For those who may have forgotten how Dougie Hamilton scored his last goal, here’s the way it went down:
The Carolina Hurricanes defenseman was stationed at the right point as a pass from Ryan Dzingel came up the wall. In pursuit of the puck was forward Liam Foudy of the Columbus Blue Jackets, but Hamilton beat him to it and quickly lifted the puck toward the net.
Mike Maniscalco, the Canes’ broadcast play-by-play man, likened it to an “Eephus pitch” in baseball, a good description of the high, floating puck. Columbus defenseman David Savard, in the slot, tried to jump and swat it out of the air with a glove and appeared to get a piece. But the puck sailed past goalie Joonas Korpisalo and into the net.
That knuckler gave the Canes a 6-4 lead and was the winning goal in a 6-5 victory. The goal was also Hamilton’s first in Nationwide Arena since breaking a leg there on Jan. 16, 2020.
That most recent goal came on Feb. 7, in the Canes’ ninth game of the season. It is also Hamilton’s only goal this season, as the curious case of Hamilton and his baffling goal-scoring drought continues.
In 23 games, Hamilton has taken 70 shots. Some have been tipped and redirected by his teammates for goals, helping him to a team-leading 15 assists this season. He had two assists Thursday in the Canes’ 5-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings, when he had three shots and also blocked three shots.
But a year after scoring 14 goals in 47 games, he has just the one.
Jaccob Slavin, Hamilton’s defensive partner on the Canes’ top pairing, said he has not sensed any frustration in Hamilton because of his lack of scoring.
“I think he’s been handling it fine,” Slavin said on Saturday’s media call. “It’s part of the game. You’ve got your ups, got your downs. He’s been in the league for a long time. He’s had his chances and they’re going to start going in soon enough.
“He’s just going to continue to stick with it and they’re going to go in eventually, knowing the type of player he is and the ability he has to put the puck in the net. Soon enough, they’re going to go in.”
According to the NHL’s stats, Hamilton has taken 25 wrist shots, 21 snap shots and 20 slap shots this season, along with two backhanders and two deflections — the Columbus goal was classified a snap shot. He leads the league with 36 missed shots that were wide of the net.
Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour has used the “just a matter of time” line a few times in describing Hamilton, who has averaged 14 goals in the past six seasons and scored on a career-high 8.2 percent of his shots last season,
“We obviously want him to put up numbers, but it’s more important he’s sound defensively,” Brind’Amour said on a media call last week.
Hamilton, recently asked to assess his goal-scoring problems, said, “You can always be better, I think, tying to find spots to get looks and things like that. It took some time but I think I’m starting to get more looks recently. Hit a couple of posts and crossbars.
“It’s definitely a different feel if some of those go in and you feel better about yourself. I’d definitely like to be able to produce more offense and help the team that way.”
Contract on the horizon
It’s an important season for Hamilton. He’s in the final year of a six-year contract that has paid him an average of $5.75 million, the highest among Canes defensemen. He is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after the season and has stated that he hopes to stay with the Hurricanes, his third team since entering the NHL in 2012-13 with the Boston Bruins.
Hamilton now has played almost half as many games this season as he did last season, and some of his metrics proportionately are lower by comparison. He has blocked 21 shots compared to 63 last season, and has 20 hits compared to 52. He has created 11 rebounds off shots to last year’s 30, according to the Naturalstattrick.com hockey analytics site.
And the goals. After 23 games last season, Hamilton had 10.
Despite Hamilton’s goal-scoring woes — and even with forward Teuvo Teravainen slowed by COVID-19 and then a concussion — the Canes (16-6-1) were fourth in the NHL in goals per game (3.35) and fourth in power-play percentage (30.1 percent) through Friday’s games.
According to Naturalstattrick.com, the Canes are among the league leaders at all strengths in Corsi percentage, which is one measure of puck possession, as well as scoring-chance percentage.
The Canes rank 17th in the NHL in five-on-five shooting percentage at 7.89 percent. But they’re eighth at all strengths at 10.56 percent because of their power-play scoring, where they have an NHL-best 20.8 shooting percentage.
What does all that mean?
“I think it says we have a lot of depth for scoring,” Brind’Amour said Saturday. “We have a lot of different options now whereas in the past if you shut down one or two of our top guys, it made it hard to score. Now we have a few more options.”
The Canes on Saturday signed goaltender Beck Warm to a two-year, entry-level contract. The deal will pay Warm $700,000 in 2020-21 and $750,000 in 2021-22 at the NHL level or $60,000 at the AHL level for both seasons, and he received a signing bonus of $50,000.
Warm, 21, has a 4-0-0 record, 2.25 goals-against average and .940 save percentage in four AHL games with the Chicago Wolves this season.
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Florida Panthers
When: Sunday, 5 p.m.
Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh.