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NHL Numbers: At the end of the day, it's all about goals

Everything you need to know about the NHL's goal leaders this season, from David Pastrnak to the rookie scoring race to the Avs' lethal red-light attack.

It's like George Michael sang in the '80s: Goals are natural / goals are good / not everybody scores / but everybody should. With that in mind, let's take our lead from the Wham! lead singer and look at the NHL's various goal leaders this season:

26 goals
David Pastrnak was scoring at such a scorching pace that he sparked 50-in-50 speculation before cooling off with a one-goal-in-six-game stretch entering the weekend. Still, the Bruins sniper is the NHL’s leading goal-scorer with 26 in 33 games. Buffalo’s red-hot Jack Eichel, with 22 goals – including 14 during his current 15-game point streak – is Pastrnak’s closest pursuer, followed by perennial favorite Alex Ovechkin (21), the Oilers’ duo of Leon Draisaitl (20) and Connor McDavid (20) and Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon (20). Pastrnak also leads the NHL with 12 power-play goals, he’s tied for first with five game-winners, he’s opened the scoring in a game more often than anyone else (nine times) and, as you surely would’ve guessed, he leads the league in goals per game (0.79). Do the math and that’s a 65-goal pace, which would obliterate his career high of 38 set in 66 games last season.

17 even-strength goals
Nobody’s hotter than Eichel right now, and it’s helped the Sabres star score more even-strength goals than anyone else. Draisaitl, Boston’s Brad Marchand and Washington’s Jakub Vrana are tied for second with 15 even-strength goals.

13 rookie goals
The Sabres’ second-best scorer this season isn’t Jeff Skinner or Sam Reinhart, it’s Victor Olofsson, the 24-year-old left winger whose 13 goals in 33 games are enough to lead all NHL rookies. By quite a healthy margin, in fact: Chicago winger Dominik Kubalik and Colorado defenseman Cale Makar are tied for second with eight goals apiece. Olofsson’s total includes seven power-play tallies, well ahead of second-place Jack Hughes, who counts three PP goals among his four scores in 27 games. It’s interesting to note, however, that Olofsson isn’t the highest-scoring seventh-round pick from the 2014 NHL draft – that honor belongs to Anaheim’s Ondrej Kase, who has 39 career goals compared to 15 for Olofsson (including two last season).

12 defenseman goals
Washington’s John Carlson is the runaway leader in points by defensemen, but his position atop the ‘D’ goal-scoring chart is much more tenuous. Carlson paces all blueliners with 12 goals, with Carolina’s Dougie Hamilton (11) and Montreal’s Shea Weber (10) in close pursuit.

10 goals
Pierre-Luc Dubois leads Columbus with 10 goals in 31 games, the lowest team-leading total in the league. Five other teams are led by a player with 11 goals: Anaheim (Jacob Silfverberg), Dallas (Roope Hintz), Los Angeles (Anze Kopitar), New Jersey (Kyle Palmieri) and Philadelphia (Travis Konecny, Oskar Lindblom). In case you’re wondering, Artemi Panarin leads the Rangers with 18 goals, which is tied for eighth in the league.

6.02 goals per game
Through 500 games of the NHL’s 1,271-game schedule – about 40 percent – the league is averaging 6.02 goals per game, exactly the same as last season. The 2018-19 campaign was the first time the NHL crested six goals per game since the post-lockout 2005-06 season (6.16 goals per game). Prior to that, the last time the NHL saw six-plus goals per game was 1995-96 (6.28). Keep the red light burning bright.

5 game-winning goals
As mentioned, Pastrnak is tied for the NHL lead with five game-winners. But we didn’t mention who he’s tied with: Carlson and Draisaitl, as well as L.A.’s Jeff Carter, Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf and St. Louis’ David Perron. The veterans coming through in the clutch. Perron’s five game-winners include three overtime tallies, tied with the Islanders’ Brock Nelson for the most in the league.

3.66 goals per game
The Avalanche offense is pumping in 3.66 goals per game, the most in the league. That’s impressive, and even more so when you consider that first-liners Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog only recently returned to action after missing 15 games apiece. MacKinnon (20 goals) has been capably assisted by Avs newcomers Joonas Donskoi (13), Andre Burakovsky (12), Nazem Kadri (10) and Makar (8). Tampa Bay (3.57) and Washington (3.55) are keeping it close to Colorado, while last-place Detroit (2.18) is not.

3 shorthanded goals
Shorthanded goals: they don’t happen often, but they’re oh-so-sweet when they do. Carolina’s Sebastian Aho and Ottawa’s surprising Jean-Gabriel Pageau are tied for the league lead in shorties with three apiece. While it’s not surprising to witness Pageau’s shorthanded acumen – he led the NHL with seven shorthanded goals in 2015-16 – it is somewhat shocking to see his name among the league’s goal leaders, as he sits 12th overall with 16 in 32 games. It’s safe to say his career high of 19 is in jeopardy. Aho, meanwhile, is tied for eighth in goals with 18, but a few of them have come the easy way – he leads the NHL with four empty-netters.

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