Be it a rolling puck here or a post there, sometimes the game can be downright cruel to those trying to will or skill their way out of a slump. If it wasn’t for bad luck, these five players would have no luck at all.
Across the first five games of the NHL campaign, it felt like Alex Ovechkin couldn’t miss.
The Great Eight opened the season with a hat trick, followed it up with a four-goal night and, after one evening off the scoresheet, came back with goals in back-to-back games. Over that stretch, Ovechkin fired 29 shots on goal and 31 percent of those, nearly one-third, found twine. It was an incredible run, one that led a few to suggest Ovechkin was already the clear-cut favorite to win a seventh Rocket Richard Trophy.
Then, the inevitable happened. Ovechkin’s string of incredible puck luck came to an end, and the Capitals’ sharpshooting winger has since managed one goal on 34 shots in his past eight games. That’s good for a 2.9 shooting percentage, which has dropped his season success rate down to 15.9 percent. But there’s really no reason to worry about that, because Ovechkin’s ups and downs in his shooting percentage were bound to come with the usual peaks and valleys in a long season. And, really, Ovechkin should be thankful he had a peak nice and early. Others haven’t been so lucky. In fact, there are a few NHL players whose luck has been downright non-existent.
So, forget Ovechkin-esque puck luck, here are five players who have barely been able to get a bounce all season:
Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes
Sophomore slumps aren’t all that uncommon, but it feels like Aho is in a sophomore scoring crater right now. Through 11 games, Aho has six points, but not a single one of those has come by way of lighting the lamp. Yes, after notching 24 goals last season, Aho is currently on pace to score, well, zero. That’s certainly not going to be the case, mind you, but Aho has to be wondering when something, anything, is going to go in for him.
Aho has had his chances, too. In 11 games, he’s put 33 shots on goal and he’s definitely pulling his weight when it comes to generating opportunities. He has 62 shot attempts at all strengths, which is more than any forward who is yet to score, as well as 35 scoring chances and 10 looks from the high-danger area of the ice. Still, he’s got to nothing to show for it in the goal column.
The 20-year-old is far too dynamic for this to continue for long, however. He’s getting the third-most minutes of any Hurricanes forward on the power play and he’s seen his ice time jump by two minutes this season. He’ll shake this off one way or another, and don’t be shocked if he goes on a tear.
Martin Hanzal, Dallas Stars
Signed to a three-year, $14.25-million contract in the off-season, Hanzal was supposed to come in and deliver depth down the middle for the Stars. It’d be almost impossible to know Hanzal was even in Dallas judging by the scoresheet, though.
In the 11 games he’s played, the 30-year-old Hanzal has only registered one point, which happened to be an empty-net goal. His other nineteen shots have been turned aside, and half of his attempts have either gone wide or were blocked on the way in. But it’s not just that Hanzal isn’t scoring. No one on the Stars is when he’s on the ice at five-a-side. Despite he and his linemates directing 37 shots on goal at 5-on-5, not a single one has crossed the goal line. Making matters worse, Hanzal has watched seven goals go the other way at 5-on-5, making for an ugly zero percent goals-for percentage.
Of course, things went from bad to worse for Hanzal, too. He’s out with a lower-body injury and has missed the past two games. He has to sit on the sidelines thinking about — and waiting to shake — his dreadful start.
Kailer Yamamoto, Edmonton Oilers
With eight games played and the possibility of being sent back to junior on the table, the Oilers have a big decision to make with Yamamoto. The 19-year-old made the team out of training camp on merit, beating out Jesse Puljujarvi for the spot, but has had a tough time cracking the lineup and getting solid minutes. Even still, he’s had his chances. It’s just that nothing wants to go in for him right now.
Among forwards with 100 minutes played at all strengths, Yamamoto ranks 35th in scoring chances and 20th in high-danger chances per 60 minutes. Despite that, Yamamoto has three assists and not a single goal to show for his efforts. Somehow making matters worse is that Yamamoto has had 15 chances in high-danger areas to bang home his first goal with no such luck.
If he gets sent back to junior instead of sticking with the big club, he shouldn’t hang his head. If anything, he can blame bad luck.
Alex Galchenyuk, Montreal Canadiens
Considering the other players on this list, Galchenyuk may seem an odd inclusion. After all, he has four goals, which is more than the other four combined. It’s not as simple as looking at the goal column for Galchenyuk, though. Of course, there’s the situation with coach Claude Julien, where it appears the bench boss has soured on the 23-year-old’s game, and the fact that Galchenyuk is at the center of near-constant trade speculation, but what’s really plaguing him on the ice is an inability for anyone to convert.
Among all forwards in the league to play at least 100 minutes, Galchenyuk has the 16th-worst on-ice shooting percentage at 4.5 percent, which is to say the Canadiens are rarely, if ever, scoring when he’s out there. That puts Galchenyuk, by all accounts a talented scorer, in the same company as Sean Kuraly, Ryan Carpenter, Antoine Roussel, Taylor Leier and Luke Glendening. Not exactly a who’s who of big-league scorers. What makes that all the more vexing is Galchenyuk and his linemates have had the opportunities. He has a 57.8 Corsi for percentage, 54.4 shots for percentage and has been on ice for 99 scoring chances and 40 high-danger opportunities. So, four goals seems all right considering the company, but Galchenyuk should have much more to show for his performance.
Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
Burns ranks 16th in average ice time, third in average power play ice time and has been seemingly everywhere on the Sharks attack. His 54 shots are the sixth-most of any player in the league, forwards included, and after a 29-goal campaign, it only makes sense Burns has…zero goals? What?!
Unfortunately, that happens to be the case for Burns. Despite directing more rubber on net than anyone not named Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Ovechkin — seriously, Burns’ 110 total shot attempts rank third in the league, ahead of even Nikita Kucherov — San Jose’s heavily bearded blueliner hasn’t been able to tickle twine through a dozen outings. Sure, he has seven assists, but Burns’ goal-scoring ability is what makes him so fun to watch.
After back-to-back campaigns of 29 and 27 goals, there was some serious belief he could hit 30 this time around. If that’s going to be the case, the dam is going to need to finally break, and even then, Burns’ 30-goal hopes are going to hinge on getting some good bounces.
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