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Sharks dominated special teams differential in 2013-14

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The San Jose Sharks don’t own a Stanley Cup, but it appears that they’re the best team in the NHL at drawing more penalties than they take. Honestly, the numbers are pretty stunning.

San Jose drew 291 power-plays opportunities and were only shorthanded 219 times during the 2013-14 season, making for a differential of 72 power plays. That’s almost an extra power play per game.

To give you an idea of how much better they’ve been than any other NHL team in that area, consider this: they match the second-best (Carolina Hurricanes, +40 chances) and third-best (New York Rangers +32 chances) combined.

Here’s the full chart of how the 30 NHL teams fared whistle-wise in 2013-14 (TS stands for times shorthanded, hopefully other abbreviations are self-explanatory):

Team Total diff 2013-14 Home PP Opp Road PP Opp 13-14 PP Opp Home diff Road diff 13-14 home TS 13-14 Road TS 13-14 total TS
SJS 72 162 129 291 40 32 122 97 219
CAR 40 154 127 281 41 -1 113 128 241
NYR 32 132 132 264 27 5 105 127 232
DAL 27 158 132 290 33 -6 125 138 263
PIT 24 136 142 278 25 -1 111 143 254
CGY 14 121 128 249 14 0 107 128 235
NYI 11 145 131 276 27 -16 118 147 265
PHX 10 145 137 282 21 -11 124 148 272
CHI 9 143 114 257 32 -23 111 137 248
FLA 7 127 142 269 -2 9 129 133 262
WSH 7 148 143 291 5 2 143 141 284
ANA 5 152 123 275 17 -12 135 135 270
COL 3 131 121 252 13 -10 118 131 249
MIN 2 129 123 252 16 -14 113 137 250
NSH 1 121 118 239 6 -5 115 123 238
CBJ 0 142 138 280 -1 1 143 137 280
TBL 0 140 130 270 6 -6 134 136 270
EDM -9 148 123 271 13 -22 135 145 280
MTL -10 140 139 279 1 -11 139 150 289
STL -10 157 126 283 12 -22 145 148 293
LAK -12 154 130 284 14 -26 140 156 296
DET -13 149 133 282 5 -18 144 151 295
TOR -16 119 133 252 6 -22 113 155 268
VAN -17 131 126 257 8 -25 123 151 274
BUF -18 129 127 256 -3 -15 132 142 274
PHI -22 159 135 294 6 -28 153 163 316
NJD -23 123 118 241 -11 -12 134 130 264
WPG -32 151 108 259 1 -33 150 141 291
BOS -33 112 118 230 -26 -7 138 125 263
OTT -49 135 136 271 -15 -34 150 170 320

A few interesting takeaways from that:

  • The crowd in Carolina clearly steers things in the Hurricanes’ direction. They had the highest home differential at +41, one more than San Jose. The ‘Canes were -1 on the road, so it’s not like it was just a matter of an aggressive style.
  • The Boston Bruins easily had the worst home differential at -26. Odd, huh?
  • Could fewer penalties in the postseason be a big reason why San Jose seems to struggle in the playoffs? It’s at least a theory.

In case you’re wondering if this is just a one-time thing, the Sharks really tower over the pack when you count the last three seasons:

Team diff last 3 seasons Total diff 2013-14 diff 12-13 diff 11-12
SJS 139 72 22 45
CAR 86 40 4 42
CHI 62 9 9 44
NYR 57 32 5 20
CBJ 54 0 11 43
PIT 46 24 3 19
FLA 45 7 -9 47
DET 32 -13 21 24
NYI 32 11 14 7
TOR 18 -16 9 25
PHX 12 10 0 2
CGY 10 14 4 -8
NSH 8 1 1 6
MTL 6 -10 30 -14
TBL -7 0 8 -15
NJD -8 -23 7 8
MIN -9 2 16 -27
LAK -11 -12 5 -4
WSH -13 7 1 -21
PHI -19 -22 -13 16
VAN -19 -17 -4 2
STL -23 -10 -1 -12
BUF -32 -18 -15 1
ANA -34 5 -27 -12
DAL -40 27 -8 -59
EDM -49 -9 -6 -34
WPG -66 -32 7 -41
BOS -84 -33 -41 -10
COL -94 3 -43 -54
OTT -99 -49 -10 -40

Let’s consider a few other points:

  • Just in case you missed it, the Sharks finished at +139 while no other team cracked +90.
  • Again, Carolina seems to get a nice amount of PP chances. If Bill Peters can make a difference in that unit, he could see some huge gains even if the rest of the team stays in neutral.
  • One would be wise to consider the 2011-12 season the least since a 48-game slate can be misleading. Quite a few of the “middle” campaigns above indeed seem to make for breaks in patterns.

It should be interesting to see if teams can break these cycles or keep up these positive advantages going in 2014-15. The Sharks certainly hope so and the Ottawa Senators would absolutely prefer not.

Rangers lose Raanta, but get Zibanejad back from broken leg

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 19: Mika Zibanejad #93 of the New York Rangers celebrates his first period goal against the Detroit Red Wings and is joined by Chris Kreider #20 at Madison Square Garden on October 19, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Busy little Monday for the Rangers.

First, the club announced forward Marek Hrivik cleared waivers and was sent to AHL Hartford — paving the way for Mika Zibanejad to return from his broken leg — then announced goalie Antti Raanta would miss the next 7-10 days with the lower-body injury suffered against Montreal over the weekend.

Plenty to unpack here.

Let’s begin with Zibanejad, acquired this offseason in the Derick Brassard trade. The 23-year-old suffered his broken leg back on Nov. 20 and has missed the last 26 games as a result — so, needless to say, New York is glad to have him back. He’d been producing very well at the time of his injury, with five goals and 15 points in his first 19 games as a Blueshirt.

But for all the excitement about his return, enthusiasm has to be dampened a bit by the Raanta injury.

Arguably the best backup in the NHL this season, Raanta’s gone 10-4-0 with a 2.23 GAA and .923 save percentage. He’s done a terrific job of spelling Henrik Lundqvist when called upon, and even had a brief stint of starts in late December before King Henrik resumed No. 1 duties.

With Raanta sidelined until the All-Star break, the Rangers have recalled Magnus Hellberg from the AHL.

Staal-Lindholm-McGinn line doing the business in Carolina

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 21:  Brock McGinn #23 of the Carolina Hurricanes awaits a face off against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on October 21, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Hurricanes defeated the Avalanche 1-0 in overtime.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Bill Peters has found something in the Jordan Staal, Elias Lindholm and Brock McGinn trio.

The line, formed just a short while ago, erupted for 10 points in Saturday’s 7-4 win over the Isles. McGinn went on to capture third star of the week honors and, together, the unit has been a major reason Carolina’s knocking on the door of a playoff spot.

“They’re doing it playing against everybody’s best at home,” Peters said of the Staal-Lindholm-McGinn line, per the New York Daily News. “They’re taking on tough matchups each and every shift and more often than not, they win it.”

Given that Staal, the club’s top defensive center, anchors the line, Peters often uses it against the opposition’s top group. So full credit has to go to Lindholm and McGinn, especially given their relative inexperience — both are just 22 years old and, coming into this season, McGinn had all of 21 games of NHL experience.

He’s a pretty good story, to say the least. The youngest of the McGinn brothers — Jamie currently plays for Arizona, Tye is with the Lightning organization — Brock was the 47th overall pick in 2012, and has steadily progressed from a good scorer in junior, to a good scorer at the AHL level, to a good scorer at the NHL level.

McGinn now has 12 points in 27 games with the ‘Canes this season.

“Our scouts stepped up and took [McGinn] in the second round. He’s a little under-sized and he’s maybe not the fastest guy, but he’s got a lot of hockey player in him,” Peters explained, per the ‘Canes website. “He’s a very courageous kid, a very intelligent player, a lot of old school in him. He’s starting to play with way more pace now, which is a huge credit to him.”

As mentioned above, the ‘Canes are in a great spot right now. They head into today’s action just one point back of Philly for the final wild card spot in the East, but with three games in hand.

Carolina could vault the Flyers with a result against Columbus on Tuesday. It would be another big step in trying to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2009.

More good times in Washington, as Backstrom named first star of the week

Nicklas Backstrom
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The Caps have won nine in a row and catapulted to top spot in the NHL with 63 points, one ahead of second-place Columbus.

Suffice to say, folks are feelin’ fine in D.C.

Those good vibes continued on Monday, as center Nicklas Backstrom was named the NHL’s first star of the week.

More:

Backstrom led the League in assists and points with 3-7—10 in four contests as the Capitals won all four games to extend their overall winning streak to nine contests and propel Washington to the top of the NHL standings (29-9-5, 63 points).

Backstrom registered multiple points in all four games starting with one goal and one assist in a 4-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 9. On Jan. 11, he recorded one goal and three assists in a 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, followed by one goal and one assist in a 6-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 13. Backstrom finished the week by notching two assists in a 5-0 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 15.

In his 10th season, all with the Capitals, the 29-year-old Galve, Sweden native leads the Capitals and is tied for 10th in League scoring with 42 points (12-30—42 in 43 GP).

Backstrom, of course, wasn’t the only big story in Washington last week. Captain Alex Ovechkin scored his 1,000th career point on Wednesday, becoming the first player in franchise history to hit that mark.

The only negative thing coming out of D.C. is that John Carlson, who leads all Caps d-men in scoring, is out for today’s game versus Pittsburgh. Carlson’s absence will be brief, though, as head coach Barry Trotz expects him back in the lineup later this week.

Panthers recall McIlrath from AHL — but will they play him?

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 03:  Ryan Reaves #75 of the St. Louis Blues and Dylan McIlrath #42 of the New York Rangers fight during the first period at Madison Square Garden on November 3, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The Florida Panthers have recalled defenseman Dylan McIlrath from a conditioning stint in the AHL.

The question now is whether they’ll play him.

McIlrath has only appeared in four games for the Panthers since getting traded by the Rangers in November — and in three of those games, he logged less than 10 minutes of ice time.

On his conditioning assignment, the 24-year-old played six games for the Springfield Thunderbirds, scoring once with an assist and 13 PIM.

It seems unlikely that the Panthers would make any changes to their lineup after knocking off Columbus, 4-3, on Saturday. They start a four-game road trip tomorrow in Calgary.

McIlrath’s chances of playing may be limited due to the fact he’s a right shot and the Panthers’ back end already has three healthy right shots in Aaron Ekblad, Jason Demers, and Mark Pysyk.

Ekblad, Demers, and Pysyk have each played all 45 games this season. The leading candidate to be scratched is probably Jakub Kindl, a left shot.

So barring an injury, McIlrath may have to sit and wait some more. The Panthers have won four of their last six, and they’re not in a position to mess with success.

Alex Petrovic (ankle) is Florida’s only injured defenseman. Also a right shot, he could be ready to return in early February.