Did You Know? Random, high-scoring defensemen used to be the norm

4 Comments

The “Did You Know?” series ties in the news of the day with some little-known hockey factoids and/or trivia. It’ll be fun. Trust me.

With 41 points through 43 games, Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson is on pace for a rare kind of season. The 21-year-old Swedish rearguard is flirting with a 75-to-80-point campaign, something only two defensemen have accomplished that since the lockout: Mike Green in 2009-10 (76 points) and Nicklas Lidstrom in 2005-06 (80).

But it wasn’t always this way. In those halcyon, run-n-gun, the-goalies-look-kinda-brutal days of the 70s, 80s and 90s, defensemen would record obscene point totals on a yearly basis.

I’m not just talking about the Coffeys, Leetches and Bourques, either — consider the following:

Jeff Brown, St. Louis, 1992-93

71GP: 25G-53A-78PTS

First, this is the 60th greatest scoring season by a defenseman in NHL history — and it was done by Jeff Brown, a good-but-not-great blueliner that played for seven teams during a 747-game career. Solid player, kind of a journeyman, not a favorite of Kirk McLean’s.

Admittedly, Brown achieved these lofty numbers mostly from feasting on a power play that included Brett Hull and Brendan Shanahan, but still…25 freakin’ goals. That would’ve led the Nashville Predators last season.

Kevin Hatcher, Washington Capitals, 1992-93

83GP: 34G-45A-79PTS

Hatcher wasn’t exactly the most skilled offensive defenseman ever. Physical? Yes. Tough? Yes.

Dynamically skilled? Uhhh

“He has been likened to a skating box car,” wrote Stan Fischler. “Hatcher played as much a stylish as a socko game and that displeased a segment of the Washington fans.”

But the 92-93 season puts him in with some pretty amazing company. Hatcher’s 34-goal effort ranks eighth all-time; the top seven spots belong to Paul Coffey (1st, 3rd, 6th), Bobby Orr (2nd, 5th, 7th) and Doug Wilson (4th).

Ian Turnbull, Toronto Maple Leafs, 1976-77

80GP: 22G057A-79PTS

Playing alongside Borje Salming, Turnbull turned in the greatest offensive season ever by a Leafs defenseman — his 79-point record still stands more than 30 years later. Know what else he did in 76-77? He set the NHL record for most goals in a game by a defenseman (five, in a 9-1 win over Detroit) and in doing so, became the only player in league history to score five goals on five shots in a single game.

Other random defensive stat-sheet stuffers:

— Winnipeg’s Dave Babych posted 61 assists in 1982-83. He finished sixth in the league in that category, one shy of Bobby Clarke.

— Reijo Ruotsalainen scored 28 goals for the Rangers in 1984-85. He’d go on to score 28 goals from 1985-1990.

— Minnesota’s Craig Hartsburg scored 77 points in 1981-82. His career high prior to that was 49; his high after that was 62.

(Jeff Brown photo courtesy gamewornauctions.com)

The Buzzer: Benn vs. Benn, poor get poorer

Getty
4 Comments

Line of the Night: The St. Louis Blues’ superb top trio.

Seemingly every night, at least one of the NHL’s best scoring lines seems to make its case as the best. It’s getting to the point where any off night is surprising, which seems almost impossible in a league where it’s still (allegedly?) tough to score on a nightly basis.

In Tuesday’s case, the Blues’ red-hot trio of Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, and Vladimir Tarasenko added to the Oilers’ profound miseries by triggering an 8-3 stomping.

Schwartz scored one goal and three assists, while both Schenn and Tarasenko enjoyed ridiculous two-goal, two-assists nights. Schwartz and Schenn both are at 30 points in 2017-18, while “The Tank” is rolling with 26. Tarasenko almost had a hat trick today, but settled for the Gordie Howe:

Highlight of the Night: Jamie Benn vs. Jordie Benn, just in time for American Thanksgiving.

(They’re Canadians, but still.)

Shared sadness: The Canadiens lost a hard-fought game to the Stars as the 3-1 margin of defeat was inflated by an empty-netter, while the Oilers were just humiliated, yet both teams really needed wins and neither even got a standings point for their efforts. Times are getting tense for two Canadian franchises that came into 2017-18 with high hopes.

Brendan Gallagher‘s reaction to the empty-netter says it all:

Factoid of the Night: Clearly, it’s totally Connor McDavid‘s fault.

Scores

Canucks 5, Flyers 2

Blues 8, Oilers 3

Stars 3, Canadiens 1

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.

On fire vs. fireable: Blues humiliate Oilers

10 Comments

If you judge a person or sports team by how they react to their backs being up against the wall, then the Edmonton Oilers were complete failures on Tuesday.

Whether you place most of the blame on Connor McDavid (bad) or management (fair), the bottom line is that a response was needed, as people are already doing the math to wonder if the Oilers can dig themselves out of an early hole with a huge rally.

Instead, we saw the same story tonight, only it was sadder and more dramatic. The St. Louis Blues absolutely dismantled the Oilers by a score of 8-3, and that deficit wasn’t an unfair depiction of what happened on the ice. The red-hot Blues absolutely dismantled the Oilers, seemingly scoring at will.

Just check Paul Stastny‘s body language after this beautiful goal; it almost seemed like the veteran forward felt squeamish about the carnage going on in Edmonton’s zone.

Again, it was the same story with McDavid straining to create quite a few chances, even while dealing with an unspecified sickness (note: sickness not a joke about the poor team around him, this time).

It seems fitting that the same few Oilers contributed at least something to the cause, as McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins were involved in Edmonton’s three scores.

This loss encapsulated a lot of the themes of this season for Edmonton: not enough support, a cratering structure, and goaltending Cam Talbot having a miserable night.

Morale in Edmonton is, uh, low.

Now, none of this should take away from the West-leading Blues’ side, as they flexed their muscles once again. Really, the main debates surrounded if the Blues were the best in the West by a large or merely a slim margin.

It was a banner night for one of the best lines in the league in Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, and Vladimir Tarasenko.

Tarasenko almost had a hat trick, but will settle for the Gordie Howe variety, as he dropped the gloves with Matt Benning.

Fittingly, the Oilers didn’t even win that battle, either.

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.

Fight video: Vladimir Tarasenko vs. Matthew Benning

1 Comment

Vladimir Tarasenko earns the nickname “Tank” because he’s a big, hoss-like scorer and because it matches up well with his name.

He showed a different kind of firepower on Tuesday, though, as he took exception to a Matthew Benning hit and decided to fight the Edmonton Oilers defenseman. The bout happened even as the Oilers seemed like they were getting a precious scoring chance, but the crowd in St. Louis was riled up mainly to see the superstar drop the gloves.

In case you’re wondering, this isn’t the first battle for “The Tank.” According to Hockey Fights’ listings, Tarasenko fought once in 2015-16 and another time in 2014-15, while also dropping the gloves once in the KHL.

(This is his first fight against someone not named Ryan, as he exchanged fisticuffs with Ryan Kesler and Ryan Ellis in his other NHL fights. I mean, unless Matthew Benning’s middle name is Ryan?)

So far, the Oilers haven’t been showing as much fight as Tarasenko, as the Blues currently hold a 3-0 lead and chased Cam Talbot. Read more about what’s been a tough night for goalies so far here.

Tuesday has not been kind to goalies

Getty
1 Comment

There are three games on Tuesday, yet we’ve already seen two goalies benched for poor play.

If variety is important to you … hey, at least the two situations were different, albeit with some regrettable moments of pucks going into nets.

The most depressing probably came during Tuesday’s game between the Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues, which you can watch on NBCSN right now.

Now, you can justifiably hang a lot of the Oilers’ struggles on poor management from GM Peter Chiarelli, yet it’s also true that teams/coaches/general managers often see their reputations rise and fall with the play of their goalies. Cam Talbot has already been struggling in 2017-18 after playing outstanding hockey – and a ton of games – last season, but tonight serves as one of his shortest and most troubling efforts.

(And Talbot gets whatever is the opposite of bonus points for languishing while angst is nearing a fever pitch in Edmonton.)

Talbot made it through just 7:35 of ice time on Tuesday, allowing two goals on just three shots before Todd McLellan understandably pulled the plug. This Dmitrij Jaskin goal was a real soul-crusher for the reeling Oilers:

Credit Laurent Brossoit for playing very well in relief of Talbot, at least as of this writing. But this isn’t what the Oilers wanted to see. (Brossoit just allowed a goal, but he has been sturdy overall with a lot of time left in this game).

Negative night for Neuvirth

Compared to Talbot, Michal Neuvirth had a long night for the Philadelphia Flyers. Unfortunately, it was a long night in more ways than one, as Neuvirth struggled against the unexpectedly potent Vancouver Canucks.

Neuvirth got the hook after giving up four goals on 22 shots over 34:26 of game time. Some of that’s on the defense in front of him, as Philly can’t be happy to give up so many chances against a Vancouver team that still has something to prove.

So, this leaves one burning question: will any other goalies get benched tonight? As it is, two out of three is quite bad. Sorry Meatloaf.