Patrick Marleau, Antti Niemi

Who has the best and worst shot differential in the NHL?

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Earlier in the week, we looked at the best and worst special teams in the NHL. After which one commenter wrote, “These numbers don’t mean jack.”

So in hopes of building off such a rave review, here are the shot differentials for all 30 teams, ranked from highest to lowest:

S/G SA/G Diff
1 SAN JOSE 35.0 27.9 7.1
2 CHICAGO 33.3 27.3 6.0
3 LOS ANGELES 31.5 26.4 5.1
4 NY RANGERS 33.0 29.6 3.4
5 BOSTON 32.2 28.9 3.3
6 ANAHEIM 31.4 28.5 2.9
7 ST LOUIS 29.1 26.3 2.8
8 VANCOUVER 30.7 28.8 1.9
9 PITTSBURGH 30.0 28.8 1.2
10 DALLAS 31.6 30.5 1.1
11 NY ISLANDERS 30.8 30.0 0.8
12 NEW JERSEY 26.4 25.6 0.8
13 CAROLINA 31.5 30.9 0.6
14 NASHVILLE 29.3 28.8 0.5
15 DETROIT 30.1 29.6 0.5
16 WINNIPEG 30.8 30.4 0.4
17 TAMPA BAY 29.7 29.3 0.4
18 PHILADELPHIA 30.0 30.1 -0.1
19 PHOENIX 31.1 31.7 -0.6
20 MINNESOTA 27.0 28.1 -1.1
21 CALGARY 26.7 28.1 -1.4
22 COLUMBUS 29.2 30.7 -1.5
23 FLORIDA 29.7 31.2 -1.5
24 OTTAWA 32.7 34.5 -1.8
25 MONTREAL 28.7 30.5 -1.8
26 COLORADO 29.3 32.7 -3.4
27 WASHINGTON 30.0 33.5 -3.5
28 EDMONTON 27.0 32.4 -5.4
29 TORONTO 27.9 36.2 -8.3
30 BUFFALO 26.2 34.6 -8.4

 

— These numbers mean something. Three of the top five teams are the last four Stanley Cup winners, and right down at the bottom you have the NHL’s worst team.

— Yep, that’s why goaltending has been so important in Toronto, Colorado and Montreal this season. The Maple Leafs in particular have played a dangerous game with all the time they’ve spent in their own end. In a related story, Joffrey Lupul’s attempted clearance last night versus Tampa Bay will not go down as the best ever:

— In addition to shot quantity, there’s definitely a discussion to be had about shot quality. In fact, it’s one of the most talked about topics in the stats community. You hear arguments like this all the time with teams like the Islanders: How can you blame their poor goalies with all the defensive gaffes they make that lead to prime scoring chances? And there’s something to be said for that argument. That being said, Garth Snow has to do something about his goaltending. The last time the most important position in hockey was a strength on Long Island was what, 2006-07?

Lightning, Islanders make East playoff races even more confusing

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes the third period save as Ryan Strome #18 of the New York Islanders looks for a rebound at the Barclays Center on November 1, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Whenever you groan at what seems like a quiet trade market, take a step back and ask yourself this: “Who is really out of it?”

For a while there, it felt reasonable to dismiss the chances of teams like the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning. Now? There’s probably only a handful of teams that can really be comfortable, at this very point, with calling themselves sellers.

The Islanders took care of their business with a 3-1 win against the fading (probably selling?) Detroit Red Wings, even with Petr Mrazek making a save like this.

Meanwhile, Ben Bishop might just be putting his game together (while Nikita Kucherov‘s game remains very much together) as the Tampa Bay Lightning throttled the Edmonton Oilers 4-1. Bishop might just end up being indispensable – or at least not worth trading – as he’s on a five-game winning streak.

With those wins, the races for the last seemingly available Eastern Conference playoff spots just get that much muddier.*

Third place in the Atlantic: Maple Leafs – 67 points in 59 games, 28 wins, 27 ROW

Second wild card: Panthers – 66 points in 58 GP, 28 W, 25 ROW

Bruins – 66 points in 59 GP, 30 W, 28 ROW
Islanders – 66 points in 59 GP, 28 W, 27 ROW
Flyers – 63 points in 59 GP, 28 W, 23 ROW
Lightning – 62 points in 59 GP, 27 W, 25 ROW
Sabres – 62 points in 60 GP, 26 W, 25 ROW

Wow, that’s crazy-close. Naturally, teams like the Islanders and Flyers lack the luxury of having a third spot in reasonable reach – unless things get truly wild – but that’s quite the congested group of playoff hopefuls.

And, sure, the Bolts are among those facing longer odds, but the way things keep swinging wildly this season, who knows? Especially with a team with a track record of success and high expectations like the Lightning.

* – We’ll arbitrarily cut off the East race at the Devils, but just in case you’re wondering, they have 60 points, the Red Wings have 58 and the Hurricanes have 56. Also, the Ottawa Senators hold the second spot in the Atlantic with 70 points and the Montreal Canadiens lead the division with 72, so that group could see quite a bit of movement over the last quarter of the season.

Forsberg’s hat trick, own-goal highlights Predators’ wild OT loss to Flames

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If you want to summarize the kind of night the Nashville Predators experienced, you could do worse than to draw parallels to Filip Forsberg‘s experiences.

The highs were quite high, you see. Forsberg & Co. carved away at the Calgary Flames’ 4-1 lead as his hat trick (see above) eventually gave the Predators a fleeting 5-4 edge.

We all should have seen more drama coming … and it did. Forsberg ended up being at the wrong place at the wrong time in overtime; the Flames’ 6-5 overtime winner ended up going off of his foot. Ouch.

Mark Giordano ended up being credited with that goal. The game was just a barn-burner.

While it was an up-and-down night for both the Flames and Predators, Pekka Rinne‘s evening was pretty much uniformly dismal.

Rinne was pulled early in the second period after giving up four goals on 13 shots, making way for Juuse Saros (who actually ended up gtting tagged with the loss).

The Flames can breathe a sigh of relief after winning the game despite coughing up a big lead, improving to 64 points and strengthening their grip on the second wild card spot. That “charity point” comes in handy for Nashville, leaving the Predators with 65 points and a game in hand on the Flames.

Serious performance: Blackhawks gain on Wild thanks to Toews’ five points

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If the Chicago Blackhawks are going to make up some serious ground and overtake the Minnesota Wild for the Central Division title, they’ll need wins like these.

It’s only fitting that “Captain Serious” Jonathan Toews did the heavy lifting, generating a hat trick and two assists as the Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-3 on Tuesday.

Yes, Toews was involved in every goal. And yes, the Blackhawks won this one in regulation after beating the Wild in overtime last time around. It’s a nice swing for Chicago:

Central Division title chase

1. Wild – 84 points in 59 games (39 wins, 36 ROW)
2. Blackhawks – 79 points in 60 games (37 wins, 35 ROW)

Yeah, that’s still a substantial edge for Minnesota … but this is a significant swing.

Even beyond the name recognition that comes with Toews & Co., the Blackhawks’ push shouldn’t be surprising. They’re red-hot in February so far, going 7-1-0 despite playing seven of eight on the road (strangely losing that lone home contest).

The Wild have played reasonably well in their own right, yet this loss sends them into a bye week with some frustration … and maybe some questions about whether they can hold the Blackhawks off.

Also, tonight marked a nice milestone for Joel Quenneville:

Matthews, Leafs get last laugh in OT vs. Laine and the Jets

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Hockey fans tend to get their radars up about over-hyping things, particularly promising rookies.

Is it hasty, then, to wonder if there’s something to a rivalry between Auston Matthews (and the Maple Leafs) vs. Patrik Laine (plus the Jets)? If nothing else, the two have come up big in two very exciting games.

Back in October, Laine generated a hat trick as the Jets beat the Maple Leafs 5-4 in overtime. This time around, it was another 5-4 overtime decision … only Matthews and the Maple Leafs took this round.

This isn’t to take anything away from Laine’s performance, mind you. He scored two goals on Tuesday, becoming the rare modern rookie to muster 30 goals. He reminded hockey fans that he only needs the smallest window to make you pay with his deadly, world-class shot.

MORE on that goal and the violence that ensued here.

But Matthews wouldn’t be denied, either, and fittingly did so in a quieter fashion. (Virtually everyone seems a little quieter when Laine’s around, it seems.)

The Maple Leafs’ outstanding rookie managed three assists in this game, giving him 52 points in 59 games. He also has six points in a three-game run and eight in his past five.

Laine? He now has 54 points in 55 games, extending is own point streak to five games (seven goals, three assists).

In other words, it’s really close … just like the games when these two budding stars (and their young, promising teammates) meet.

You might even be tempted to believe the hype.