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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    PHT Morning Skate: This season’s top five breakout performers

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    Jake Allen wore a special U.S. Navy tribute mask during last night’s game against the Coyotes. It’s really a gorgeous mask. “The blue and yellow complements our colors well, and it’s a great tribute to the Blue Angel pilots who have the honor of flying and performing across the country.” (NHL.com/Blues)

    –With every NHL season, there are surprises and disappointments. Rather than focus on the negatives, The Hockey News breaks down the top five breakout seasons in 2016-17. At the top of the list is Panthers forward Jonathan Marchesault, who is shockingly closing in on a 30-goal season. Nashville’s Viktor Arvidsson and Boston’s David Pastrnak have also made names for themselves. (The Hockey News)

    –It’s no secret that NHLers are forced to travel a lot, but each team makes the most of their road trips in different ways. For example, Kevin Shattenkirk and the Capitals enjoy fine dining when they’re away from home.  “It’s so easy to go to the top names or the ones that you hear of all the time, but when you go to a lot of these cities, the food scenes everywhere now are really starting to improve. A lot of my friends naturally are foodies. They bring me to some of their places. Even just a simple Google, most of the times, the first two things that come up are Yelp or TripAdvisor, and I usually go a couple down and look at a local newspaper, if they have the best spots to eat in 2017. I like to focus on those.” (Washington Post)

    –The Tampa Bay Lightning found themselves down 4-1 in lasts night’s game against Chicago, but they were able to battle back and win in a thrilling overtime period. You can check out the highlights from that game by clicking the video at the top of the page.

    –Tonight will mark the first time that Jordie and Jamie Benn play against each other since the trade that saw the older Benn head to Montreal. The Canadiens took the opportunity to ask their Benn some questions about what it was like growing up with his brother. Here’s a sample question: “Of the two of you, which one is Peyton and who is Eli?” (NHL.com/Canadiens)

    –This year’s rookie class with Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Zach Werenski, Mitch Marner and Matt Murray is one of the best in recent memory, but which other freshmen classes stand out? BarDown takes a look at the top five rookie classes since 2000. (BarDown)

    –Capitals forward Justin Williams and Andre Burakovsky had some fun during picture day. The two players showed up to the rink with some pretty poofy hair. There’s no point in me trying to explain it when you can see the pictures for yourself. (NHL.com)

    Eddie Lack expects to be released from hospital on Monday night

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    As scary as the situation was for Carolina Hurricanes goalie Eddie Lack, the good news continues to pour in.

    First, the Hurricanes provided an update that he had “full feeling in his extremities” while under observation at a hospital. This followed the promising sign that he was able to give a “thumbs up” gesture while being taken off the ice on a stretcher after the Hurricanes’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

    The best news came late on Monday night, however, as Lack himself tweeted that he expects to head back home as early as this late evening/early morning:

    That’s fantastic news. Video of that scary collision with Andreas Athanasiou can be seen in the video above this post’s headline.

    Blues, Flames take care of business (Islanders … do not)

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    For a while there, it seemed like the idle Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs would be Monday’s “winners.” That changed when the Carolina Hurricanes salvaged a standings point and the Tampa Bay Lightning stormed back to beat the Blackhawks.

    Still, there were some teams who came through (beyond the Lightning) and those who fell flat, so let’s cover some of the results in short.

    West teams get it done

    Unlike their counterparts out East, West teams jockeying for position avoided “unforced errors” in losing to non-playoff teams.

    The St. Louis Blues beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 while the Calgary Flames topped the Colorado Avalanche 4-2. Johnny Gaudreau generated his 200th point (and 201st) in Calgary’s win, while Alex Steen generated four assists. (Vladimir Tarasenko also enjoyed a three-point night.)

    This keeps the Blues and Flames in position to advance. St. Louis is one point behind the Nashville Predators for third in the Central while the Flames are a point behind both the Sharks and Oilers for second and third in the Pacific (while remaining in shouting distance of the division title).

    East teams stumble, some get over it

    Again, the Lightning fought through hurdles to win and the Hurricanes managed that “charity point.”

    Overall, East teams struggled. The New York Islanders fell to the Predators by a score of 3-1. Your mileage may vary on the Florida Panthers’ chances, especially after they fell 4-2 to the Buffalo Sabres.

    Brian Gionta scored in his 1,000th game as Buffalo won, by the way.

    Here’s what the race for the final spot in the East looks like after tonight:

    Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

    Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
    Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
    Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

    Victor Hedman might just force his way into the Norris argument

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    For quite some time this season, the Norris Trophy race felt a bit like “Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and [insert token finalist].” As it turns out, Victor Hedman is making it a pretty interesting three-horse race.

    With Burns and Karlsson idle on Monday, Hedman continued to go on the best offensive tear of his already-impressive career, contributing three assists to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-4 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks.

    As much credit as forwards Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin deserve in pushing Tampa Bay in Steven Stamkos‘ absence, Hedman has been an all-world blueliner for a Lightning team with a defense that isn’t really surrounding him with great talent.

    He’s serving as a workhorse when his team needs him the most:

    Now, when you look at the numbers, it’s probably fair to say that Hedman comes in third among the likely finalists in simple categories:

    Brent Burns: 27 goals (!), 72 points in 75 games, +16 rating, 24:52 time-on-ice average

    Erik Karlsson: 14 goals, 67 points in 74 games, +7, 26:53 minutes per game (fourth highest average in the NHL)

    Victor Hedman: 15 goals, 65 points in 72 games, +2 rating, came into Monday with average of 24:15 minutes per game.

    Looking at those breakdowns, you might wonder why someone wouldn’t just flippantly hand Hedman the “bronze medal” and a pat on the back … but things get more interesting if you ponder the all-around impact of those three.

    Now, traditional-thinkers who slam risky defensemen for their mistakes often overstate such arguments. Both Burns and Karlsson tilt the ice in their teams’ favors, usually to profound degrees.

    Still … Hedman locks opponents down to a truly elite degree and scores at a similar rate. Hedman could very well own the “two-way” argument; you could perhaps see his case most clearly when you compare his “HERO” chart to those of Burns and Karlsson, especially from the perspective of conceding shots.

    Again, Burns remains the likely winner, and he would be a deserving one. You could make a solid Hart Trophy argument for Burns, in addition to tabbing him as the Norris frontrunner.

    Even so, voters would be wise to take Hedman’s case seriously, especially as the Lightning continue their improbable playoff push.