Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 11/02/10 at 08:59 PM ET
Since we last spoke, I’ve been busy with just about everything except maintaining the blog. Carolina has lost two games in a row. First, they were blanked by Pittsburgh 3-0 at home on Saturday, then they were oulasted 3-2 at Philadelphia on Monday night.
While the Canes have yet to score a single goal at the RBC Center this season, they’ve run into hot goaltenders. First it was Michal Neuvirth of the Caps, who leads the league with seven goalie wins; then it was Brent Johson of the Penguins, who is second in the league with a GAA of 1.16 and a save percentage of .960. That’s second only to Tim Thomas’ insanely ridiculous 0.5 GAA and .984 save percentage. Eventually, at some point, they’ll play against a sieve. Or, at least, a mere human.
So the lack of scoring against these beasts isn’t really that much of a concern. The big concern is the horrendous faceoff win percentage.
Carolina is dead last in the league with a dreadful faceoff winning percentage of 43.4%. The Canes had historically been one of the better teams in the faceoff circle, thanks to Rod Brind’Amour’s prowess there. He routinely won 60% of his draws and the team as a whole was typically right around 50%. Two years ago, they were eighth in the NHL with 51.3%. Last season, it fell a bit, and they were in the bottom half of the league. This, however, is something quite else. The FOW% of 37.4 is significantly worse than the 29th place team in that category. Edmonton, at 43.4%, is a full six percentage points better than the Hurricanes in that category.
There are folks who say that winning faceoffs isn’t really that important, and that what really matters is what happens after the draw. Carolina is doing a good job of recovering after a lost draw, but they still need to win draws. Every team has a bundle of set plays for coming out of an offensive zone faceoff, and Carolina was scored upon on one of these last night. With a faceoff in the Carolina zone and the Flyers on a man advantage, they won the draw, kicked it out to the high forward above the right circle, and he got it back to the top of the slot for a clean shot and goal by Claude Giroux. This only happens with a clean faceoff win, and it was too easy for the Flyers last night. They won 61% of the draws.
Eric Staal, who takes a large percentage of the draws, is 90th out of 92 in the league with a paltry 39.3 winning percentage. Brandon Sutter is last in the league among eligible forwards with 31.2%. Jim Rutherford thinks that all they have to do is just work at it a little bit and they’ll get better. The only problem is that if they’re all really bad at it, it won’t do them any good to practice taking draws against each other. It’s like practicing arm wrestling against a broomstick.
Instead, maybe Carolina should design a plan for defensive zone faceoffs where they don’t even show up to the dot, and set themselves up defensively instead.
The Canes will play at home against the Islanders on Wednesday. Neither Rick DiPietro nor Dwayne Roloson is on fire right now, so they should get their first RBC Center goal. Probably in the first period.
Meanwhile, down on the farm, the Checkers are playing a home game against the Portland Pirates (Buffalo Sabres) tonight. After one fight-filled period, the score is 1-1. There have been a total of 32 penalty minutes.
I’ll be in Charlotte on Friday for the game against the Norfolk Admirals (Tampa Bay Lightning) and in Raleigh on Saturday for the game against the Florida Panthers.
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About Red and Black Hockey
David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science. He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows. Sometimes, all in the same day.