Seven stunning NHL numbers through first two months
Every month we will take a look around the NHL at some stunning (or even bizarre) numbers that jump out at us.
This month we look at the crazy stat lines for Patrik Laine, Mitch Marner, and Blake Wheeler, take another look at the ridiculous Arizona Coyotes penalty kill unit, and marvel at Alex Ovechkin’s ability to get pucks on the net.
Patrik Laine scores all the goals -- He has not even played three full seasons in the NHL but the Winnipeg Jets forward is already one of the top-three (probably top-two) goal-scorers in the league.
He has already topped the 100-goal mark for his career, is on track to be one of the league-leaders again this season, and is as dangerous as any other player in the league when the puck is on his stick.
Entering play on Friday he has 21 goals on the season, an incredible number through 27 games.
Also incredible? He only has three assists this season, producing one of the funniest stat lines in the league. He is on pace to score more than 60 goals this season while recording only nine assists!
The fewest assists any player has had in a 50 goal season was the 21 Ovechkin had during the 2015-16 season.
Since the start of the 1987-88 season (via the hockey-reference database) Laine’s three assists are the fewest assists a player has had through the first 27 games of the season while scoring at least 20 goals.
During the 2008-09 season Thomas Vanek had 20 goals and only five assists for the Buffalo Sabres through his first 27 games. He finished that season with 40 goals and 24 assists.
At some point things will start to balance out a bit for Laine (his goal-scoring pace will almost certainly slow down, at least a little bit; he will get more assists) but it is still amazing to look at that stat line in the first week of December.
Wheeler and Marner are the Anti-Laines -- At the complete opposite end of the offensive spectrum we have Laine’s Winnipeg teammate Blake Wheeler and Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner.
Let’s start with Marner who has already recorded 34 assists through the Maple Leafs’ first 29 games, putting him in some elite company. It is only the 24th time since the start of the 1987 season a player has recorded that many helpers this far into the season, and 10 of those instances belong to either Mario Lemieux or Wayne Gretzky (five times each).
What stands out about Marner’s performance is that he only has six goals to go with those assists.
Craig Janney (seven goals) during the 1992-93 season is the only player on that list to have fewer than 10 goals at this point.
It is certainly possible that Wheeler could join him on that list. Through the Jets’ first 27 games he has already recorded 32 assists, while scoring only four goals.
The Arizona Coyotes’ penalty kill still has a positive goal differential -- We touched on this a month ago but it is still true today and it is still absurd so we need to look at it again.
We are more than a quarter of the way through the NHL season and the Coyotes have already scored 11 shorthanded goals this season, more than double any other team in the league.
During the entire 2017-18 season only one team scored more than 11 shorthanded goals all year, and none scored more than 12. Arizona is on pace to shatter that number.
Even more incredible than the number of shorthanded goals is the fact they have still only allowed eight power play goals and are still successful on more than 90 percent of their penalty kills. No other team in the league has allowed fewer than 13 power play goals at this point, while the Coyotes’ plus-three goal differential on the penalty kill is still by far the best in the league.
The Vegas Golden Knights, currently at minus-8, are the only other team in the NHL that are currently better than minus-10 while shorthanded.
The worst Chicago Blackhawks start in 15 years -- The window is officially closed.
After missing the playoffs a year ago the Blackhawks have won just nine of their first 30 games to start to the 2018-19 season, making it their worst start since the 2003-04 season when they won just seven of their first 30 games.
It is only the second time since 2000 they have won fewer than 10 games at this point in the season.
That is a lot of shots on goal -- Ovechkin recorded his 5,000th shot on goal during the Washington Capitals’ win over the Coyotes on Thursday night, becoming the fastest player in league history to reach that mark.
Only seven other players have ever recorded that many shots on goal (at least since shots on goal have been an official NHL stat).
The player immediately behind Ovechkin on the list is Brett Hull, who finished his career with 4,876. The next player on the list that Ovechkin will pass, probably in a couple weeks, is Brendan Shanahan with 5,086.
Hull played 1,269 games in his career. Shanahan played 1,525.
Ovechkin has currently played in only 1,031.
Connor McDavid is being asked to do even more -- For the first three years of McDavid’s career he has been asked to be a one-man team in Edmonton, so why should year four be any different?
If anything, he is being asked to do even more this season.
Through the Oilers’ first 28 games he has already contributed to 49 percent of the team’s goals (scoring or assist on 36 out of 76). After the same number of games a year ago he had “only” contributed to 42 percent of the team’s goals (scoring or assisting on 34 out of 80).
Keep in mind he actually missed one of the team’s first 28 games this season.
In terms of the raw numbers it’s not that big of a difference, but it is still stunning that four years into the career of the most dominant offensive player in the league the organization that was lucky enough to get him has not given him any kind of help. When you combine this with Ken Hitchcock’s approach to playing him and Leon Draisaitl seemingly every other shift the Oilers are counting on him to single handedly carry the team even more than before.
Somebody help Craig Anderson -- If you like games with a lot of offense and no defense you really need to start checking out the Ottawa Senators.
For as bad as things seem with the organization overall, they do at least have some promising young players that are putting up big numbers. They also have a completely invisible defense. That combination of young, skilled players results in a lot of high-scoring, action-packed games that may not be the best hockey, but are at least very exciting.
One player that is probably not loving it is starting goalie Craig Anderson, who has already had to face 936 shots this season!
Since the start of the 1987 season no goalie has had to face more shots through their team’s first 30 games, while only two (Ken Wreggett in 1995 with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Marc Denis with the 2003 Columbus Blue Jackets) topped the 900-shot mark (both faced 906 shots).
He is currently facing 36 shots per game! If he maintains that pace and plays in the same number of games he did a year ago (58) he would face more than 2,000 shots on goal this season.
That is a lot of shots, but it’s not totally unheard of as it’s been done 108 teams in league history. But almost every goalie that has been a part of the 2,000 shot club in a season did so by playing more than 60 games.
The overwhelming majority played 65 or more.
The only ones that faced more than 2,000 shots while playing in fewer than 60 games were Gump Worsley (59 games in 1960-61), Bernie Parent (58 games) 1968-69, and Al Rollins (58 games) 1955-56. Somebody help Craig Anderson before he joins that list.