When watching all the criticism of Steven Stamkos in the first round of the playoffs, and into the second, it was difficult not to be reminded of the tongue-clucking over Tyler Seguin a few years ago.
Part of the reason that Seguin got run out of Boston — but certainly not the only one — was that he scored just one goal in the playoffs. This, of course, ignored a lot of factors all at the same time, such as that Seguin's most common linemate during that playoff run was Chris Kelly (no offensive help there), that he played third-line minutes (just 16:03 per game), and that he scored on one of just 70 shots he took in 22 games despite all that (and he also hit at least a half dozen posts, which don't count as shots but are enough to scare the hell out of a goaltender).
The thing that has been said about Tyler Seguin since his trade — at least by those who think it was a foolish decision — is that opponents wouldn't often get the opportunity to concede 70 shots against Tyler Seguin, even that early in his career, and have just one of them go in. His career shooting percentage across both the playoffs and regular season is 10.9 for a reason, and that reason is that Seguin delivers puck into net better than almost every player on Earth, regardless of goaltender quality, the defensemen he faces, or how his coach deploys him. Except in that one instance. On the average 70-shot sample, Seguin scores 7.6 goals, which is a frightening number. He got a bum rap because of the one sample in which he shot 9.5 percentage points below his career number. It's a staggering statistic, really.
And so the snickering about Stamkos going 0-fer in the first round against Detroit was a little silly. Tyler Seguin is great and all, but Stamkos is already bordering on legend status in this league. He has 276 goals in 492 regular-season games. Were it not for the injury last season that cost him 45 games, he probably would have been up over 300 in advance of his 25th birthday.
No one doubts or would ever question Stamkos's goalscoring credentials in any real way, but the fact that we had to listen to, “Can you believe Stamkos hasn't scored yet?” for two-plus weeks got to be a little much. On the one hand, it was very difficult to believe it, but on the other, it probably wasn't an indication that Detroit did anything differently than anyone else. This is a player whose scoring capabilities are more or less unaffected by anyone he plays, except to say that it probably does become a little tougher to score once you get into the playoffs because, a) the teams are generally better, and b) playing the same team seven times in a row breeds familiarity.
But with that having been said, Stamkos having gone nine games without a goal between the end of the regular season, that series, and Game 1 against Montreal was surprising. In fact, it was the third-longest goalless streak of his career; the other two, of 11 and 13 games, came in the first half of his first season in the league, and they were preceded by an eight-game drought.
In fact, here's every multiple-game stretch of his career in which Stamkos didn't score a goal. There are 56 of them in total.
So, clearly, to say that what you saw before, during, and even after the first round alone was a rare occurrence is really understating things. It hasn't happened since Stamkos turned 19 and became one of the league's premier snipers.
And while he didn't quite reach Tyler Seguin levels of bad luck in shooting the puck, the fact that he didn't score on 27 straight shots is likewise borderline-unprecedented. This is a player who carries a career shooting percentage across all NHL games of 16.9 percent. Few players in NHL history clear that bar, and basically everyone who does played in the 1980s and early 1990s, when it was laughably easy to score. Basically, the modern game has never seen a player who shoots so well in terms of both volume and accuracy as Stamkos, and he was held without a goal for 27 straight shots.
Put in those Seguin terms, the average number of goals Stamkos is going to score on any given 30 shots he takes against NHL competition is almost 5.1. Five point one. It leaves Seguin in the dust. And because he takes 3.23 shots per game, he gets up to 30 in a damn hurry.
So we're already talking about something that's pretty rare, but 56 individual goalless streaks — the majority of which are of the two- and three-game variety, to be fair — doesn't really tell you how unlikely it is that Stamkos would put that many consecutive shots on goal in a row and have them all stopped by the goaltender.
So to illustrate that, I ran the numbers for every one of those stretches in which it was mathematically possible that he'd go without a goal for even 20 shots. Here are all those droughts, but as you can see here aren't very many at all:
Yup, only twice in Stamkos's career has he been held to 30 straight shots without a goal, and the first of those streaks started nine games into his career. He's come a long way, obviously, and these runs are coming less frequently than they once did.
And using data from War on Ice's shot charts from every game in the playoffs, I was also able to draw up the areas from which he took his shots. Then put that next to his career shooting percentages (at even-strength only, mind you), and you see how rare such a thing is going to be.
That's a lot of shots from below the circles and between the faceoff dots, meaning Stamkos probably took about 13 shots from prime scoring areas both on the power play and at 5-on-5. That only one went in is a minor miracle for opponents.
In fact, you have to give full credit to Petr Mrazek for stopping 22 straight Stamkos shots, though. No goaltender in the league has ever done that, or even come close, and only a small handful have combined to stop that many consecutively. That's actually an amazing statistic.
So my advice to you is to appreciate the rare, beautiful futility of that Stamkos goalless streak of nine games and 30 shots. You probably won't get to see anything of its like again for a long, long time.