Week 5 of the Nerdy 30: The Carolina Tropical Depressions and Hartley Magic

Kathi Bettels/blick.ch

Kathi Bettels/blick.ch

With five weeks of NHL hockey under wraps, every team has played 12 games or more this season. That means we have hit the second fourteenth mark of the season and we need to eliminate another team from our existence. The Carolina Hurricanes will be that team and they are probably the last of the “easy teams” to swear off watching as a neutral. Now they did win last night over Calgary (we’ll get to them too) and Jeff Skinner notched his 100th career NHL goal, but the depth for this team is non-existent and the possession numbers show it. The next team to be eliminated could be a tough one though. Florida can’t score but they keep getting good goaltending from Roberto Luongo, Columbus’ injuries are killing their possession numbers and save percentage, Arizona can’t defend and Colorado’s bad analytics are coming back to haunt them in a big way. We’ll just go ahead and save that topic for another couple of weeks, but in the meantime, here is the rest of this week’s nerdy 30.

  • 30. Buffalo(82-game standings points pace: 41 points, Last Week: 30)
  • 29. Carolina(Pace: 76 pts, LW: 29)
  • 28. Columbus (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 27)
  • 27. Florida (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 26)
  • 26. Arizona (Pace: 76 pts, LW: 28)
  • 25. Edmonton (Pace: 71 pts, LW: 25)
  • 24. Colorado (Pace: 67 pts, LW: 24)

The good news is that Chris Terry is no longer the leading scorer of the team. The bad news is that distinction belongs to Riley Nash with four goals and six assists in 13 games. That shouldn’t last long as he, Terry and Nathan Gerbe are riding PDOs (combined one-ice even strength shooting and save percentage) at the 105-range with each of them having on-ice shooting percentages over 11%. If anything else, Elias Lindholm’s development will be critical for the Hurricanes this season and beyond after only having 21 points in 58 games last season. Until last night, Lindholm was riding a five-game scoring streak with five goals and two assists during that span. His 96.6 PDO should be a sign of even better things to come for him and his line with Nash and Gerbe are proving to be Carolina’s best in shot suppression.

Another player to watch is potential trade bait Andrej Sekera. Fans and teams will be enamored with his 44-point season last year, but his shot suppression has actually been a burden ever since he arrived in Carolina. If anything, why are him and Justin Faulk the teams most highly used at the penalty kill unit instead of a healthy Brett Bellemore and Ron Hainsey? If GM Ron Francis can get anything in return from Sekera beyond a top-60 pick for next summers draft, that would be a steal and it should be executed immediately.

  • 23. Montreal (Pace: 115 pts, LW: 22)
  • 22. New York Rangers (Pace: 82 pts, LW: 19)
  • 21. Toronto (Pace: 92 pts, LW: 17)
  • 20. New Jersey (Pace: 77 pts, LW: 20)
  • 19. Winnipeg (Pace: 98 pts, LW: 23)
  • 18. Philadelphia (Pace: 94 pts, LW: 21)

Is this the beginning of the end for Henrik Lundqvist? People were asking the same thing about him last October, but one has to wonder now that he is in his age-32 season and with 585 games (the most of anyone since the 2005 lockout) under his belt. It turns out, once again, Lundqvist will be okay. Yes, his even strength save percentage of 91.6% may be pretty bad now, but if you exclude his two game performance against Toronto and the New York Islanders earlier in the season (where he only saved 33 of 41 even strength shots (80.5%)), that number becomes 93.8%. That team-wide percentage will improve as the season moves along as long as Cam Talbot joins in the fun instead of having a terrible save percentage himself. If Lundqvist continues to be himself, his overall point share total will hit the top-20 all time and would put him in company with the likes of Grant Fuhr and Tom Barrasso.

What’s also odd to see is that even if the Rangers have already used ten defensemen thanks to the long-term injuries to Dan Boyle (broken right hand) and Ryan McDonagh (dislocated shoulder), it’s not like they have gotten worse from last year defensively. If anything, the Blueshirts don’t seam to generate as many shots like they used to when they hit the top-five last season. The real question Rangers fans need to ask is if we are beginning to see the end of Martin St. Louis’ shot attempt output. So far, it has resulted in him having the worst Corsi Rel% (all shot attempts percentage in relation to a player’s teammates) since 2002 and the on-ice shooting percentage of 12.6% is the highest since that span, making his 11 points in 14 games look fake. Quite a few fascinating things to look at in the long-term from one future hall-of-famer to another.

  • 17. Calgary (Pace: 96 pts, LW: 14)
  • 16. Ottawa (Pace: 100 pts, LW: 18)
  • 15. Dallas (Pace: 70 pts, LW: 11)
  • 14. Vancouver (Pace: 113 pts, LW: 13)
  • 13. San Jose (Pace: 92 pts, LW: 12)
  • 12. New York Islanders (Pace: 105 pts, LW: 11)
  • 11. Los Angeles (Pace: 104 pts, LW: 16)
  • 10. Anaheim (Pace: 118 pts, LW: 7)

Hartley Maaaaaaaagic. Call it true. I call it maaaaaaaagic…when he’s with you.” Like last October, Bob Hartley’s Flames just don’t seem to go away. Last year, Calgary started the season 5-4-2 before going 1-7-1 to finish their first 20 games and the rest of their season was history. That being said, the Flames finished that season 12-10-0 and outscored their opposition 70-59 (giving Calgary a pythagorean point total of 106 without adjusting to strength of schedule) and that could have been a sign of things to come this season.

Still, their possession numbers are awful to where only Buffalo has a worse even strength corsi percentage than the Flames. Even if Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau are racking up goals and assists along with Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie, this is still the worst offensive team in the league on-paper. Even after using 19 forwards this season due to a long list of injuries, there are still not enough elite two-way forwards or a top-tier bottom-six forward in this lineup. One thing that is keeping them afloat has been strong goaltending from a resurgent [my name is] Jonas Hiller, who currently carries an even-strength save percentage of 93.6%.

  • 9. Boston (Pace: 103 pts, LW: 10)
  • 8. Detroit (Pace: 104 pts, LW: 6)
  • 7. Washington (Pace: 88 pts, LW: 9)
  • 6. Nashville (Pace: 117 pts, LW: 5)
  • 5. St. Louis (Pace: 111 pts, LW: 3)
  • 4. Tampa Bay (Pace: 126 pts, LW: 8)
  • 3. Minnesota (Pace: 88 pts, LW: 1)
  • 2. Chicago (Pace: 93 pts, LW: 4)
  • 1. Pittsburgh (Pace: 132 pts, LW: 1)

There is no denying now that after Minnesota’s recent three game losing skid that the Pittsburgh Penguins are the best team in the league. Marc-Andre Fleury is performing really well (for now!!!) and the defense could not be any tighter, even with Olli Maata being out after having throat cancer surgery. The scary thing about it is that Pittsburgh can still be better, especially on the offensive end. This is still a top-heavy team, with no one outside of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz and Patric Hornqvist generating above league average in even strength shot attempts.

One solution can be seen in fixing the usage of a few defenseman. So far, head coach Mike Johnston has stacked the deck putting Maata wth Kris Letang as the team’s top pairing and assigning them against the team’s toughest opponents but always starting on the offensive end. Meanwhile, Paul Martin has gone from having to clean up Brooks Orpik’s messes to having to partner with Christian Ehrhoff, who is being deployed more often on the defensive zone and against weaker opponents than at any point in his NHL career. As a result, Ehrhoff’s shot attempt numbers have plummeted, which is not what you want to happen for a guy naturally used as an offensive defenseman.

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