The quest to find NHL's 'Mr. Intangible'

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One of my underlying goals whenever I delve into the deeper stats and hockey roads less traveled is to try to return from such journeys with nuggets of truth that appeal across the fan spectrum. You might cringe or get a little intimidated when people bring up a player’s Corsi rating, but in some cases such stats are actually very simple (yet they sound like incomprehensible Godzilla monsters of spreadsheets).

This is not to say that I am – by any means – an expert number cruncher. I have a few mildly interesting made-up stats that I’ll torment you with from time to time, but let’s just say I’m not exactly a math genius. That being said, I think we can all agree that there’s a lot more that goes into a hockey game than what’s listed in a box score.

TSN’s Scott Cullen seems to have similar goals, although he seems interested in developing antiquated methods such as “researching points” and “not leaning heavily on corny jokes.” (Whatever, Scott.) In his latest column, he used some weird formula to measure a player’s intangible value to a given team. He notes a few limitations to the experiment; for instance, he judged players on cumulative totals, so injuries might make a player look bad. Cullen also noted that certain players – like the Sedin twins with their cycle heavy puck possession playing styles – aren’t as often in position to rack up hits or blocked shots.

Regardless of the drawbacks to the numbers, the results are pretty interesting. He listed the top three players for each team plus the player who rated the lowest.

Let’s take a look at some of the more interesting cases, starting with the top five league-wide.

  1. Ryan Callahan – 9.13
  2. Dennis Seidenberg – 8.14
  3. Dustin Brown – 7.89
  4. Cal Clutterbuck – 7.16
  5. Ryan Kesler – 7.12

Three of those players made Team USA. U-S-A! Yeah!

The NHL’s most intangible-deprived players and some other interesting findings after the jump.

Moving on, let’s take a look at the other end of the spectrum. Here are the bottom five, at least according to Cullen’s numbers. (Fifth worst down to worst)

  1. Teemu Selanne -0.13
  2. Eric Godard -0.21
  3. Patrik Elias -0.26
  4. Daniel Sedin -0.31
  5. Patrick Sharp -0.35

Remember, single women in Chicago, Sharp might be a handsome man but he lacks intangibles. Unlike Kevin Costner, he clearly won’t block a bullet/shot for you.

Before I let you go, let me run down a few other interesting tidbits. Alex Ovechkin leads the Capitals with a 4.24 rating followed closely by frequently criticized defenseman Mike Green (4.19). Dion Phaneuf is the second best intangibles guy on the Leafs and outcast Matt Cooke is number three on Pittsburgh. Kristian Huselius ranked last for Columbus, so feel free to crack out some “Uselius/Useless” jokes. Injuries might explain why Eric Staal and Marc Savard came out the worst on their respective teams.

But, perhaps most importantly, Todd Bertuzzi brings the least amount of intangibles to Detroit. Well, I can sleep well tonight.

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    Lundqvist snubs Sens with 21 saves in first (Video)

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    You know how goalies claim they prefer to be busy rather than risking rust in seldom seeing shots? If that’s true, Henrik Lundqvist was really, really happy in the first period.

    The Ottawa Senators generated chance after chance in a busy opening frame of Game 1, generating a 21-12 shot differential against the New York Rangers. The game remains 0-0 in large part because Lundqvist has carried over his momentum from the Montreal Canadiens series so far.

    As you can see from the video above, Lundqvist made some absolutely fantastic saves, especially in somehow stopping Mark Stone.

    In a duller game, 21 shots on goal could a team’s entire output.

    That’s impressive stuff from what appears to be a “vintage” Lundqvist. We’ll see how much more the Rangers lean on him as this one goes along.

    Oh, and here’s a GIF of the best stop of the bunch, because seriously.

    Kunitz is in for Penguins vs. Capitals in Game 1

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins get a familiar face back in the lineup, as Chris Kunitz is good to go against the Washington Capitals in Game 1.

    The 37-year-old has been sidelined since March 31, ending his regular season with just an assist in his final nine games. His last goal came on Feb. 16.

    So, in other words … he’s not quite as big of a deal for this series as he had been in the past.

    He’ll draw into a solid fourth line with Matt Cullen and Tom Kuhnackl, while Carter Rowney will be a healthy scratch. Check out the Penguins’ line combos heading into Thursday’s showdown:

    Foligno, Getzlaf, Giordano vie for Messier Leadership Award

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    The NHL announced the three finalists for the Mark Messier Leadership Award: Nick Foligno (Columbus Blue Jackets), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks) and Mark Giordano (Calgary Flames).

    In case you’re curious about the process, the league explains how it works (and how the buck stops with Messier):

    Mark Messier solicits suggestions from club and League personnel as well as NHL fans to compile a list of potential candidates for the award. However, the selection of the three finalists and ultimate winner is Messier’s alone. 

    So, yes, it might come down to steeliness/60.

    Anyway, the most fun part of this award is that Getzlaf and Giordano just engaged in a first-round series, with Getzlaf’s hit on Giordano (see above) being one of the standout moments.

    Perhaps Giordano will at least get the best of Getzlaf in this one?

    WATCH LIVE: Game 1 for Penguins – Capitals, Rangers – Senators

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    It’s really happening.

    For all the griping about having the Penguins and Capitals meet in the second round (again), it’s easy to forget the bright side: upsets didn’t dislodge this juicy matchup from taking place.

    The West’s duo of Game 1 matchups kicked into gear last night, and now the East provides that battle between Sidney Crosby‘s squad and Alex Ovechkin‘s loaded team. Don’t sleep on Rangers – Senators, either, though; there should be plenty of intrigue in seeing superhuman Swedes Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson try to one-up each other.

    Here’s what you need to know to follow the action:

    New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators

    Time: 7:00 p.m. ET

    Network: CNBC (Stream online here)

    Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals

    Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

    Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)