Tweaking the Defense
The loss of Dougie Hamilton in January was awful for this team and it sent them spiraling down the standings. Losing Brett Pesce right before the trade deadline was even worse and it took Carolina from being in a position to trade away defense to needing it.
Luckily Don Waddell secured Brady Skjei from the rangers who, while it took him a few games to get into rhythm, looked solid in the last three to four games. Sami Vatanen is also a new Hurricane, but you could have fooled me, because he has yet to practice with the team arriving injured from Jersey.
But even before the injuries and trades, the defense did not live up to its name, way too many guys were out of position constantly and the team kept allowing the opposing offense to get the puck on their stick at the most dangerous parts of the ice.
Two of the worst offenders in this category were Trevor van Riemsdyk and Joel Edmundson. While both looked great to start the season, both have been caught puck watching or on the wrong side of the puck when the opposition has it in the slot. This has been leaving the goalies high and dry constantly.
The Carolina Hurricanes are in face, the worst team in xG allowed. But they have been one of the best in allowing the least amount of shots on goal. What does that tell you, it means that when the opponents have been taking the shots, they have all been high danger chances that would require the netminding to play out of their minds to stop.
All four pro goalies that have played for the Canes actually have good saves over expectation percentages. Meaning that they have stepped up consistently and that the damage could have been worse. But what if we didn’t have to rely on them to do that? Take the David Ayres game for example. It has the lowest xG allowed all season. That’s how they should have always played.
I can’t tell you how many goals could have been avoided this season if the defender managed to simply be in the right spot and not given the opposing offense the confidence to take a high danger shot. Several games that have been lost could have been won.
Fixing it starts with saying goodbye to Edmundson and TVR, and Playing a defensive defender on each pairing. Jaccob Slavin on the first with Dougie Hamilton. Brett Pesce on the second with Brady Skjei, and Haydn Fleury on the third with either Jake Gardiner or Jake Bean. Either way he is assigned a Jake.
A guy to patrol the center of the ice and stop opposing players from getting the puck from the easiest place on the ice to score a goal. That’s how you fix this defense.