Pronger, Kesler shine in 'other' playoff stats

kesler2.jpgThe playoffs started last Wednesday, so I figure now is a good time to take a look at some of the league leaders. Obviously, you need to keep in mind that some teams played four games while some only played three so far. That’s before we even get to such important factors like “this team played against a good defense, great goalie or both” (see: Chicago and San Jose) versus “this team feasted upon a deeply flawed opponent and some lucky breaks” (see: Pittsburgh).

Last post, I shared the “typical” stats. Here’s a few league leaders in some of the less “appreciated” statistics.

  • Craig Anderson is the league’s leader in goalie points, with 1 assist. He’s doing a little bit of everything, isn’t he?
  • Henrik Zetterberg has both of the Detroit Red Wings’ game winning goals this post-season.
  • Pavel Datsyuk won the most faceoffs so far (47) but Ryan Kesler nearly won as many with one less game played (44).
  • Datsyuk also leads the playoffs in even strength faceoff wins (37), Sidney Crosby leads the league in powerplay face off wins (13) and Blair Betts leads the league in shorthanded faceoff wins with an impressive 11 in penalty situations. If you want to know why the Flyers are containing many Devils powerplays, that’s not the only reason but the best way to clear a puck out of the zone easily is to get that first faceoff win.
  • Jarkko Ruutu leads the playoffs in PIM (28) but Andrew Alberts is in second with 23 PIM in only half the games played (two to Ruutu’s three).
  • Marc-Andre Bergeron stands alone with the league’s worst plus/minus rating at -5.
  • Mike Grier, Darren Helm and Jarkko Ruutu share the league’s hits lead at 20, but Grier managed to do that in only three games to Helm and Ruutu’s 4.
  • Anton Volchenkov blocked the most shots so far with 15, but Hal Gill blocked 14 in one less game played. (Cue “then again, Gill wasn’t actually planning on blocking the shots, he just couldn’t skate fast enough out of the way jokes.” Cue them from me, actually.)
  • The LASIK Award for most missed shot goes to Patrick Marleau, whose aim failed him 13 times already. (Note: there is no LASIK award, except in my imaginary land of Snarkonia.)
  • Jason Spezza leads in giveaways, with 8.
  • Ryan Kesler (not, somehow, Pavel Datysuk) leads the league in takeaways with 7. In other news, Kesler is really really awesome.
  • Matt Cullen leads the league in powerplay points with 5 (3 goals, 2 assists).
  • Chris Pronger leads the NHL in overall time on ice (116:28) and per game (29:07). The highest forward in time on ice per game is Kesler, with 24 minutes per game so far.
  • No one leads any category in shootouts, because there are no playoff shootouts (reason #99 on my billion-entry list of “Why the NHL playoffs are awesome”).

What I learned from these stats: if the Flyers make good on their 3-1 series lead and beat the Devils, Chris Pronger and Blair Betts deserve a lot of the credit. Ryan Kesler’s beast status is re-confirmed. Oh, and Jason Spezza/Andrew Alberts might be worthy of some of the scorn they are receiving from fans.

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    Panthers boost playoff hopes, end Penguins’ streak

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    For quite some time, it seemed like the Metropolitan Division would send five teams to the playoffs while the top-heavy Atlantic would only generate three.

    The Metro still dominates the wild-card picture, but with all apologies to the scrappy Red Wings, the Florida Panthers stand as the one Atlantic team with a shot at crashing the party. For all of the front office upheaval, the past few nights provide evidence that they could do some damage if they walk in that door.

    Maybe it’s fitting for an up-and-down team to see some extreme highs and lows in an eventual 6-5 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    Despite some strong work from Evgeni Malkin, the Panthers went into the third period with a 4-2 lead. That wouldn’t end up being enough, as the two teams traded blows during a frantic, five-goal final frame. The Penguins briefly tied the contest up at 5-5, pushing for a seventh straight win, but it was not to be.

    Ultimately, Evgenii Dadonov (first career hat trick) trumped Evgeni Malkin (two goals, one assist) in getting the late game-winner. Perhaps the Panthers will try to lift up a community rattled by tragic shootings, as this is the second straight game where they’ve notched decisive goals late in front of home fans.

    (Thursday’s win against the Capitals was even more dramatic, as they rallied late after Roberto Luongo‘s stirring speech before the game.)

    Now, the Panthers might not seem like much of a threat with 62 points, as the Columbus Blue Jackets currently hold the East’s final wild-card spot with 67. Games played paint a brighter picture, though.

    Here’s how the wild-card races look as of this writing:

    Devils (currently facing Islanders): 70 points in 61 games played, first WC
    Blue Jackets (won tonight): 67 points in 62 GP, second WC

    Islanders (facing Devils): 65 points in 62 GP
    Hurricanes (lost tonight): 64 points in 62 GP
    Panthers: 62 points in 59 GP
    Red Wings (beat Canes): 61 points in 60 GP
    Rangers: 59 points in 62 GP

    On one hand, the Panthers’ situation isn’t that different from the Red Wings,’ at least if Florida doesn’t get hot. On the other hand, consider that the Panthers have a few games in hand on everyone ahead of them. The margin could close rapidly … or they could fade.

    Credit the Panthers for making things interesting, and if things go well, making their competition sweat.

    That’s the power of “Dadonov Strength.”

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Devils retire Patrik Elias’ jersey

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    NEWARK, N.J. (AP) The New Jersey Devils retired career scoring leader Patrik Elias’ No. 26 jersey in a ceremony before their game against the New York Islanders on Saturday night.

    The 41-year-old former Czech forward played his final game in 2016, finishing a 20-year career in New Jersey with two Stanley Cup championships and most of the team’s scoring records.

    “For someone growing up in Eastern Europe, in a communist country, there’s no way I could have ever dreamed of this day,” said Elias, whose eyes welled with tears during his speech that was interrupted several times by chants of “Paddy! Paddy!”

    Always a fan favorite, Elias walked through a section of the stands at the Prudential Center before taking his place on the ice with his wife, two daughters, former and current teammates and the franchise’s owners and management.

    The podium on the ice was shaped as a puck with the No. 26 on it, and it was by surrounded by other super-sized pucks with the same number and two trophies, the Stanley Cup and The Prince of Wales trophy, presented to the Eastern Conference winner.

    Elias played on four conference champions, scoring the winning goal in Game 7 against Philadelphia in 2000.

    Elias is the first European player to have his number retired by the Devils, and the first forward. Defensemen Scott Stevens (No. 4), Scott Niedermayer (No. 27) and Ken Daneyko (No. 3) and goaltender Martin Brodeur (No. 30) also had their jerseys retired. All four were in attendance with Brodeur, of course, getting the biggest ovation.

    It was appropriate that Elias’ No. 26 was raised to the rafters at the Prudential Center against the Islanders, the team he played his most games against, 91, and had his most points, 86.

    Elias is the Devils’ leader in points (1025), goals (408), assists (617), points in one season (96), points in a playoff season (23) and game-winning goals (80), .

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    Stamkos, Hedman fight for Lightning during same period

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    Your results may vary, but from here, novelty carries a lot of weight when it comes to noting an NHL fight.

    Two superstar Tampa Bay Lightning players dropped the gloves in the same period against the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday, and while neither showing was especially boisterous or violent, the rarity really drives the point home.

    As that tweet spoils, Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman were the Bolts players who got a little testy in this one.

    First, Stamkos went after Karl Alzner in defense of running mate Nikita Kucherov (see the video above this post’s headline). Some might argue that this was less of a fight and more of an aggressive hugging, but it’s still an unusual sight. According to Hockey Fights’ listings, Stamkos has only fought on two other occasions in the NHL: against Brad Marchand (2014-15) and Nik Zherdev (2008-09).

    Hedman, meanwhile, dropped the gloves despite a considerable height advantage over Brendan Gallagher. You can see a portion of that fight in this GIF:

    While this might explain the anger:

    This would be Hedman’s sixth fight.

    Theory: Lightning players are just as anxious as the rest of us to see if they’re going to land Erik Karlsson.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Pro Hockey Talk 2018 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

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    The PHT NHL Trade Deadline Tracker is your one-stop shop for completed deals as the Feb. 26, 3 p.m. ET deadline approaches.

    Feb. 24 — New York Islanders acquire Brandon Davidson from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for a 2019 third-round draft pick. | PHT analysis

    Feb. 23 – Vegas Golden Knights acquire Ryan Reaves and a 2018 fourth-round pick; Pittsburgh Penguins acquire Derick Brassard, Vincent Dunn, Tobias Lindberg and a 2018 third-round pick; Ottawa Senators acquire Ian Cole, Filip Gustavsson, a 2018 first-round pick and a 2019 third-round pick. | PHT analysis

    Feb. 22 – New Jersey Devils acquire Michael Grabner from New York Rangers for 2018 second-round pick and Yegor Rykov. | PHT analysis

    Feb. 22 – Florida Panthers acquire Frank Vatrano from Boston Bruins for 2018 third-round pick. | PHT analysis

    Feb. 21 – Washington Capitals acquire Jakub Jerabek from Montreal Canadiens for a 2019 fifth-round pick.

    Feb. 21 – Los Angeles Kings acquire Tobias Rieder* and Scott Wedgewood from Arizona Coyotes for Darcy Kuemper. (*Arizona retains 15 percent of Rieder’s salary.) | PHT analysis

    Feb. 20 – Boston Bruins acquire Nick Holden from New York Rangers for Rob O’Gara and a 2018 third-round pick. | PHT analysis

    Feb. 20 – San Jose Sharks acquire Eric Fehr from Toronto Maple Leafs for 2020 seventh-round pick.

    Feb. 19 – Washington Capitals acquire Michal Kempny from Chicago Blackhawks for a conditional* 2018 third-round pick. (*Chicago will receive the higher of Washington’s own third-round draft choice or the third-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Washington acquired the Toronto draft pick from the New Jersey Devils as part of the Marcus Johansson trade on July 2, 2017.) | PHT analysis

    Feb. 19 – Philadelphia Flyers acquire Petr Mrazek* from Detroit Red Wings for a conditional* 2nd round pick in 2018 or a 3rd round pick in 2018 or a 4th round pick in 2018 and a conditional* 3rd round pick in 2019 (*Red Wings retain half of Mrazek’s salary. *The 2018 fourth-round pick turns into a third-round pick if the Flyers make the playoffs and Mrazek wins five games during the regular season. That pick will become a second rounder if the Flyers win two playoff rounds and Mrazek wins six games. The 2019 third rounder becomes Red Wings property if Mrazek signs with the Flyers.) | PHT analysis

    Feb. 15 – Chicago Blackhawks acquire Chris DiDomenico from Ottawa Senators for Ville Pokka.

    Feb. 15 – St. Louis Blues acquire Nikita Soshnikov from Toronto Maple Leafs for 2019 fourth-round pick.

    Feb. 13 – Los Angeles Kings acquire Dion Phaneuf*, Nate Thompson from Ottawa Senators for Marian Gaborik and Nick Shore. (*Senators retain 25 percent of Phaneuf’s salary.) | PHT analysis