With just nine games left in the regular season, it looks as though Montreal Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges will finish as the NHL’s shot block king.
The 27-year-old rearguard has blocked a league-high 215 shots this season — 39 more than Anaheim’s Francois Beauchemin, 44 more than Tampa Bay’s Brett Clark — yet Gorges isn’t about to glamorize finishing atop the leaderboard.
“Sometimes it’s awful,” Gorges told the Canadian Press about being a shot-blocking specialist. “And sometimes it’s a nothing shot, just a little wrister that hits you right in that spot that kills.
“But nine times out of 10 it gets you on the shin pad or the pants and you don’t really feel it.”
Gorges has been a bright spot in an otherwise dark year for Montreal, the lynchpin of the league’s best penalty kill — 89.5 percent — that’s also one of the busiest. The Canadiens have been shorthanded 276 times this season (second most in the NHL) which has given Gorges plenty of opportunity to hurl his body in front of vulcanized rubber.
“It usually stems from the penalty kill,” Gorges said. “That’s when you get most of your opportunities to block shots.
“This year, being out there more than ever, I’ve had the opportunity to get in the way of shooting lanes and knock down some of those pucks and that’s why the numbers are a little higher.”
Gorges averages around three blocked shots a game and, assuming he maintains that pace, could top 240 blocks on the year. That’d be one of the highest totals in recent memory, surpassing last year’s shot-blocking king (New York’s Dan Girardi, 236) — though falling short of Zbynek Michalek’s 271 blocked shots in 2008-09.
Gorges appreciates the importance of finishing atop such a statistical category, but realizes the sum isn’t greater than its individual parts.
“Any time you can lead the league in something it’s nice, as long as it’s a positive stat,” he said. “Whether I am or not doesn’t really make a difference to me.
“The most important thing is not how many you have but making the timely ones, where a guy has a wide open net and the goalie can’t get across and you get that block, or a guy’s walking right down the pipe and you don’t know if he’ll score or not and you get that block.”