Carolina Hurricanes Powerplay: Caught In A Bickell

Scoring is down recently for the Carolina Hurricanes.  Could part of that be Bickell’s absence on the power play?

The high-flying, goal scoring October is a thing of the past for the Carolina Hurricanes.  Much like the colorful leaves are now turned into large piles brown, the Canes offense lost a bit of its vibrancy with the change of month.  In their last four games, Carolina failed to score more than two goals a game, two of those games the Canes’ opponent held them to a single goal.  The Canes averaged three goals a game in their first 8 games, but only averaged 1.5 since.  So why the sudden drop in goals?

One reason was the lack of success on the power play.  Carolina’s record with the man advantage in the last five games was an abysmal 1 for 13.  Compare that to the first seven games where the team converted at a 28% rate.  There is only one main difference in the power play from then to now.  The system is the same, forwards playing at the point the same,  and the same questionable drop pass are all still there.  The reason the Carolina Hurricanes aren’t scoring anymore on the man advantage is the lack of Bryan Bickell.

Bryan Bickell the Healthy Scratch

The game last night at New Jersey made four games in a row Bill Peters listed Bickell as a healthy scratch, and five of the last six.  Guess what?  In all those games the Hurricanes scored only a single power play goal.  Of the two games Bickell dressed in the last seven, Carolina scored only one goal on the power play, and you guessed, it was by Bryan Bickell.  Some critics may point out that Bickell was just in the right place at the right time as it was a great shot by Jeff Skinner that grazed Bickell’s sweater.  Still, Bickell parked himself in front of the goal creating a screen.

In fact, Bickell’s screens played a significant part in four of the 7 power play goals in the first seven games.  Over half of the goals with Bickell on the ice he actively engaged in screening the goalie.  He wasn’t just a passenger, but a key part of all those goals.  Given these numbers, it’s no surprise at the drop in efficiency of the power play from the top of the league to league average.   What is the coaching staff thinking?

Every Other Part of the Game

Yes, Bickell has proved effective on the PP.  However, the power play is a very, very small amount of time of the total sixty minutes of game time.  And that’s where the coaches decision about benching Bickell becomes a bit clearer.  There are only a few players that would sit instead of Bickell: Joakim Nordstrom, Viktor Stalberg, and Phil DiGuiseppie.  The thing is every one of those players brings something more to the table than Bickell does.

Stalberg is a better skater and better at defense making him valuable on the penalty kill.  Ditto for Nordstrom as well even if he’s a little more offensively challenged.  PDG is just a younger player and seems to do everything Bickell used to do in his prime.  Also, all three of these players post better Corsi stats at 5v5 than Bickell does.  It seems that the coaching staff prizes well-rounded play over specialists.  However, the only player who posts a huge difference in Corsi versus Bickel is DiGuiseppie.   Bickell could take Stalberg’s or Nordstrom’s spot without a huge drop in 5v5 play.

But the Canes aren’t winning games even with the superior 5v5 play of the other wingers.  Especially now that the goaltending stabilized itself somewhat, the Hurricanes need to return to their goal scoring ways from earlier in the season. Those extra goals might just be enough to win games.  Does Bickell hurt the team too much in other areas to not justify his inclusion during game night?  Right now the Hurricanes don’t have the luxury to not use any method that puts pucks in the net, and only time will tell if the coaching staff feels the same way.

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