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Hardest working forwards, goalies in the NHL

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Earlier this evening, PHT pondered defensemen who carry big burdens from a variety of standpoints to celebrate Labor Day. Let’s wrap up the thematic fun by pondering some goalies and forwards who can be considered workhorses, too.

Busy in net

Many of these studies will go with the 2013-14 to 2016-17 range, but Cam Talbot‘s 2016-17 campaign deserves a mention because he really stood out in blowing everyone else away from a quantity standpoint while providing commendable quality.

Talbot topped all goalies with 73 games played, with Frederik Andersen coming in distant second at 66. Those weren’t breezy outings, either, as Talbot and Andersen both stood out in facing and stopping the most shots on goal.

Talbot: 1,946 saves, 2,117 shots faced
Andersen: 1,883 saves, 2,052 shots faced

No other goalie faced 2,000 SOG in 2016-17l Robin Lehner came in third with 1,910, while every other netminder was at 1,854 (Sergei Bobrovsky) or fewer.

What about that 2013-14 to 2016-17 range, though?

Only two goalies faced at least 7,000 shots: Tuukka Rask: 7,116 and Braden Holby: 7,011. A few names in the 6,000+ SOG range (15 goalies) are interesting because they seemed to face more pucks in a given night. Mike Smith came in fifth with 6,566 in 211 games and Ryan Miller faced 6,454 in 209 games, whereas other top guys were in that range with 230-250 GP.

Naturally, Henrik Lundqvist, Corey Crawford, Rask, and Holtby deserve special mention because they’ve seen a lot of postseason reps, too.

Forwards march

You can check out who comes in on top in sheer penalty-killing time from 2013-14 to 2016-17 here, but considering all-around duties is especially interesting for forwards.

During that span, Ryan Kesler logged the second-most PK time (789:32), logging 2:28 shorthanded time on ice per contest. He’s rare in being important on the power play (2:43 minutes per game) and even strength (15:19).

Kesler began just 33.4 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone versus a whopping 66.6 in the defensive zone, following up 2015-16’s escalation with an even more extreme disparity. Kesler’s managed impressive possession stats considering his usage, and he’s a hoss in the faceoff circle to boot.

Sean Couturier is another name that pops out, to little surprise. His 709:02 penalty-kill time ranks fifth, and while his zone starts aren’t as outrageous as Kesler, Couturier is still clearly being used as a stopper. Even if he levels out at his current offensive and defensive standards, he could really help the Flyers in crunch-time situations.

Patrice Bergeron enjoyed more of an offensive role (54.7 percent of his shifts started in the attacking zone in 2016-17, a significant departure), but he’s a perennial Selke contender for good reason. Bergeron is in the mix from a PK standpoint and truly stands out as a dominant faceoff-winner. He won the most draws (and almost 60 percent of them) from 2013-14 to 2016-17 and only trails Kesler when it comes to winning faceoffs in shorthanded situations. It’s also difficult to overstate just how much of a possession monster the guy is, whether he’s in more defensive situations or friendlier offensive scenarios.

Those three forwards are among the cream of the crop, but some other names deserve a mention: Adam Henrique, Tomas Plekanec, Frans Nielsen, and Anze Kopitar earn their reputations as versatile pivots.

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Anyway, consider the players above to be a snapshot of some of the forwards and goalies who serve as the glue that holds teams together.

By no means is this a comprehensive study, as you can also consider shot blocking and penalties drawn as pieces of the puzzle. Again, you can check out defensemen who stand out in similar ways in this post from earlier today.

Is Brayden Schenn’s star turn for real?

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For years, hockey nerds and/or experts were waiting for Brayden Schenn to make “the leap.” Eventually, people gave up on that, to the point that the 26-year-old’s trade to the St. Louis Blues seemed more like a curious swap than a tide-turner.

Now, sure, Schenn found a solid niche with the Philadelphia Flyers, but it was in more of a specialist role. Many believed that he was dependent upon a plum gig on the team’s lethal power play and would possibly slip in St. Louis.

Considering that 17 of his 25 goals came on the power play last season, it wasn’t that outrageous to wonder if he might be just “a guy” in St. Louis.

As it turns out, he’s bordering on the guy with the Blues, and it’s been a truly wondrous thing to behold. Wondrous and baffling, to be honest.

On Saturday, it seemed like his hot streak would come to an end … until overtime. In what was very much a solo effort, Schenn beguiled the Vancouver Canucks to secure a 4-3 OT win for his Blues.

Nice. Now, it’s true that Schenn wasn’t the overall star of the night for St. Louis, as that probably goes to Paul Stastny, who piled up three assists. Still, Schenn’s third game-winning goal of the season extended his point streak to seven games, and it’s not like he’s just eking out production, either:

Wow. Overall, Schenn now has 8 goals and 26 points in 21 games during his debut season with the Blues. He’s on a pace to absolutely smash the best work of his career, which came in previous seasons where he collected 55 and 59 points.

So, naturally, the question is: with about a quarter of the season over, how much of this is real and how much of this is a lucky little mirage?

Under normal circumstances, one would lean toward luck, especially with a guy who’s already 26. That doesn’t sound old, and it’s certainly in a scorer’s prime range, but it also strikes as a bit unexpected.

To some extent, this is luck. Frankly, it’s not realistic to expect Schenn to average 1.25 points per game; consider that Sidney Crosby‘s career mark is 1.30, and you realize it’s wise to dial back expectations for a guy whose previous career-high was .74.

That aside, there are some reasons to believe that Schenn could very well remain a bigger scorer with the Blues than he did with the Flyers. Allow me to break it down.

Firing away

Whenever you’re trying to do some hockey myth-busting, shooting percentage is a great place to start. If one-third of the pucks a guy sends toward the net beats a goalie, then ‘ol gravity might not be very kind.

According to NHL.com, Schenn has now connected on 14 percent of his shots on goal this season (eight of 57). That might be a little high, but his career average is 12.5.

Now, assists are a big part of his totals, and that’s where things should cool down. Schenn’s most common linemates have been Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz, by quite a margin according to Natural Stat Trick.

So, you can deduce that some of Schenn’s numbers are inflated by those two, especially with Schwartz connecting on 22.2 percent of his SOG so far in 2017-18.

Nurtured

And that’s where things could slide quite a bit. If the Blues get some talent back from that wave of summer injuries, perhaps Mike Yeo might move Schenn away from one or both of Tarasenko and Schwartz?

The overall setup definitely gooses Schenn’s numbers, but it’s not just linemates.

He’s getting way more ice time, in general. Schenn is averaging just under 20 minutes per night after logging almost 18 per evening last season, via Hockey Reference. While Schenn enjoyed fairly cushy zone starts before, it’s even more pronounced now; the 26-year-old’s began a career-high 63 percent of his shifts in the attacking zone entering tonight’s game.

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So, long story short, you can expect some of this success to subside. The Blues, as a team, are on a roll that is likely cool down.

The more interesting queries revolve around how much the Blues and Schenn might slip from these hot streaks. It should be some, but will the slide be as extreme as some expect? It should be fun to find out.

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.

Chance the Rapper plays clueless hockey reporter on ‘SNL’ (Video)

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Chance the Rapper hosted “Saturday Night Live” last night and in skit he played Lazlo Holmes, a New York Knicks reporter for Madison Square Garden network filling in for the usual New York Rangers reporter who’s on paternity leave.

Holmes quickly discovers that the temperature for hockey is a tad different than that of a hoops game, and that some of the names in the sport are pretty tough to say for an outsider, like Brady Skjei, for example.

It’s not quite Tim “Little Hockey” Meadows bemoaning the 1994 NHL lockout, but it was good for some chuckles.

Hopefully next time NBC has a coach mic’d up for a pre-game speech, he lets fly with “let’s do that hockey!”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

USHL goaltender scores goal, makes most of celebration (Video)

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It was a pretty eventful night Saturday in Sioux Falls as the USHL’s Stampede beat the Muskegon Lumberjacks 7-4 to sweep a weekend series.

After falling behind 3-0 in the first period, the Stampede scored five unanswered times en route to the win. Along the way, their first goal started the teddy bear tossing and the game’s final tally came off the stick of goaltender Mikhail Berdin. Not only did the kid make history by becoming the first goalie in franchise history to ever score, he followed it up with an impressive celebration.

Berdin, a 19-year-old sixth-round pick of the Winnipeg Jets in 2016, went with the bench fly-by, did some fist pumps, saluted the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center crowd and ended it with a Vince McMahon strut. That kid knows how to celebrate.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Buzzer: Monahan the man, torrid Tavares

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Choice PHT Cuts:

Canadiens, Maple Leafs did NOT play nice.

If you didn’t think Alex Ovechkin was tough …

*Rubs eyes* A winning streak … for the Coyotes?

Connor McDavid and Oilers are sad pandas.

Players of the Night

  • Anthony Duclair‘s hat trick is well-covered here, so check that out. Duclair gets one edge on Sean Monahan in that Duclair scored all of his team’s goals on Saturday, but Monahan combined his first career hat trick with an assist, helping his Flames win in OT much like Duclair did for Arizona.

Monahan slightly upstaged Johnny Gaudreau (one goal, two assists) who was pumped to play in front of a crowd in Philly.

  • Paul Stastny collected three assists to help the Blues beat the Canucks in overtime. Check PHT on Sunday morning for an in-depth look at Brayden Schenn, who kept his hot streak going with the OT-clincher.
  • John Tavares just continues to ride high with a goal and two assists. The real stars might be the Islanders as a whole, however, as they beat the Lightning and kept Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov pointless in a 5-3 Isles win.
  • Frederik Andersen has achieved back-to-back shutouts, helping the Leafs make the Habs extra-miserable. He made 33 saves, so you could argue Montreal deserved better than a 6-0 fate.

Heel of the Night?

While Connor McDavid absorbed an odd portion of the Oilers’ blame in defeat despite a three-point night, Antoine Roussel really played up his villain cred. He collected three points of his own and did this:

Highlight of the Night

Going off script a bit here, let’s go with Alex Ovechkin bouncing back from this:

And Corey Crawford being OK despite this bump from Evgeni Malkin.

Both players helped their teams seal up wins as a bonus. (Feel free to share your favorite highlights from tonight, even if they don’t involve near-injuries.)

Factoid of the Night

Congrats, Antti Niemi. Kind of.

Here’s a free joke regarding that situation.

Scores

Flames 5, Flyers 4 (OT)
Stars 6, Oilers 3
Coyotes 3, Senators 2 (OT)
Jets 5, Devils 2
Kings 4, Panthers 0
Hurricanes 3, Sabres 1
Maple Leafs 6, Canadiens 0
Islanders 5, Lightning 3
Blackhawks 2, Penguins 1
Capitals 3, Wild 1
Predators 5, Avalanche 2
Blues 4, Canucks 3 (OT)
Bruins 3, Sharks 2

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.