It’s easy to forget sometimes that even the worst teams in the NHL are very, very good at hockey. It’s just that, well, they’re not as good as the very, very good teams. But they’re still good. In fact, they’re the best at something, better than everybody else, even the very, very good teams.
That is to say, every NHL team leads the league in something. Or they’ve got a player who’s the best at something. Here’s an outstanding-achievement-in-the-field-of-excellence look at the NHL’s 31 teams:
Anaheim Ducks: With the Ducks doing whatever the opposite of soaring is, we get a tough one right off the bat. But we found a vital stat where Anaheim leads the league – they’ve only lost five games in regulation when outshooting their opponent. The dark cloud to that silver lining? They’ve only outshot their opponent 17 times this season (7-5-5), which is second-lowest in the league to Ottawa’s 16 times.
Arizona Coyotes: The Coyotes have led the league in penalty-killing efficiency virtually all season, and their PK unit continues to hum along at 84.8 percent. Arizona has also scored 12 shorthanded goals, which is second only to Calgary’s 16 shorties.
Boston Bruins: David Pastrnak has gone down with a mysterious thumb injury, but when he’s healthy and playing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, the Bruins have the best all-around line in the league.
Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres have been waiting a long time for some good news. So how about this: they’ve got the best teenage defenseman in 18-year-old Rasmus Dahlin to come along in a long, long time. Or if that’s too nebulous for you, try this: the Sabres have the league’s longest winning streak this season, with 10 consecutive victories in November.
Calgary Flames: Nine different Flames players have scored a shorthanded goal for the team’s NHL-high total of 16, led by Mark Jankowski with four and defenseman Mark Giordano with three.
Carolina Hurricanes: Nobody takes more shots than the Hurricanes, who are averaging 35.5 per game. Unfortunately, Carolina’s 8.2-percent shooting efficiency ranks second-last in the league, ahead of only Anaheim (8.0 percent). Related: nobody allows fewer shots against than the Canes, who are averaging 27.9 per game. It goes without saying that you’re doing something right when you lead the league in both of these categories.
Chicago Blackhawks: When you’re talking about the best of the NHL this season, Patrick Kane has to be part of the conversation. The Hawks star is riding the league’s most productive scoring streak – 35 points in 16 games and counting – and has powered the once-left-for-dead team into the playoff hunt.
Colorado Avalanche: Victories have been tough to come by for the Avs recently – they lost eight in a row before beating Winnipeg on Thursday – but when they win, it’s a good bet that Gabriel Landeskog scored the clinching goal. Colorado’s captain leads the NHL with nine game-winners this season, including the tally that toppled the Jets.
Columbus Blue Jackets: The Jackets are tied with Chicago and Detroit with seven overtime goals, giving them a solid 7-2-1 record in games that have gone beyond 60 minutes.
Dallas Stars: The Stars are the only team in the NHL that hasn’t given up a shorthanded goal at 5-on-4 this season. Hey, it’s something.
Detroit Red Wings: With the Wings’ 25-season playoff streak fading in the rearview mirror, Detroit’s in a rebuild and not exactly leading the league in much of anything. Look out when it comes to 3-on-3, though. The Wings are tied with Toronto and Winnipeg with six goals at 3-on-3, which helps to explain their impressive 7-2 record in games decided in overtime.
Edmonton Oilers: Whatever we’re talking about here, when it come to the Oilers the answer is Connor McDavid.
Florida Panthers: Giveaways are a bit of a murky stat, they can be tough to define and the subjective parameters – as well as the whims of the local statisticians – might vary from arena to arena. But with 831 giveaways this season, the Panthers are running away from the rest of the league. Sad @strombone1.
Los Angeles Kings: First, the good news. The Kings are the only team in the NHL with a perfect 1.000 winning percentage when leading after the first period. The bad news? Los Angeles has only led after the first period nine times this season, second-lowest in the league (the Rangers are last with seven leads through 20 minutes).
Minnesota Wild: Nothing comes easy when you play the Wild. Minnesota leads the NHL with the fewest giveaways this season (345), which is significantly less than No. 2 Colorado (400) – and way, way less than Florida’s 831.
Montreal Canadiens: The Habs are the only team in the league that has yet to give up a goal in the shootout this season. The kicker? It’s Antti Niemi, not Carey Price, who has denied all seven shots Montreal has faced in the glorified skills competition.
Nashville Predators: The Preds are in their prime as one of the NHL’s top teams, but you have to look high and low to find something they actually league the lead in. Turns out, it’s faceoffs. No team has taken more draws than Nashville’s 3,695 trips to the dot, and no team has more faceoff wins than the Preds' 1,897.
New Jersey Devils: With the Devils languishing second-last in the overall standings, this was a tough one. But we drilled deep and discovered that Mackenzie Blackwood has the best shorthanded save percentage among rookie goalies who have made more than one start (.918 in 11 starts). So, you know, they’ve got that going for them, at least.
New York Islanders: What a difference a year makes. The Isles were the NHL’s worst defensive team last season, allowing 3.57 goals per game. This season they’re the league’s best defensive club, with a team GAA of 2.26.
New York Rangers: Winning’s great and fun and everything, but it doesn’t help your draft position. So when you’re a rebuilding team like the Rangers, it’s almost counterproductive to lead the NHL in shootout wins (six). If they’d settled for the loser point in those six games, New York would sit second-last in the overall standings and have a much better chance at winning the draft lottery. As it is, the Rangers are tied for 23rd overall and they’re more likely to get the No. 10 pick than No. 1 or No. 2.
Ottawa Senators: The rule of thumb for blocked shots is that it’s a stat you don’t want to rank too highly in, because that indicates your opponent usually has the puck and you’re stuck playing defense all the time. That logic holds true here, with the last-place Sens leading the league in blocked shots (999).
Philadelphia Flyers: Led by the quick sticks of centers Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Nolan Patrick and Scott Laughton, the Flyers are the best faceoff team in the league, winning 56.0 percent of their draws.
Pittsburgh Penguins: The once-genteel Penguins have gone Hulk smash mode and lead the NHL in hits with 1,682, which translates to about 30 per game. At least Phil Kessel still plays nice – he’s only recorded 10 bodychecks on the season.
St. Louis Blues: Settle down, Craig Berube. The Blues lead the league in bench minors this season. OK, this is a bit of a weak one, but check back in a few days for something more substantial – St. Louis has won eight in a row, two shy of Buffalo’s season-best 10-game win streak.
San Jose Sharks: The Sharks have the player with the best beard in the NHL, and Brent Burns also happens to be the league’s top-scoring blueliner with 63 points.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Nothing to see here, move along. It’s just the NHL team with the most wins, best points percentage, best home record, best road record, top power play and most prolific offense. Oh yeah, they’ve also got the league’s leading scorer and he’s surrounded by (arguably) the league's best supporting cast. Not to mention, they’re top-five in the league in goals against and third on the penalty kill.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Twenty-eight times, the Leafs have been leading a game after two periods of play. Twenty-eight times, the Leafs went on to win the game. The majority of NHL teams have a very good record in this situation, but Toronto is the only team that’s been perfect.
Vancouver Canucks: With all due respect to Dahlin in Buffalo, the Canucks have the best rookie in the league this season in wunderkind Elias Pettersson. Someone needs to get that kid a sandwich, though.
Vegas Golden Knights: The second-year team has the league’s winningest goalie. The Knights are 29-18-10 when Marc-Andre Fleury is in the crease, and 2-8-0 when he isn’t.
Washington Capitals: If Alex Ovechkin had a nickel for every time he scored a goal, he’d have a league-high 39 nickels. But he'd probably want a new agent.
Winnipeg Jets: The Jets’ power play is down near the bottom on the road, but it’s lethal on home ice. Winnipeg’s PP is clicking at 32.6 percent when the Jets play at Portage Ave.