Stats I'd love to see: Third (or even fourth) assists

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fourthassist.jpgEvery once and a while, I try to introduce new stats ideas (or perhaps stats that I just didn’t know existed) to the hockey blogosphere and fans alike. One example is the incredibly simple Special Teams Plus/Minus stats I discussed during the 09-10 season. This could be a long-running series or a summer diversion, but either way, let’s have a little fun with this experiment.

When Alex Ovechkin scored an empty-net goal to take a brief lead in the three horse race for the Maurice Richard goal-scoring title (eventually won by Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos), a minor Twitter debate ensued regarding the value of the empty-netter. Eventually, I engaged Marty Vance in a small debate about the value of empty netters vs. second assists.

That discussion rolled around in my head for a bit and today I realized something. I’d love if someone – whether it be an official stat keeper or an intrepid team blogger – kept track of every person who touched the puck on its way to the net. Now, keep in mind, that doesn’t necessarily mean every player who was on the ice during the goal. In fact, most goals probably only have one to three players who pass the puck to each other without the other team touching it first. So most goals probably adhere to the one goal scorer + two assists maximum anyway.

But my question is: why not give everyone credit? I’m not saying that a third assist or beyond should count toward a player’s point totals, but rather that it would simply be interesting to find out who was involved in each goal.

To give a little more seasoning to this argument, I will discuss a few ways third/fourth assists could benefit our knowledge of the game after the jump.


brodeurpasses2.jpgRewarding a defenseman who makes brilliant outlet passes

Now, again, I’m not saying there would be a huge amount of third assists. One instance when these might happen, though, is if a defenseman makes a great breakout pass to a player, taking advantage of a prone opposition. Most of the time this will result in an assist for that defenseman – or a non-goal – but if it begins a series of nice passes, that defenseman’s contribution will only live on in the memory of observers who have short memories. Why not reward that subtle, but vital play in whatever way possible?

Spotlighting great passing goalies

This is the cousin of a great outlet pass from a defenseman. Wouldn’t it be intriguing to see if Martin Brodeur or Marty Turco was involved in more goals than you’d think? Again, the numbers might be very small, but goalie assists are rare enough. Let’s say Brodeur makes a great pass to a defenseman, who sends the puck to a forward and then a goal is scored. Is it unreasonable to say that Brodeur helped make that goal happen?

Seriously, any time you can reward this kind of skill, you should*:

Subtle powerplay wizardry

Perhaps the most common time more than three passers are involved in a goal comes when a team scores on the man advantage. Tic-tac-toe passing is far more plausible when teams are given more space and highly skilled players receive that added incentive to make plays. This could be especially effective in identifying great first-pass powerplay point men such as Sergei Gonchar, Nicklas Lidstrom or Andrei Markov. Let’s not forget that an invisible third assist maker won’t even get the typical plus/minus boost during a PP goal, either.

So, again, this would be a fairly minor stat. It might not even happen every game. That being said, hockey is a sport that could use more simple, easy-to-understand numbers. That’s why I think it would be great if people kept track of a third – or dare I say it, fourth – assists.

* – I know that pass would qualify as a primary assist, but still …

Have a stat you’d like to see? Know of a blog or Web site that already keeps track of this stat or something similar? Feel free to mention that in the comments or message me on Twitter.

Video: Pavelski gives Sharks the lead as they look to clinch berth in Stanley Cup Final

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Perseverance paid off for the San Jose Sharks.

Joe Pavelski gave the Sharks the lead in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final, pushing home a loose puck on Brian Elliott after Joe Thornton was unable to convert on the breakaway seconds before.

For Pavelski, that’s his league-leading 13th goal of these playoffs.

The Sharks can clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history with a win tonight.

San Jose increased its lead to two goals, as Joel Ward capitalized early in the second period.

Canucks trade Jared McCann to the Panthers for Erik Gudbranson

ANAHEIM, CA - NOVEMBER 30: Jared McCann #91 of the Vancouver Canucks looks on during a game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on November 30, 2015 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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The Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers have made a trade — and it’s a big one.

As per Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, the two main components are forward Jared McCann, who just completed his rookie season with the Canucks, and 24-year-old defenseman Erik Gudbranson, who has played five seasons with the Florida Panthers.

Here are the details:

McCann is the second draft selection of the Jim Benning-Trevor Linden era, taken 24th overall in 2014. As a 19-year-old rookie armed with a big-league wrist shot, he scored nine goals and 18 points while averaging 12:31 of ice time per game in 69 games.

The Canucks had the option of sending McCann back to junior last season and not burning a year of his entry-level deal, but they chose to keep him in Vancouver for the entire year.

One particular aspect of his development, particularly this off-season, was a need to get physically stronger, which was something that could be exposed at times in the defensive end against bigger forwards.

Gudbranson, selected third overall in 2010 and signed to a one-year, $3.5 million extension earlier this month, certainly gives the Canucks size on the back end at six-foot-five-inches tall, a physical presence and a right shot on the blue line, but he has managed only 13 points as a single-season career best and that was in 2014-15.

The Canucks also gave up two picks in this year’s draft.

 

Vasilevskiy ‘is the big reason we’re in Game 7,’ says Bolts coach Cooper

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It has been an Eastern Conference Final full of twists and turns in the plot.

Exhibit A: The goaltending situation for both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins. 

That began right away, in the first period of Game 1 when Ben Bishop was stretchered off the ice with a lower-body injury. Since then, Andrei Vasilevskiy has been The Guy for the Lightning, which will face the Penguins in a Game 7, winner-take-all contest, in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Of the many storylines heading into this contest, one that stands out is it’s expected to be a goaltending duel between the 21-year-old Vasilevskiy and the Matt Murray, who celebrated his 22nd birthday on Wednesday.

(Remember when Penguins coach Mike Sullivan went with Marc-Andre Fleury to start over Murray in Game 5, only to switch back to Murray for a must-win Game 6? Another plot twist.)

Bolts head coach Jon Cooper had previously left the door open to the possibility that Bishop could return in this series. On Wednesday, however, he told reporters he’ll meet with his staff but does not anticipate Bishop being in for Game 7.

“I think Andrei is the big reason we’re in Game 7,” said Cooper.

“He’s made big save after big save for us. The one thing that I do like that’s happened to him finally in this series is, you know, he finally started a playoff game and won, whereas his other playoff wins were always in relief, and he’s won in Pittsburgh. So you’ve got to like the kid feels pretty comfortable playing there, and we like that.”

WATCH LIVE: Blues at Sharks – Game 6

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Alexander Steen #20 of the St. Louis Blues, Brent Burns #88 of the San Jose Sharks, and Joe Thornton #19 argue with a referee during the second period in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The San Jose Sharks can make franchise history on home ice tonight against the St. Louis Blues. Win, and the Sharks clinch their first ever trip to the Stanley Cup Final. Lose, and it’s back to St. Louis for a deciding Game 7 in the Western Conference Final.

You can catch tonight’s Game 6 on NBCSN (9 p.m. ET) or online with the NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Tarasenko needs to start ‘playing within the system’: Hitch

On the brink of elimination, Blues turn back to Elliott

The Blues could sure use a goal or two from Tarasenko

Stanley Cup Final to begin Monday