Playing the Canes’ numbers game

Posted by Chip Alexander on January 20, 2014 

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The Canes Jeff Skinner (53) celebrates after he scored what proved to be the game winning shot during the third period

CHRIS SEWARD — cseward@newsobserver.com

The Canes played 48 games last season because of the NHL lockout and it was a season on the fly, with little practice time.

Canes coach Kirk Muller said he would welcome a normal season, with a full training camp, time to work on special teams, the competition to win positions, a full slate of preseason games. An emphasis this season, he said, and a must for the Canes would be reducing goals-against.

The result?

The Canes now are 48 games into the season. Their 20-19-9 record is better than last year's 19-25-4, and goals-against are down -- from 3.31 a game last year (29th in the NHL) to 2.79 (18th).

The Canes are better on faceoffs (thanks to Manny Malhotra), winning 51.6 percent, up from 50.2 percent. They're also taking fewer penalties (8.3 minutes a game to last year's 11.2) and lead the NHL in takeaways with 512 (Carolina was second last season with 426.)

The Canes' scoring has dipped, from 2.65 goals a game (13th NHL) to 2.42 (24th). Both shots for and against are down a little.

Muller believed extra practice and work on the power play would make it more potent this season, but the Canes' percentage through 48 games (14.6) is the same as last season. Penalty killing is slightly improved (from 77.6 percent to 79.4) but the Canes have nine shorthanded goals, an improvement from last year's three.

One drop has been in five-on-five goals. The Canes had 91 last season; they have 74 this year.

The Canes had one 20-goal scorer last season -- Jiri Tlusty with 23, playing all 48 games. They have one this season -- Jeff Skinner with 21, playing 36 games.

Cold, hard statistics -- like the Corsi -- can be misleading. The Canes' games were all against Eastern teams in the shortened 2012-2013 season, so it's not exactly comparing apples and apples.

Another stat of interest is home attendance. The Canes averaged 17,560 fans in 24 home games last season at PNC Arena. In their first 24 home games this season, the average was 15,403, a drop of 12 percent.

Again, there's a difference. Last season began on Jan. 19. This season, the Canes' 48th game was played on Jan. 19.

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