Go figure: stats to chew on as the NHL season nears the 10-game mark

Thursday October 29th, 2015

A look at some noteworthy numbers as NHL teams approach or hit the 10-game mark:

0: The number of goals scored by Rick Nash through 10 games this season. (The Rangers sniper was credited with an empty netter on Oct. 22, but never actually put the puck in the net. The goal was awarded after he was hooked from behind on the play.) Nash’s longest slump during his 42-goal 2014-15 season was eight games.

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1: The number of games in which Sidney Crosby has accrued points this season. Sid picked up three in that Oct. 20 match against the Panthers. He’s been held pointless in each of Pittsburgh’s other eight games this season, marking this stretch as arguably the worst slump of his career. What’s troubling is that this appears to be directly attributable to the system being employed by coach Mike Johnston, which keeps forwards penned in the defensive and neutral zones longer. If Johnston maintains Crosby’s current role, this could be a difficult season for Pittsburgh’s biggest gun.

4.3: The average number of shots per game launched by Jakub Voracek. Despite being tied with Tyler Seguin for fourth in the league in this category, Voracek is still looking for his first goal of the season. The volume of attempts is well ahead of his typical pace. Voracek averaged 2.7 shots in 2014-15 when he scored 22 goals, and 2.9 shots in 2013-14 when he netted a career-best 23. What’s missing might be his timing. There’s an obvious hesitation in his release that comes from overthinking, a natural reaction for any sniper who is immersed in a slump. Once he breaks the seal, expect a more natural release ... and likely fewer shot attempts.

15: The number of points banked by the Predators through their first nine games, making this their second-best start in franchise history. The Preds will have a chance to equal the 8-1-1 start of the 2005-06 team when they take on the red-hot Kings on Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles. The key to their success? Defense, of course. Nashville is allowing just 1.89 goals per game, tied for third-fewest in the league.

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16:55: Tyler Toffoli’s average ice time in minutes so far this season. That’s a jump of 2:20 from last season, and a recognition of his growing importance for the surging Kings. The 23-year-old is being trusted with more special teams duties by coach Darryl Sutter, with a pronounced jump in both his penalty killing (0:59 last season; 1:46 this year) and power play (1:26 to 2:06) usage. But those extra duties haven’t diminished his effectiveness at five-on-five; Toffoli currently is tied for the league-lead with five even-strength goals.

24.3: Average shots per game allowed by the Capitals. That pace would see the Caps allow the fewest since the Devils averaged 23.1 back in the shortened 2012-13 season. The last time a team managed to average fewer than 25 shots allowed in a full season was 2007-08 (Red Wings, Sharks). The Capitals have allowed as many as 30 just once this season, in their Oct. 13 loss to the Sharks, a testament to their team-wide buy-in of the philosophy of coach Barry Trotz.

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25: Success rate percentage of Buffalo’s power play. The Sabres rank sixth in efficiency with the extra man this season after finishing 30th last season with a dismal 13.4%. “The thing they’ve done really well is they’ve adopted a shooting mentality and getting pucks to the net,” coach Dan Bylsma told The Buffalo News. That’s really largely where our success has come from.” Or it could come from the significant infusion of talent. Three of the five players on the first unit—Ryan O'Reilly, Sam Reinhart and Cody Franson—weren’t with the team last season. Jack Eichel, Evander Kane (now injured) and Jamie McGinn are fresh faces on the second unit. The patience and hockey sense of Reinhart and Eichel in particular have enhanced the effectiveness of both groups.

27.3: Percentage of face-offs won by Mike Ribeiro. The Nashville center is the NHL’s least dangerous opponent in the circle, winning just 30 of the 110 draws he’s taken. Ribeiro’s never been particularly strong at the dots, typically averaging in the low-to-mid 40s (he won 43.2% of his face-offs last season), but this drop is significant. One scout pointed to his struggles as a reason why the Predators need to invest in a top-six center before the trade deadline.

The numbers game

• With their victory on Wednesday night, the Penguins are now 11-4-0 in their last 15 games against the Capitals dating back to Dec. 1, 2011.

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• Panthers goalie/funnyman Roberto Luongo now ranks ninth on the NHL’s all-time wins list, with 404 victories. He& leads all active netminders in wins, shutouts (68) and games played (871).

• Tuukka Rask’s 27 career shutouts with the Bruins put him in a fourth-place tie with Eddie Johnston on Boston’s all time list behind Tiny Thompson (74), Frankie “Mr. Zero” Brimsek (230) and Terrible Tim Thomas (31).

Hot links

• After watching the Phil Kessel experiment fizzle just seven games into the season, maybe it’s time to stop saying Sidney Crosby needs a winger.

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• Liam Stewart wants to make everyone forget his famous parents as he embarks on his pro hockey career in the ECHL.

• Sabres coach Dan Bylsma is ready to face his past as he makes his return tonight to Pittsburgh.

• While trade rumors swirl, the Calgary Flames are looking for answers within.

• Dieter Ruehle reveals the secrets of his 20-year career as the organist for the Los Angeles Kings. Hey, who knew there was a Twitter account that kept track of each night's starting organists?

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