Connor McDavid had a big night, Leon Draisaitl is having a big season, and bears are bigger than dogs.
Here are 10 NHL numbers to consider as we approach the first-quarter mark of the 2019-20 season:
The last time a team repeated as Jennings Trophy winners (for fewest goals against), it was Martin Brodeur’s New Jersey Devils in 1996-97 and ’97-98. Don’t look now, but the New York Islanders – the reigning Jennings winners -- have the best goals-against average (2.27) in the league once again. There’s a long way to go, of course, but the Isles are doing just fine without last year’s Vezina Trophy nominee, Robin Lehner. His replacement, Semyon Varlamov, is performing capably (2.56 GAA, .917 save percentage), but the real story is Thomas Greiss, who has the best GAA (1.88) and save percentage (.942) in the NHL. Greiss was just about as good as Lehner last year, and he’s showing it was no fluke with his performance thus far in 2019-20.
Hey, even for McDavid, that’s a lot of points in a single game. In fact, the six-spot that McDavid put up against Colorado on Thursday – on the strength of a hat trick and three assists -- represents a career-high for the Edmonton superstar. McDavid tied the Oilers’ team record with four points in the first period – matching Wayne Gretzky (six times) and Jason Arnott – and added two more in the second. The crazy thing is, McDavid barely gained any ground in the NHL scoring race as his running mate, Draisaitl, had a career-high five assists against the Avs to hit 41 points through 21 games. The last time a player hit 40-plus points in 21 or fewer games, it was Mario Lemieux in 2002-03.
If a bear and a dog get in a fight, bet on the bear. The same holds true in hockey. If the Bruins and Coyotes are playing, bet on Boston. The B’s have beaten Arizona 15 times in a row, dating back to 2010. But wait, there’s another equally lopsided NHL rivalry out there: Tampa Bay has dusted Detroit 15 straight times, too. That was probably fun for Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, but less so for Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman.
Cale Makar hasn’t run off and hid with the Calder Trophy quite yet. But with 18 points in 19 games, the Colorado defender has risen up as the rookie favorite. To put his production in perspective, he’s on pace for 78 points, which would set the NHL record for a rookie defenseman. Larry Murphy currently holds the mark, with a 76-point season for Los Angeles in 1980-81. More recently, Dion Phaneuf had 49 points as a freshman ‘D’ to set the salary-cap standard in 2005-06, while Buffalo prodigy Rasmus Dahlin had 44 points in his first year with the Sabres last season. Makar might not keep up the near-point-per-game pace, but he sure looks good for at least 50, and probably 60.
Ottawa has one of the worst goal differentials in the NHL at minus-8, but somehow checking-line center Jean-Gabriel Pageau is leading the league with a plus-19 rating. He’s got a gap on everybody else, too. Washington’s John Carlson, old Boston biggie Zdeno Chara and young Islanders not-so-biggie Mathew Barzal are tied for second at plus-13. Pageau’s next-closest pursuer on the Sens is tough-guy defenseman Mark Borowiecki at plus-9, while Tyler Ennis is “leading” Ottawa at the other end of the plus/minus spectrum at minus-11.
Barry Trotz has nothing left to prove as one of the NHL’s premier coaches, but he might want to listen to Islanders fans screaming “SHOOO-OOOT!” whenever Josh Bailey has the puck. With six goals on just 19 shots in 17 games, Bailey leads the league with a lethal 31.6-percent shooting efficiency.
With 41 points, Draisaitl has had a hand in 62.1 percent of Edmonton’s 66 goals this season. McDavid, as you might expect, is next at 56.0 percent (37 points on 66 goals). The highest non-Oilers player is Boston’s Brad Marchand, whose 32 points on the Bruins’ 68 goals mean he’s been involved in 47.1 percent of the team’s offense.
San Jose hasn’t gotten off to a good start – at 9-10-1, they sit outside the playoff picture in 12th place in the West – but don’t blame the penalty kill. The Sharks’ PK has nullified 67 of 74 power plays, for a 90.5-percent efficiency, the best mark in the league. They’re especially effective at home, killing off 32 of 33 man-down situations. San Jose’s PK crew has even delivered four shorthanded goals, tied for second-most in the league.
That’s the number of NHL games it took McDavid to reach 400 career points, making him the 13th-fastest player in NHL history to do so. Gretzky was the quickest, naturally, requiring only 197 games to record 400 points. Lemieux needed 240 games, Peter Stastny 247. Sidney Crosby is the only active player ahead of McDavid, hitting 400 points in his 292nd game.
Ilya Kovalchuk’s career NHL goal total, which ranks fourth among active players and 70th all-time. But will he add any more to that number? It certainly doesn’t look like he’ll get another one in L.A.