Given that it's a matchup between a perennial Stanley Cup contender and a young team with a blue line that could soon develop into the league's finest, Thursday night's game between the New York Rangers and the Carolina Hurricanes will be a great one in its own right.
However, it could also be an interesting case study in the factors that drive shooting and save percentages.
In terms of goals and wins, these two teams almost couldn't be further apart. On Feb. 25, the Rangers became the second team to reach 40 wins, and have outscored their opponents by 43 goals on the season, 213-173. In contrast, the Hurricanes have tumbled from No. 15 to No. 27 overall in the standings since Jan. 25, and have been outscored by 27 goals, 178-154 on the season.
Based on this information, it appears that one team is much, much better than the other. But, when digging beyond goals and wins into some of the underlying numbers, something unusual comes up -- New York's advantage completely disappears. The Rangers have actually been outshot 2,035 to 1,997, which means that they're taking 49.5 percent of all shots in their games, and the Hurricanes are besting opponents 1,904-1,737, which is 52.3 percent.
Even when including shots that are blocked or miss the net, and after making appropriate adjustments for score, zone and venue, the Hurricanes still edge the Rangers in shot attempt percentages, 50.0 percent to 49.3 percent, according to the calculations at Puck on Net. And yet, the Rangers dominate the Hurricanes 55.2 to 46.4 percent in terms of goals. Why is that? And is there reason to believe that trend might reverse this spring?