These days the most commonly used euphemism for the NHL’s tie-solving shootout is “the skills competition,” given that the All-Star Game’s meaningless version is the only other time fans are exposed to the one-on-one, player-on-goalie multi-attempt action. The major difference with the NHL’s in-game version is that it’s the opposite of meaningless, which as a professional wordsmith I have come to learn is “meaningful.” Just last year the Columbus Blue Jackets missed playoffs by a single point and had four shootout losses on their resumé. Another goal or two in those contests would’ve really come in handy, as most teams wind up finding.
People laugh (myself included) at the change in player tone during post-game interviews depending on a team’s win or loss in the “skills comp,” but I kinda get it. When you lose you’re frustrated at putting yourself in a position where it comes down to something that seems out of your control at times, and guys are aware how much each point matters.
With the importance of the shootout in mind (like it or not), I took to the interwebz to see which players have been helping their teams grab full two, and which have been costing their teams points. And my word, was I surprised at the latter group.
The list below is ranked in order of performance versus expectations, not raw numbers. As in, Sidney Crosby being 0-for-3 would be looked at as worse than some plug being 0-for-5 or 1-for-8 or whatever, in this imaginary world where plugs get lots of attempts. (Crosby, for what it’s worth, is 1-for-2, and 23-for-55 lifetime – that’s 41.8% total – well above the league’s current shooter average of 32.79%)
A few notes on the shootout before we jump in
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File this observation on “soft spots” under “Purely Anecdotal” for the time being.
I have this distinct memory of being in my late teens and watching Mario Lemieux sit on the powerplay, as so many players do today, with his stick cocked above waist height, inviting his teammates to get him a puck. Basically, just stuff a bullet in this gun, and I promise to shoot it and shoot it well. Ovechkin does it, Stamkos does it, just about everyone playing the point on the powerplay does it. …The thing was, Mario Lemieux was on the goal line.
Lemieux’s skates used to essentially touch the icing line on the left side, his right-handed stick sitting a foot or two above it. Sometimes he was deep enough to touch the boards in the corner if he reached. He didn’t have the game’s hardest shot, but goddamn if he couldn’t place a one-timer accurately enough to kiss the inside of the far post and put one on the board for his team. Whether that was a skill other players didn’t have, or whether they just lacked the confidence to try it, you didn’t see it much around the league then.
This isn’t the one I’m thinking of, but you can see where he’s shooting from. Read the rest of this entry »
Smith, left, after one of his five points in 16 games with Tampa.
Trevor Smith is 28-years-old and entering his first season with a one-way NHL contract after touching six AHL teams since 2007-08. The Toronto Maple Leafs picked him up for a league minimum $550k which has to be a pretty great feeling for the guy, because as I understand it, that means you get 550,000 dollars.
Entering the 2009-2010 season, he was on the cusp of making the New York Islanders, and I (wrongly) wrote as much for Islanders Point Blank based on my time spent playing with him during the 2007-2008 season, and my assessment of the Isles team that year. It’s really quite difficult to make the NHL, you’ll be shocked to learn, and Smith just needed a little more time.
My biggest compliment for Trevor’s game is the same now as it was then, and leads me to believe that if given the right opportunity, he could be someone like PA Parenteau who breaks into the league a little older after some AHL seasoning, and becomes a quality contributor. (Frankly, I think had he received the opportunities of someone like Joey Crabb over the years he’d already be there, but I’m pretty biased in that view.)
That compliment: whether he realizes it or not, his ability to shoot the puck accurately and hard from seemingly anywhere in his stance was better than anyone else I’ve ever played with.
In baseball, they use “heat maps” to show where in the strike zone (or out of it) a hitter tends to have the most success. Some guys like their pitches belt-high, and some guys would rather golf it out of the dirt. The same is true for hockey. When you stay out after practice to work on one-timers with guys you learn where they like their passes: off their front foot, mid-stance, off their back foot or otherwise. Read the rest of this entry »
(Andy Marlin, Getty Images)
In 2012, the New Jersey Devils made a surprise run to the Stanley Cup Final and were the only team to win more than one game in the playoffs against the Los Angeles Kings. What makes the run particularly surprising is that the Devils missed the playoffs in the previous and subsequent seasons.
The Devils finished the 2010-11 season with 81 points, jumped up to 102 points in 2011-12, then dropped down to 48 points in 2012-13, an 82-point pace. It’s a remarkable trio of seasons, as the Devils jumped from 11th up to 6th in the Eastern Conference, then dropped right back down to 11th.
It’s enough to make you wonder exactly what happened in those three seasons and what will happen in the future, with the Devils losing both Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson, while also adding some significant pieces. To go from well out of the playoffs to the Stanley Cup Final and right back to being well out of the playoffs is a stunning reversal of fortune, and it’s fortune itself that I want to investigate.
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It was one of the best stories on draft day earlier this summer: the New Jersey Devils traded a 7th round pick in 2015 to the Los Angeles Kings for theirs this year – the fourth last pick in the draft – so New Jersey could select Martin Brodeur’s son Anthony.
The internet (and humans with lives everywhere), collectively did this:
Anthony had a decent year playing for Shattuck St. Mary’s last season, posting a .923 save percentage, so it wasn’t that ridiculous that his name would be called. Buuut if we’re being honest, and we are, he almost certainly wouldn’t have been selected if his Dad’s name wasn’t Marty. Even he wouldn’t deny that. But still, neat story, no harm no foul, there was a cool moment with the father/son hug…you can read all about it here. In sum, neato spadeato.
Only…I’m not so sure his Dad and the Devils did him any favors. They may have actually done the opposite.
I could very well be wrong, but from what I’ve seen getting drafted in the late rounds seems to handcuff a player trying to skate his way to the NHL more than it does propel him. It’s limiting.
Obviously, there are some perks to getting drafted. First, let’s look at the pros of getting selected versus not for your average non-superstar NHL hopeful. Read the rest of this entry »
The NHL has released the 2013-14 NHL schedule, which means a couple things: one, it’s July, and July is a stupid sports-less month so this is very important, and two, some fanbases have cause to get upset about getting screwed by the league, which they’ve been dying to do in the absence of real hockey.
Nobody breaks the schedule down better than Dirk Hoag of On The Forecheck, a great Nashville Predators blog. Hoag tracks the mileage of each NHL team and compares it to their miles traveled from previous seasons, while also noting the amount of times each team plays back-to-back games. Understandably, the winning percentage of teams in the second half of back-to-backs isn’t great, so that’s a pretty relevant note to make (we’ll talk a little more about those situations farther down).
First, the most interesting things of note from Hoag’s work:
The San Jose Sharks.
That’s a massive increase for the Sharks, who were hurt more by League realignment than any other team. That’s over 13,600 miles more than they traveled during the previous full season. The Boston Bruins saw the second biggest increase in travel, adding over 8,600 miles to their 2011-12 total. Read the rest of this entry »
How much weight do you place on a good playoff performance?
If you look back through the Chicago Blackhawks players between 2009 and 2012, Bryan Bickell is 13th out of 28 players (min. 10 GP) in points per game with 0.47. Bickell had 17 points in 23 games in the most recent postseason and is probably going to parlay that into a significant UFA contract.
It won’t be a smart deal, but it’s not like Bickell is a slouch of a player. Over a 5-year period, he’s sixth on the Blackhawks in even strength points per 60, and is 115th in the league, right around Artem Anisimov, Martin Erat and Pierre Parenteau.
There are some teams that won’t have too much hesitation signing Bickell to a few years with a fat paycheque as one of the more productive depth players in the league.
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