Statistics, of course, don’t tell the whole story. The only way you can get a real sense of how good or bad teams are is to sit and watch them play out their games.
Nonetheless, numbers can still be fun to follow to find anomalies, trends or the just plain surprising. As we get set for post-all-star-break games to take off, here’s a look at some stats from the first half that will make you scratch your head.
• The Vancouver Canucks don’t trail after the first period often, but it seems when they do, they end up losing. You’d think the best team in the NHL would come back from early-game deficits from time to time, but the Canucks, surprisingly, haven’t won a single game when trailing after the first period, as they stand 0-4-4 in that situation. Even stranger is the fact they’ve trailed after two periods 12 times and managed to pull out two wins.
• The Senators have gone beyond regulation eight times this season, but haven’t won a single one of those games. They are the only team that hasn’t won at least twice in extra time or the shootout.
• The Sens are so bad beyond regulation they haven’t even scored one goal in the shootout. What is strange, though, is the Tampa Bay Lightning. With five wins in the shootout, the Lightning are one off the league lead, but their shooting percentage (25 percent) is ranked 25th. The Sabres are the only team with a shooting percentage better than 50 percent in the shootout and they have yet to lose.
• The only team, besides Ottawa, that hasn’t won in the shootout this season is the Minnesota Wild, who sit 0-4 in the skills competition. Difference is they’ve earned some key points in overtime, where they’ve won four of their five games ending in OT.
• Faceoff winning percentage is a key stat. A year ago the Canucks were seventh in the category, but the acquisition of Manny Malhotra has helped shoot them to the top of the league this season. But improved faceoff stats don’t always translate to winning: four of the top 10 teams in faceoff percentage last season missed the playoffs and half of the top 10 this season are on the outside looking in.
• If I were to tell you the Edmonton Oilers lead the NHL in giveaways, you probably wouldn’t be surprised. If I told you they had the most giveaways last season you’d probably have the same type of reaction. But would you be surprised to learn the Oilers have been one of the top two teams in giveaways (finishing second twice) each season since 2004? Even in the season they went to the Cup final, when they finished eighth in the Western Conference, the Oilers still led the league in turnovers by nearly 300.
• Who is the most physical team in the NHL? The Flyers? Bruins? Flames? How about the New York Rangers. Currently leading the league in hits, the Rangers have finished tops in that category twice in the past three years and were second last season. Ryan Callahan (5-foot-11, 188 pounds) has been the team’s most physical player in recent years, but with him missing time due to injury this season, the team has been able to stay on top thanks to the increased playing time and physicality from 6-foot-7, 252-pound center Brian Boyle. They’re logging just as many hits, but have likely increased the bruises they have applied exponentially.
• OK, so the Toronto Maple Leafs have been shutout the most times in the NHL this year with eight. The Ottawa Senators have been shutout six times and the New York Islanders five. But what’s surprising is the Washington Capitals and San Jose Sharks (the No. 1- and No. 4-ranked offenses from last season) have been held scoreless seven times each this season. The two teams, combined, were shut out only three times last season.
• The Washington Capitals have the fewest first-period goals in the league with 30. They have 53 second-period goals and 51 third-period goals.
• Defense may win championships, but it has to get you to the playoffs first. The 11th-placed (in the West) Los Angeles Kings and the 15th-placed (in the East) New Jersey Devils have allowed the fewest shots-against per game (27.4). Other non-playoff teams Calgary and St. Louis sit in the top five in this category as well. At the other end of the spectrum, the Anaheim Ducks, Atlanta Thrashers and Boston Bruins (all playoff teams) allow the most shots-against per game. No wonder their goalies are in the running for the Vezina Trophy.
Rory Boylen is TheHockeyNews.com’s web editor. His blog appears Tuesdays only on THN.com.
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