Friday NHL Stats Pack

The Los Angeles Kings join the Chicago Blackhawks in the surprise team category.
Claude Julien the first coaching casualty.
McDavid still on pace for 100 points.
Many veterans have been chugging from the fountain of youth.

In this shortened season the storylines seem to come at you faster than McDavid on a zone entry. It is likely due to a few more games per week, but also because every game is a divisional game. Get on a hot streak, or a cold streak, and things change quickly.

Two weeks ago the Los Angeles Kings were 27th in the NHL and eighth in the West division. Today, after a six-game winning streak where they outscored teams 22-7, they are 15th in the NHL and third in the West.

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Anze Kopitar (4-17-21) and Dustin Brown (11-6-17) are leading the charge offensively. Drew Doughty is playing over 26 minutes a night while scoring 15 points in 18 games and he has excellent possession numbers. The talk of his demise from some analysts was grossly premature. And Calvin Petersen is challenging Jonathon Quick as the #1 goalie. More on his numbers later.

The Kings have won six games in a row and after sweeping Arizona and St.Louis the Kings are in the hunt in the West division. The top six teams are separated by only four points, and while many of us expected Vegas, St. Louis and Colorado to run away with the division, it hasn’t happened. The Kings, Coyotes and Wild are making it interesting.

The East has some clear separation. Boston, Washington, NYI, Pittsburgh and Philly have 24-21 points, while the Devils, Rangers and Sabres are at 16, 16 and 15. One quality team is going to miss the postseason.

With every passing day the Chicago Blackhawks are making my preseason prediction look worse. I thought they would struggle mightily, but they are showing no signs of slowing down. They are getting great goaltending from Kevin Lankinen and Malcolm Subban, while Patrick Kane is making a legit case to be in the Hart trophy conversation. The Hawks are 8-2 in their last 10, sit in third place in the Central and are five points up on fifth-place Columbus. They are also 10 points ahead of Dallas, but the Stars have six games in hand due to COVID postponements. However, the Stars have to play 41 games in the final 74 days of the season. Will they be able to take advantage of the games in hand when they are playing so frequently?

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It will be interesting to see what happens in Nashville. The Predators are 26th in points and 27th in P%. They can’t score (29th in GF/game) and they can’t defend (24th in GA/game). Filip Forsberg is their only forward with more than nine points. Mikael Granlund, Eric Haula and Pekka Rinne are UFAs, and could be dealt before the deadline, but Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen have five and four years remaining on their $8m cap hits. They have eight and four point respectively. The Preds are in salary cap hell.

While I was wrong about the Hawks, I was bang on about the Vancouver Canucks. They’ve only won eight of their first 24 games. They need to go 22-10 just to have a shot at the fourth playoff spot. If Edmonton only plays .500 hockey (17-17) and the Maples Leafs are 17-18 the Canucks wouldn’t catch them even if they went 22-10. The Winnipeg Jets are seven points ahead of Vancouver with five games in hand. The Canucks aren’t catching them either. Vancouver has to play well against Calgary and Montreal to have any hopes of staying in the race, but from my seat their playoff chances are over.

Montreal fired Claude Julien and promoted assistant coach Dominque Ducharme as interim head coach. The Canadiens powerplay has been bad for years, and after a hot start it has gone back to firing blanks. It is simple why they struggle. Their D-men are the main shooters. Jeff Petry and Shea Weber lead their team with 16 and 11 powerplay shots. And often they were on the ice together on the same unit. Last night Ducharme had them on separate units, and while they only had two powerplays, neither had a shot on goal. Tomas Tatar did and he scored. It is only one game, but if the Habs want their PP to improve, they need to stop having their blueliners as the main shooting options.

Some pundits, and even a few Oilers fans, are hesitant to admit it, but the Oilers are a good team. And they have been for the past 14 months, excluding their play-in series against Chicago. It seems many are still focused on those four games, more than the other 51 games Edmonton has played since January 1st, 2020.

Edmonton is 30-16-5 in that span. They have the third most points in the NHL in that time, and the seventh highest points% in the NHL. They’ve averaged the second most goals/game at 3.71 and are 14th in goals against/game at 2.88. The recent 11-2 run isn’t a mirage. They won’t win at that pace all season, but the Oilers are good and will be for the foreseeable future. The only question that remains unanswered is: Are they built to win in the playoffs? We won’t find that out until May. But if you are still questioning the Oilers, I think many years of watching a bad team is clouding your judgement.

Those years of suck are in the past. Finally.

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The scoring leaders are all familiar faces. Connor Mcdavid, Leon Draisaitl, Auston Matthews, Patrick Kane and Mitch Marner are atop the leader board. That isn’t a real surprise, but let’s look at the goalies atop the SV% leader board. Here are the top-20 goalies (minimum of five games played).

Mike Smith EDM 7 381:19:00 197 186 11 0.944 1.73 41 38 3 0.927
Marc-Andre Fleury VGK 11 656:03:00 294 277 17 0.942 1.55 65 57 8 0.877
Jake Allen MTL 7 421:25:00 219 204 15 0.932 2.14 54 44 10 0.815
Andrei Vasilevskiy T.B 15 897:42:00 404 376 28 0.931 1.87 114 98 16 0.860
Cal Petersen L.A 10 580:57:00 318 296 22 0.931 2.27 86 77 9 0.895
Malcolm Subban CHI 5 309:10:00 158 147 11 0.930 2.13 35 28 7 0.800
Anton Khudobin DAL 9 511:07:00 277 257 20 0.928 2.35 67 57 10 0.851
Semyon Varlamov NYI 15 902:55:00 431 400 31 0.928 2.06 101 87 14 0.861
Chris Driedger FLA 10 605:12:00 306 284 22 0.928 2.18 57 44 13 0.772
Philipp Grubauer COL 14 835:49:00 363 335 28 0.923 2.01 102 86 16 0.843
Brian Elliott PHI 7 353:34:00 179 165 14 0.922 2.38 41 33 8 0.805
Kevin Lankinen CHI 14 856:40:00 470 433 37 0.921 2.59 125 106 19 0.848
Cam Talbot MIN 6 339:15:00 162 149 13 0.920 2.3 25 16 9 0.640
Mackenzie Blackwood N.J 8 487:31:00 226 208 18 0.920 2.22 64 52 12 0.813
Linus Ullmark BUF 12 690:12:00 344 316 28 0.919 2.43 79 66 13 0.835
Igor Shesterkin NYR 12 676:22:00 334 307 27 0.919 2.4 86 71 15 0.826
Jonathan Bernier DET 10 555:55:00 294 270 24 0.918 2.59 75 62 13 0.827
Elvis Merzlikins CBJ 9 448:28:00 252 231 21 0.917 2.81 47 33 14 0.702
Kaapo Kahkonen MIN 11 632:18:00 301 276 25 0.917 2.37 77 66 11 0.857
Jordan Binnington STL 16 940:31:00 451 412 39 0.914 2.49 117 95 22 0.812

It is a small sample size, but Smith, Petersen, Subban, Elliott and Lankinen all being top-12 is a surprise. If people are wondering how Smith is winning so much, look at his high-danger save% (HDSV). He’s been outstanding on quality chances. If Driedger made a few more HD saves, his overall Sv% would be much higher. It is already excellent at .928, but that’s with him only being .772 on high-danger chances.

It is fair to suggest Smith is on a heater to start the season, but since January 1st, 2020, Smith has a .920sv% and 2.51 GAA. He is 18-4-3 in his last 26 starts. For comparison sake, in 24 starts Mikko Koskinen is 11-13, with a .914sv% and 2.94 GAA. Suggesting Koskinen should play more than Smith right now doesn’t match what the stats and results show.

While Smith has played great, Marc-Andre Fleury has been arguably more impressive because he’s played more. The Flower is making his GM, Kelly McCrimmon, look like a genius for not trading him. Robin Lehner, in the first year of his new five-year deal has struggled out of the gate. In five starts he has posted a .890Sv% and 2.96 GAA. If Fleury keeps playing like this, and there isn’t any reason to think he won’t, then Vegas might have to expose Lehner in the expansion draft rather than lose Fleury for nothing. Or possibly make a trade.

Meanwhile, Petersen is pushing Jonathan Quick for the starting job in LA and Jake Allen has outperformed Carey Price by a large margin in Montreal. How long before Todd McLellan and Dominque Ducharme have no choice but to play their backups more? Petersen has started 10 games to Quick’s nine, so we are already starting to see it in LA. Allen has .932Sv% while Price is labouring with an .888sv% in 12 starts. Ducharme, who just got promoted, needs to play Allen more until Price proves he deserves to play more.

Forwards still looking for a goal:

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Philip Di Giuseppe has 32 shots and no goals.
Jeff Skinner has 31 shots. No goals. And a $9m cap hit.
David Kampf has 30 shots. No goals.

And forwards who have scored, but are still struggling to find another.

Rikard Rakell has one goal on 61 shots (1.6 SH%).
Taylor Hall has one goal on 48 shots (2.2 SH%).
Viktor Arvidsson. Two goals on 65 shots (3.1 SH%).
Ryan Getzlaf and Josh Bailey. One goal on 31 shots (3.2 SH%).
Jake Debrusk and Jake Virtanen. One goal on 28 shots. (3.6 SH%).
Timo Meier. Two goals on 55 shots (3.6 SH%).
Claude Giroux. One goal on 29 shots (3.9 SH%).

You’d think some of these guys will start to score soon.

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