals (SHG).
Carolina is in the basement of the league on power play percentage (13.2), power play goals (12), average goals for per game (2.08), and shootout wins (one), yet somehow they are leading the league in shorties. How is this possible?
First of all, they spend an inordinate amount of time on the penalty kill, and it’s far more than their power play time. In fact, Carolina has one of the highest PK-to-PP ratios in the league, having spent 11:45 more on the kill than the man advantage. While just short of 12 minutes might not seem like a whole bunch, consider the Detroit Red Wings are -38:35 in this category, spending nearly two more periods on the advantage than the kill. More than likely this is why Detroit is fifth in the league in power play goals-for and Carolina is 25th.
Simply spending more time on the penalty kill will not cause this anomaly by itself. Take a look at who is scoring these shorties. Dwyer actually leads the team with a pair. Of the other three players with a shorthanded goal — Eric Staal, Andrej Sekera, and Nathan Gerbe — these guys have one thing in common: Rink vision.
Staal is in the middle of an amazing comeback this season and is proving why he wears the captain’s “C”. More so, Staal has always been a playmaker and generally aggressive as a forward. Gerbe is barely registering as human this season and has been nationwide not only on the kills but at even strength. Both Staal and Gerbe are known as shootout guys for their creativity and reflexes on the breakout — which is what shorthanded goals are really all about. Dwyer’s pair of shorthanded goals only shows he deserves to remain in that conversation.
It’s hard to imagine that a team whose power play has been abysmal this season — and is only just now coming around — is inexplicably leading the league in shorthanded goals. Especially when they only kill 80.2 percent of penalties. Wherever this weird confidence in creating breakout opportunities is coming from, head coach Kirk Muller must find that place and force the team to spend the holidays there. Why they have the confidence to breakout shorthanded, yet not to play the one-timer, defend the blue line, or make physical stands against an opponent is puzzling.
For now, though, the Hurricanes get to lay claim to being league leaders in something other than “most injured players at once.”