Inside Henrik Sedin's assist-filled season

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henriksedin.jpgAs time goes by, throwaway assists and empty net goals are forgotten and all points sort of blur together. Yet, it’s important to note that not all assists (or points in general) are created equal.

The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell leans on the varied value of assists (particularly a “first” assist versus a “second” assist) when he states that Henrik Sedin is not his choice for the Hart Trophy winner

The problem with assists is you can look at the totals and never really know how much that player had to do with goals actually being scored. With goals, whether it’s an empty-netter, tip-in or a spectacular deke on a breakaway, there is tangible evidence the player in question was pivotal to the play.

Take Henrik Sedin for example. He has an impressive 75 assists this season, but more than half (39) of them are second assists. How many of those were plays in which he played a pivotal role and on how many did he simply dish the puck off to a teammate who made the primary pass to the goal-scorer?

Without going back and looking at the tape of each of his assists, there’s no way of telling.

Now, I will say that the Sedins might have more “valuable” second assists than most. Considering their puck possession-heavy cycling style, I imagine a big chunk of the goals they produce require multiple crucial passes. Still, I generally agree that it would be nice to have more context with assist numbers. Heck, I wouldn’t mind if someone kept track of everyone who touched the puck before a goal.

After the jump, I’ll provide some interesting contextual assist numbers (although I’m still on a crusade to find a source for a simple list of “first” assist leaders.) Check some interesting tidbits out after the jump.


First, I’ll start simply, with the league’s top 5 in pure assists.

  1. Henrik Sedin – 75
  2. Joe Thornton – 66
  3. Brad Richards – 63
  4. Nicklas Backstrom – 62
  5. Martin St. Louis – 61

One assist category that Sedin can pound his chest about is even strength assists. He dominates that category, which – to me – speaks to his excellent play. Here’s the top five in even strength helpers.

  1. Henrik Sedin – 54
  2. Paul Stastny – 40
  3. Daniel Sedin – 40 (in only 58 games)
  4. Joe Thornton – 39
  5. Nicklas Backstrom – 38

Here’s the top 5 in powerplay assists.

  1. Martin St. Louis – 27
  2. Brad Richards – 26
  3. Joe Thornton tied with Mike Green – 25
  4. Nicklas Backstrom tied with Daniel Alfredsson – 24

Now, for a few fun nuggets.

* – Henrik Sedin also leads the league in both home and away assists.


* – Joe Thornton leads the league in “assists against ones own division” with 22 against Pacific foes. That’s pretty impressive considering how tough the Pacific has been.

* – Although Alex Ovechkin isn’t among the leaders in assist totals, he’s clearly not just a goal scorer. The Russian phenomenon has a .83 assist per game average, slightly more than his teammate Backstrom (.82).

Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

(Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

Letang told his side of the story:

The Capitals disagree:

While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

(Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

(You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

There are a few things we do know already.

For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.

Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.

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As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.

Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.

Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.

Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:

Things could get ugly in Game 3:

One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:

Also, lateness of the check:

The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.

Update: The Penguins won the game 3-2.

Read reactions to the check here.