October 28, 2008
The 2008-09 season is close to being 10 games old for most teams, and it has already produced some knock-you-on-your-rump-roast stats and numbers. Players epically failing and surprisingly succeeding; teams pushing panic buttons; and special-teams play that boggles the mind.
Here are 10 of the most shocking numbers of the young season:
The goals against average for Dallas Stars goalie Marty Turco which, as of last night's games, was the worst in the NHL. This bust comes after a redemptive postseason in which he posted a 2.08 GAA. His save percentage (.842) so far this year got him called out by Coach Dave Tippett after a recent loss. It's gotten to the point where former Stars goalie Andy Moog is taking on a larger coaching role to fix whatever's broken in Turco, who is now declining interviews as his game bottoms out. Insult to injury for the Stars: Mike Smith has a 2.13 GAA playing in back of the Tampa Bay Lightning defense.
That would be the percentage of power plays that the Minnesota Wild are killing during the first seven games of the season, in which they are 6-0-1. The penalty killers are 22-for-22 after their effort last night against the Chicago Blackhawks, which included a five-on-three kill with two defensemen in the box. Full marks to goalie Niklas Backstrom, who has been superb this season
The St. Louis Blues' power-play conversion rate through eight games. Remarkable because this unit was ranked No. 30 last season. Remarkable because Coach Andy Murray made the bold move of taking over on special teams, and turning the power play into something lethal. And remarkable because it has given Keith Tkachuk a new lease on offensive life, scoring six of his eight goals with the man advantage. Many a celebratory trip to the buffet has occurred.
The number of games into the 2008-09 season before the Blackhawks fired Coach Denis Savard. We thought this might occur if the Flavor of the Year struggled, with millions of new money committed to the Indian and with Scotty Bowman plotting in the executive suite. But no one thought the trigger would be pulled this fast, this soon. Chicago has looked more organized under new coach Joel Quenneville but is still looking for consistency. One other significant number for Chicago: 21,457. That would be the team's average attendance through five home games. While the Thrashers, Devils, Islanders and now the Blue Jackets have taken heat for gate woes, the Blackhawks have been running at 104 percent capacity.
The total number of points between Minnesota's Mikko Koivu (1-12-13) and Antti Miettinen (6-3-9) for the first seven games of the season. With Marian Gaborik limited to two games, one goal and nine million contractual distractions for the Wild, these two players have shouldered the offensive load quite admirably. Koivu is a blossoming star, whose numbers were juiced by a stellar five-point night against the Florida Panthers. Miettinen is, without question, one of the most productive free-agent signings in the League and a player who has applied egg to many a critic's face thus far. It's early, but we'd love to see Miettinen continue this pace, mostly because the bubbleheads on ESPNews have no idea how to pronounce his name during highlights. ("And a goal by Meat Tin...")
Brandon Dubinsky's game-winning goals, accounting for one third of the New York Rangers' victories in their historic start. If nothing else, this number is an indication of the impressive offensive balance for the Rangers this season, as eight players have at least five points and six have at least nine. Still, if we told you Dubinsky would be leading the team in scoring at this point in the season, you probably wouldn't have the Rangers with 19 points ... and you probably would have taken him before we did in the fantasy draft. (Wah-wah.)
The total number of goals for three of last summer's big UFA right wingers: Michael Ryder of the Boston Bruins (1), Brian Rolston of the New Jersey Devils (1) and Radim Vrbata of the Tampa Bay Lightning (0). Ryder does have six points in nine games, but hasn't scored a goal since opening night. Rolston had a goal on the power play, but is on the shelf for a while with a high ankle sprain. Vrbata has one assist in five games and was a scratch recently. (We'd toss his teammate Ryan Malone on this list for being a crushing disappointment so far -- but to be fair, he's a left winger.)
The total number of goals scored by Carolina Hurricanes forward Sergei Samsonov, Ottawa Senators center Mike Fisher, Lightning No. 1 overall pick Steven Stamkos and Toronto Maple Leafs forward (and part-time exhibitionist) Jiri Tlusty. Samsonov is signed through 2011, so there's your answer for that. Fisher hasn't found a comfort zone on any of the Senators' many line combinations. We've seen Stamkos, and he's seen limited ice time; his failure thus far is a much as reason for Malone and Vrbata struggling as anything else. And Tlusty has been so good that he was recently demoted to the AHL. Talk about being exposed ...
Washington Capitals star and Hart Trophy winner Alexander Ovechkin's shooting percentage through eight games. He's scored goals in just one of those eight, and his lack of goal-scoring, combined with a shooting percentage that's nearly .100 lower than last season's number, has sparked whispers of injury. Fact is, he's pressing, plus, an injury to linemate Viktor Kozlov and linemate Nicklas Backstrom's offensive struggles haven't helped. Of course, the other number to remember with the Capitals is 14: Alexander Semin's remarkable point total through seven games, leading some to believe his career-long battle with inconsistency may be over.
Finally, the power-play conversation rate for the Pittsburgh Penguins, good for fifth in the NHL through nine games. We weren't alone in questioning whether this unit would fall apart with the summer personnel changes and the injuries to defensemen Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney. And yet Evgeni Malkin has eight power-play points, Sidney Crosby as six and three of Miroslav Satan's four goals on the season have come with the man advantage. (Ah, the touch of Satan.) So if you're one of those Pens fans that believes this blog always has it in for Pittsburgh: We were completely wrong about the power play sucking. So there.