Special teams helped carry the Charlotte Checkers to the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup championship last season.
The Checkers were among the league’s best in three areas — scoring on the power play, not allowing opponents to score short-handed goals, and killing off their own penalties.
The Checkers remain one of the league’s best teams at killing penalties, allowing goals in only 8 percent of their short-handed situations.
But as a rash of early-season losses has dragged it to the bottom of the AHL standings, Charlotte find itself confronted by a problem:
Three times this season, opponents have scored against the Checkers while Charlotte has had a one-skater advantage on the power play. That averages out to 1 in every 14 Charlotte power plays, and it puts the Checkers last in the league.
According to a study published in July by the Harvard University Sports Analysis Collective, a hockey team scoring a short-handed goal has an increased chance of winning the game.
The most recent short-handed goal allowed by the Checkers was Sunday in Cleveland.
The host Monsters had taken a 2-0 lead, but Charlotte battled back and cut the deficit to 2-1. Cleveland scored on a Charlotte power play, and the Checkers ended up losing 5-1.
Here’s a look at the past week and what’s ahead:
Friday: Charlotte’s Alex Nedeljkovic had a superb game in goal, registering 31 saves, but the Checkers fell 2-1 to host Cleveland in overtime. Rookie Eetu Luostannen scored for Charlotte. Cleveland won on a penalty shot just 42 seconds into overtime.
Sunday: Steven Lorentz scored for the Checkers in a 5-1 loss at Cleveland. It was the first loss in goal this season for Anton Forsberg, who is 4-1. The loss extended the Checkers’ winless streak to three games.
Standings: The Checkers are seventh in the eight-team AHL Atlantic, just two points ahead of last-place Bridgeport Sound and 10 points out of first place.
Week ahead: The Checkers host Springfield at 7 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday, at Bojangles Coliseum. After that, Charlotte has a five-game road trip before returning home for four games on Thanksgiving week.
Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle