I tackled the typical points/goals/plus-minus leaders in an earlier post, so I thought I’d take a look at some of the odd stats from the first week of hockey. Small sample sizes can make for some strange numbers, so enjoy this look around the league. (Feel free to spout some strange stats of your own in the comments, too.)
- Anaheim Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller leads the league in saves by a wide margin. He’s made 150 in four games played, 40 more than Washington Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth made in the same amount of starts.
- Dustin Brown and Chris Kunitz are tied for the league lead in hits with 19, but Brown did it in three games while Kunitz produced that many in four. Both are frequent hitters, but Brown has the best chance to land in the top 10 this season. Considering his ability to score between 20 and 30 goals, Brown could be a very valuable player in fantasy hockey leagues that include hits as a stat category.
- To echo an earlier post about the Ducks’ tendency to take too many penalties, three Ducks lead the NHL in penalty minutes. Bobby Ryan has 27 so far this season, followed by Corey Perry (25) and Sheldon Brookbank (24). Paul Mara also ranks No. 8 in the league with 18. The first non-Duck is (wait for it) a member of the Philadelphia Flyers: Scott Hartnell (23).
- Mikko Koivu is the best faceoff winner from a quantity standpoint so far this season. (I value total faceoff wins more than faceoff percentage because better centers take more draws and naturally will lose more than situational centers.) Despite playing in one less game than second place man Jonathan Toews (who went 54-38 for a 58.7 percent success rate in four games), Koivu succeeded in winning 55 out of 80 draws so far this season. That 68.8 winning percentage is not sustainable for a full season, but it’s the kind of stat that shows how valuable the underrated (but not underpaid) Finn really is.
- Steve Montador leads the league in blocked shots with 15 in four games. There’s an “El Matador” pun in there somewhere, but I’m far too dignified to make it (naturally).
- The Boston Bruins lead the league in shots per game with 39.5 (although they’ve only played two games so far) while the red-hot Dallas Stars average the least shots per game with just 21.7. The St. Louis Blues have given up the fewest shots per game so far (22) while the Ducks (46) and Phoenix Coyotes (39.5) have some work to do.
- The Minnesota Wild converted a league-leading 43.8 percent of their powerplay opportunities so far this season, while the Florida Panthers and Montreal Canadiens are the only teams without a power-play goal in 2010-11.
So those are some interesting stats from the first week in the NHL. It should be interesting to see if any trends are forming or if a few players/teams are simply playing over their heads.
Late in the third period of Friday’s game against the New York Rangers, things were looking good for Columbus.
Brandon Saad, who the team acquired from Chicago this off-season, scored his first goal of the season to give his team a 2-1 lead with under four minutes remaining in the contest.
Unfortunately for the Jackets, that’s as good as it would get.
The Rangers responded with three unanswered goals from Oscar Lindberg, Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello to spoil Columbus’ home opener.
“When something like that happens at the end, I think we’re gonna be a better team because of it,” defenseman Ryan Murray told reporters after the game. “It’s a harsh lesson, but it’s a good one.
Luckily for Columbus, they won’t have to wait very long to try and get their revenge.
The Blue Jackets and Rangers will finish off their home-and-home series at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, which might not be such a bad thing for Columbus.
“It’s good that we get another chance tomorrow,” Saad said after Friday’s game. “We were high on emotions (after the go-ahead goal) and they scored and it took the wind out of our sails, but we have to keep playing. We have to learn to keep doing our thing, regardless of the score.”
The Los Angeles Kings may owe Mike Richards money until 2031 (seriously), but in settling his grievance, the team and player more or less get to turn the page.
Not before Kings GM Dean Lombardi shares his sometimes startling perspective, though.
Lombardi has a tendency to be candid, especially in the press release-heavy world of sports management. Even by his standards, his account of Richards’ “destructive sprial” is a staggering read from the Los Angeles Times’ Lisa Dillman.
“Without a doubt, the realization of what happened to Mike Richards is the most traumatic episode of my career,” Lombardi said in a written summation he provided to the Los Angeles Times. “At times, I think that I will never recover from it. It is difficult to trust anyone right now – and you begin to question whether you can trust your own judgment. The only thing I can think of that would be worse would be suspecting your wife of cheating on you for five years and then finding out in fact it was true.”
Lombardi provides plenty of eyebrow-raising statements to Dillman, including:
- He believed he “found his own Derek Jeter” in Richards, a player who “at one time symbolized everything that was special about the sport.”
- Lombardi remarked that “his production dropped 50 percent and the certain ‘it’ factor he had was vaporizing in front of me daily.”
- The Kings GM believes that he was “played” by Richards.
Again, it’s a powerful read that you should soak in yourself, even if you’re unhappy with the way the Kings handled the situation.
Maybe the most pressing of many lingering questions is: will we get to hear Richards’ side of the story?