NHL Stunning Numbers: The crazy seasons for Cale Makar and Roman Josi

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During the 2021-22 NHL season we will take an occasional look at some stunning numbers from around the league. Here is what is standing out to us right now.

Roman Josi going for 100 points

There might not be a hotter player in the NHL right now than Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi. He has turned the Norris Trophy race into a two-horse race with Colorado Avalanche defender Cale Makar (more on him in a minute) and is having one of the all-time great offensive seasons for a defenseman.

After recording an assist in Nashville’s loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday, Josi now has 26 points in 12 games during the month of March. Going back to the start of January he has 50 points in 33 games. As a defenseman.

For the season, his 79 points in 63 games place him seventh in the NHL scoring race (among all players) and have him on a 100-point pace for the season. His current rate of 1.25 points per game would be 102 points over an 82-game season, and exactly 100 points in 80 games (Josi missed two games this season).

Why is that significant? In the history of the league only five different defenders have hit the 100-point mark in a single season. Bobby Orr did it six times, Paul Coffey did it five times, while Al MacInnis, Denis Potvin, and Brian Leetch each reached it one time. Nobody has hit that mark since Leetch during the 1991-92 season. Leetch and Macinnis are the only two players that reached it after the 1980s. So it is rare. Almost unheard of.

Even 90 points for a defenseman has been a nearly impossible mark to reach. Ray Bourque, with 91 points during the 1993-94 season (in only 72 games) was the most recent defender to eclipse that mark. Only eight different defenders have hit 90 points in a single season (Orr, Coffey, Leetch, MacInnis, Potvin, Bourque, Phil Housley, and Gary Suter).

Barring injury, Josi seems like a lock to at least reach that mark, needing only 11 points in Nashville’s remaining 19 games.

Even more important for Nashville is that his season is not just about stacking points. He has been an impactful defender in every possible way.

All season it has seemed like a foregone conclusion that Makar would win the Norris Trophy, but Josi is right there looking for the second of his career. His season, combined with the monster years for Filip Forsberg, Matt Duchene, and Juuse Saros has the Predators in a comfortable playoff spot.

[Related: Matt Duchene’s monster season helping to drive Predators’ playoff push]

Cale Makar going for 30 goals

While Josi is chasing the century mark, Makar is going after another pretty significant mark for a defender in his quest for 30 goals.

Entering play on Friday he has 22 goals in 60 games this season, a pace that gives him a real shot. That currently projects out to 28 goals in 78 games (Makar has missed four Avalanche games this season) which would still be an extremely rare number.

Only two defenders have topped 28 goals since 1992-93, with Brent Burns scoring 29 during the 2016-17 season and Mike Green scoring 31 goals (in only 68 games!) for the Washington Capitals during the 2008-09 season.

The 30-goal mark is almost as rare as the 100-point mark for a defender as only eight different players have reached it (Orr, Coffey, Bourque, Potvin, Housley, Green, Kevin Hatcher, and Doug Wilson).

Like Josi, Makar’s impact goes far beyond just his box score numbers and either one of them would be a very worthy Norris winner.

No matter which one it ends up being it does seem like it is going to be one of them, as no other defender really comes close to matching either of their impacts this season.

Other Random Stunning Numbers

• With 46 goals in 58 games Auston Matthews is not only leading the league, that would be a 65-goal pace over 82 games. It is one of the best goal scoring seasons of the modern ear.

Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are both on pace for more than 110 points this season. The last time a team had two players top the 110-point mark in the same season? The 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins (who actually had three with Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, and Ron Francis) and the 1995-96 Colorado Avalanche (Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg). The 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins and 1992-93 Buffalo Sabres were the two teams prior to that.

• New York Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin has a .936 save percentage this season, a significant lead over the next closest goalie (Calgary Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom at .927). How significant is that lead? If Shesterkin allowed a goal on each of his next 10 shots that he faces his save percentage would still be .928 for the season, and still in the league lead.

• Speaking of Markstrom, he has nine shutouts in 49 starts this season. Only two goalies (New York Islanders goalie Ilya Sorokin with six in 42 starts, and Colorado Avalanche goalie Darcy Kuemper with five in 45 starts) have five or more.

• The Florida Panthers are still averaging 4.06 goals per game this season. If they maintain that average they would be the first team since the 1995-95 Penguins (4.41 goals per game) to average more than four goals per game in an 82-game season.

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    LA Kings put goaltender Cal Petersen on waivers

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    LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings put goaltender Cal Petersen on waivers, a surprising move for a player once considered the successor in net to two-time Stanley Cup winner Jonathan Quick.

    Petersen, 28, went on waivers the day after allowing four goals on 16 shots in relief of Quick during a 9-8 overtime loss to the Seattle Kraken. Quick was pulled after giving up five goals on 14 shots.

    Only one NHL goalie has a save percentage lower than Petersen’s .868 this season, Elvis Merzlikins of the Columbus Blue Jackets with .864. Petersen is 5-3-2 in 10 games with a 3.75 goals-against average in his third full season with the Kings and fifth overall.

    L.A. signed Petersen to a three-year, $15 million contract in September 2021, and he figured to take the starting job from Quick, who turns 37 in January and is set to be a free agent after the season. Petersen has two years left on that deal after this one at an annual salary cap hit of $5 million.

    Penguins’ Kris Letang out indefinitely after 2nd stroke

    Kris Letang Penguins
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    PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang plays hockey with a grace and inexhaustible fluidity seemingly impervious to the rigors of spending nearly half his life in the NHL.

    For the second time in less than a decade, however, a major health scare has brought Letang’s career to a halt.

    The 35-year-old Letang is out indefinitely after suffering a stroke for a second time. Letang reported feeling ill and was taken to the hospital, where tests confirmed the stroke.

    While general manager Ron Hextall said Wednesday this stroke doesn’t appear to be as serious as the one Letang sustained in 2014, the Penguins will have to find a way forward at least in the short term without one of their franchise pillars.

    “I am fortunate to know my body well enough to recognize when something isn’t right,” Letang said in a release. “While it is difficult to navigate this issue publicly, I am hopeful it can raise awareness. … I am optimistic that I will be back on the ice soon.”

    The three-time Stanley Cup champion missed more than two months in 2014 after a stroke, which doctors determined was caused by a small hole in the wall of his heart. He spent Monday feeling off and told team trainers he was dealing with what Hextall described as a migraine headache.

    Penguins team physician Dr. Dhamesh Vyas recommended Letang go to the hospital, where tests confirmed the stroke.

    “He didn’t know (he had a stroke),” Hextall said. “He just knew something wasn’t right.”

    Letang is continuing to undergo tests but felt well enough on Tuesday to be at the arena for Pittsburgh’s 3-2 overtime loss to Carolina. He spent the second period chatting with Hextall then addressed his teammates in the locker room afterward in an effort to help allay their concerns.

    “I think it was important for Kris to be there because his teammates got to see him in good spirits and that he’s doing well,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.

    Sullivan added initial test results on Letang have been “very encouraging.” Letang will continue to undergo testing throughout the week, though he felt good enough in the aftermath to ask Sullivan and Hextall if he could skate, an activity that is off the table for now.

    Hextall said he “couldn’t even guess” how long the Penguins may be without the married father of two, adding hockey is low on the team’s list of concerns about a player who, along with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, has helped the franchise to three Stanley Cups during his 17-year career.

    “First and foremost this is about the person and I told Tanger about that last night,” Hextall said. “This is Kris Letang, the father and family guy, the Pittsburgh Penguins, that’s second.”

    Letang, a six-time All-Star, has been one of the most durable players in the NHL. His 662 career points (145 goals, 517 assists) are a franchise record for a defenseman. He’s averaged well over 24 minutes of playing time over the course of his career, a number that’s ticked above 25 minutes per game seven times in eight-plus seasons since he returned from the initial stroke.

    The Penguins felt so confident in Letang’s durability that they signed him to a six-year contract over the summer rather than let him test free agency for the first time.

    “The level of hockey he’s played for as long as he’s played is absolutely incredible,” Hextall said. “The level he’s continued to play at at his age, the type of shape he’s in … he’s a warrior.”

    Letang has one goal and 11 assists in 21 games so far this season for Pittsburgh, which hosts Vegas on Thursday night. The Penguins are pretty deep along the blue line, but Sullivan knows he can’t try to replace Letang with any one player.

    “It’s not anything we haven’t been faced with in the past and the reality is we have what we have, and we’ll figure it out,” Sullivan said, adding “it’ll be by committee, as it usually is when you replace a player of that stature.”

    Ovechkin tops Gretzky for most road goals, Capitals beat Canucks

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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Alex Ovechkin scored twice, passing Wayne Gretzky for the most road goals in NHL history, and the Washington Capitals beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-1 on Tuesday night.

    Ovechkin has scored 403 of his 793 career goals away from home. Gretzky holds the overall record with 894.

    “It’s always nice when you beat the Great One,” Ovechkin said. “It doesn’t matter what kind of milestone it is. It’s history.”

    Anthony Mantha added a goal and an assist for the Capitals (10-11-3). John Carlson and Martin Fehervary also scored, and Darcy Kuemper stopped 31 shots.

    Nils Hoglander scored for the Canucks (9-11-3), who had won three in a row. Spencer Martin made 23 saves.

    “Spencer’s been great for us. He’s probably a bit like the other players tonight. They weren’t ready to play and it showed on the scoreboard,” Vancouver coach Bruce Boudreau said.

    The 37-year-old Ovechkin nearly netted a hat trick when Vancouver pulled Martin for an extra skater with just over six minutes left, but his rocket of a shot skimmed the outside of the post.

    “I think he has 13 goals this year and I want to say like eight or nine have been like a new record. So it’s been cool,” Washington center Dylan Strome said. “Any time you pass Wayne Gretzky in anything, it deserves a standing ovation, which he got.”

    Fehervary was the one who sealed it, flipping the puck high into the Canucks zone and into the empty net at 15:57 of the third period.

    Ovechkin topped Gretzky 11:52 into the first, firing a one-timer from the left circle past Martin to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead with his 13th goal of the season.

    “On his second goal, it looks like, `Oh, maybe (Martin) should have had it.’ But I’ve seen (Ovechkin) score 100 goals like that,” said Boudreau, who coached the Capitals from 2007-11. “He’s got a shot that finds its way in.”

    The star forward from Russia got his first of the night 5:35 in, taking the puck off the stick of Vancouver defenseman Quinn Hughes near the net and batting in a quick shot.

    “It could have been 6-1 after the first period, quite frankly, with the amount of chances (Washington) had,” Boudreau said.

    It was Ovechkin’s 135th game-opening goal, tying Jaromir Jagr for the most in NHL history.

    “(Ovechkin) was really good in the first and I thought we were really good in the first so it was nice to get out and get a jump like that,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “He certainly led. We knew we needed to have a good first period, have a good game, and you need your best players to do that.”

    Carlson scored the lone goal of the second, chipping in a loose puck from the low hash marks at 18:47 to give Washington a 4-1 cushion.

    “It’s frustrating. Because when you lose games, it should never be about your compete level and battle level,” Canucks center J.T. Miller said. “It’s frustrating because they didn’t out-skill us today, they didn’t out-system us. They literally just outbattled us and created their own chances.”

    NOTES: Washington’s Lars Eller got his 200th career assist. … Miller had an assist, extending his point streak to nine games (four goals, seven assists). … The Capitals swept the two-game season series. … Vancouver assigned winger Vasily Podkolzin and defenseman Jack Rathbone to the Abbotsford Canucks on Monday, then recalled forward Phillip Di Giuseppe from the American Hockey League club on Tuesday.

    UP NEXT

    Washington: At Seattle on Thursday in the second of a five-game trip.

    Vancouver: Host Florida on Thursday in the second of a four-game homestand.

    Deal for Coyotes’ proposed arena approved by Tempe council

    David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports
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    TEMPE, Ariz. — The Tempe City Council has unanimously approved a proposal for a new Arizona Coyotes arena and entertainment district, clearing the way for a public vote on the project next year.

    The City Council approved the proposal 7-0 after a lengthy meeting that included NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

    The $2.1 billion project would include a 16,000-seat arena, practice rink, 1,600 apartments, two hotels and a theater. Approval of the project was the final step before it goes to referendum on May 16.

    The team is currently playing at Arizona State’s 5,000-seat Mullett Arena, by far the NHL’s smallest arena.

    The Coyotes have been searching for a permanent home since the city of Glendale pulled out of a multimillion-dollar lease at Gila River Arena. Arizona had been playing on an annual lease until Glendale said it would not be renewed for the 2022-23 season.