Showing posts from March, 2012

Best Goaltending Season Ever?

With a week and a half to go in the 2011/12 NHL season, there are now five goaltenders with Goals Against Averages under 2.00. All five of these have played enough games to qualify for the league lead although it's goin to be near impossible to catch Brian Elliott's 1.48 average. The other four goalies are Jaro Halak 1.90, Henrik Lundqvist 1.93, Jonathan Quick 1.93 and Cory Schneider 1.97. How rare is it that five guys are under 2.00? In a word extremely.

It almost happened in 1998/99 when four goalies (Tugnutt, Hasek, Belfour and Dafoe) were under 2.00 and Roman Turek at 2.08 came close.  However, you have to go all the way back to 1930/31 to find a year with five back-stops under 2.00.

81 years ago, Roy Worters topped the NHL at 1.61, Charlie Gardiner was at 1.73, John Ross Roach had a 1.89 average, George Hainsworth was 1.95 and Tiny Thompson 1.98. All are in the Hall of Fame except Roach.

Jake Gardiner; A Ray of Hope

In a Maple Leaf season that has turned into a nightmare, one of the few surprises and bright spots for the future is rookie defenceman, Jake Gardiner. Obtained last season from Anaheim with Joffrey Lupul in exchange for Francois Beauchemin, Gardiner was a bit of a surprise in making the Leafs out of training camp. Gardiner was drafted 17th overall by the Ducks in 2008 and spent three years at University of Wisconsin.

Gardiner currently has 26 points in 69 games played this season and is a solid +1, tied with Luke Schenn as the only Leaf defender not in the negative. He also appears to be getting stronger as the season progresses with 17 points and a +3 in 34 games since the New Year. In fact, Gardiner has an outside shot at becoming the first Maple Leaf rookie rearguard to tally 30 points since 1982. As it stands he has the most points as a Leaf rookie defender in 30 years.

As an 18 year-old, Jim Benning collected 31 points in 1981/82 a year after putting up 139 points with Portland …

Greatest Injury Shortened Seasons Ever

Sidney Crosby has missed 60 games this season and if he plays all of Pittsburgh's remaining games he will play up to a total of 22 games in 2011/12. With 21 points already, Crosby is having one of the better injury shortened seasons in NHL history. Below are the greatest seasons of 25 games or less since 1930 that were cut short by injuries.
Sidney Crosby, 2011/12         13-2-19-21
Bobby Orr, 1975/76                10-5-13-18 Orr underwent one of his many knee surgeries after injuring it during training camp. He managed to get into 10 games, but still ended up missing all of the playoffs.

Mario Lemieux, 1993/94        22-17-20-37 After a late start to the season, Mario injured his back on Nov. 11, '93 and was out until February. He played the majority of games until the end of the season, and all six of the Pens post season games.

Pavel Bure, 1998/99                11-13-3-16 He missed the first half of the year holding out from the Canucks before being traded to Florida.…

Overmatched Maple Leafs; Worst Season Series since 1926

Six games against the Boston Bruins in 2011/12, zero wins for Toronto. The Leafs held a lead for a total of 21 minutes over the six games, or a mere 5.8% of playing time. It's difficult to get a lead while scoring 10 goals and surrendering 36 over six contests.

Somewhat surprisingly, this seasons' series with Boston was only the second time in franchise history where Toronto was swept outright in a series of at least six games. For all the terrible teams that the Leafs iced during the 1980's, they always managed at least a tie in their season matchups. Way back in 1925/26, while still called the St.Patrick's, Toronto lost all six games to the Montreal Maroons and in the process were outscored by a collective 25-13.

I checked through the hockey-reference database and found the following season series of at least six games in which Toronto didn't manage even one win; (W-L-T, GF-GA)

1985/86 vs. Minnesota  0-7-1     31-471981/82 vs. Minnesota  0-5-3     19-331976/77 vs…

Steven Stamkos Again

With 50 goals, Steven Stamkos currently has an 11 goal lead on second place Evgeni Malkin. This works out to a 28.2% advantage on his nearest goal scoring rival. This would be the biggest gap percentage-wise in over ten years. In 1999/00 Pavel Bure's 58 goals were 31.8% more than next best Owen Nolan's 44.

I was somewhat surprised when I found that over the history of the NHL the goal leader has had at least 50% more goals than the second scorer in seven different seasons. Below are all the seasons in which the goal leader scored at least 25% more than the second place guy.

1990/91 Brett Hull 86 goals; Fleury, Neely, Yzerman 51 goals....68.6% gap1965/66 Bobby Hull 54 goals; F.Mahovlich 32 goals....56.3% gap1983/84 Wayne Gretzky 87 goals; Goulet 56 goals....55.4% gap1952/53 Gordon Howe 49 goals;  Lindsay 32 goals....53.1% gap1951/52 Gordon Howe 47 goals; Mosienko 31 goals....51.6% gap1961/62 Bobby Hull 50 goals; Howe, Mahovlich 33 goals....51.5% gap1946/47 Maurice Richard 45 g…

The Maple Leaf Collapse of 1968; It has indeed happened before Mr. Burke

Two seventeen games. On February 6 of this year, the Leafs had a 28-19-6 record and were in 6th place in the Eastern Conference. They were two points out of fourth spot and home-ice advantage in the playoffs. Since then, the Buds have unfurled an atrocious record of 2-13-2 and are now one point away from a Lottery Pick in the draft, the playoffs a distant memory. General Manager Brian Burke said that he had never seen anything like it before, and that it "was akin to an 18-wheeler going right off a cliff." The question is then, how unprecedented is it for a Maple Leaf team to perform so poorly immediately after playing so well. It turns out it has indeed happened once before.

Firstly, how many times has Toronto had a stretch of such futility as they are currently in the midst of? In fact it's been over 20 years since such an awful stretch of hockey, but back then it was almost the norm. Following is the list of stretches of Leaf hockey as bad as the current on…

Nikolai Kulemin; Uncharted Territory

Nikolai Kulemin has had a bit of a drop-off in goal scoring. That's like saying the Titanic had a bit of trouble on it's first voyage. After scoring 30 goals in a full season last year he has tallied a grand total of 7 in 67 games so far this season. Kulemin is on pace for under 10 goals in an injury-free season, as a 25 year-old who should be in his prime. How many players in NHL history have had such a precipitous drop-off after a 30 goal year, without injuries being the cause...I found only two. Kulemin  is in the midst of one the greatest goal-scoring collapses in history.

Among 30 goal scorers in the NHL, I found only two others who fell to even 10 goals the following year without missing major time to injury, Morris Lukowich and Rosaire Paiement. In 1983/84 Morris Lukowich scored 30 goals while playing all 80 games for the Winnipeg Jets. The next season, while being traded to Boston in February, he scored 10 goals in 69 games. He was 28 in that 1984/85 season and would …

Penticton Vees, 41 Wins in a Row

The Penticton Vees of the Junior 'A' British Columbia Hockey League defeated Trail Smoke Eaters last evening 10-0. It was their 41st consecutive victory breaking the record for most wins in a row in Canadian junior hockey history. The cool thing is that yesterday (March 6) was also the anniversary of the original Penticton Vees winning the World Championship in 1955.

I found it surprising that the old record was as high as it was, and even more so that it was set by two teams in the same league ten years apart. The league is the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League, another Tier II Junior 'A' circuit. In 1989/90, the Sudbury Cubs had a perfect season of 40-0, scoring 352 goals while surrendering 124. The average score of their games was 8.8 to 3.1. They had four different players score over one goal per game. Leading scorer on the team was future NHLer Brian Savage who scored 45 goals, 85 points in 32 games. Sudbury would go 15-6 in the playoffs, eventually losing t…

Halak and Elliot, Best Tandem in History?

It goes without saying that the St. Louis Blues have and amazing goaltending duo this season. Brian Elliott is first in the NHL in Goals Against Average at 1.63 and 2nd with a Save Pct. of .937. His partner Jaro Halak sits 3rd in GAA at 1.91 and 9th in Save Pct. at .925. Halak has played 37 games while Elliott has played 31. Statistically, they may very well be one of the best goaltending tandems in NHL history. Let's have a look at some of the others.

2006/07 Minnesota Wild, Niklas Backstrom & Manny Fernandez
Backstrom played 41 games to Fernandez' 44 and led the league in both GAA (1.97) and Save Pct (.929). Fernandez placed 15th in both categories.

1991/92 New York Rangers, John Vanbiesbrouck & Mike Richter
Beezer played 45 games and finished 4th in both GAA and Save Pct (2.85, .910) and his 27 wins placed him 6th. Richter's 3.11 & .901 placed 6th and 9th respectively and his 23 victories put him in 13th spot.

1989/90 Boston Bruins, Andy Moog & Reggie Leme…

Leafs Mid-Season coaching changes

The last time the Toronto Maple Leafs fired a coach during a season was almost exactly 16 years ago. On March 5, 1996 Pat Burns was fired after an eighth consecutive loss. Leafs scouting director Nick Beverley was brought in on an interim basis. Even with the 8 straight losses, Toronto still sat in 8th place in the Western Conference with a record of 25-30-10. Beverley guided them to a 9-6-2 finish as they climbed to 4th spot in the weak Conference. St. Louis would oust the Leafs in six first round games and Mike Murphy was brought in to coach the following season.
Prior to 1996, the last mid-season coaching change for Toronto was at the beginning of the 1990-91 campaign. Under Doug Carpenter Toronto stumbled out of the gates with a 1-9-1 record (the exact record the current Leafs have over their last 11 matches). Tom Watt was brought into this mess and went 22-37-10 and the Leafs still fell 13 points short of the playoffs.
In December of 1988, John Brophy was fired after sporting an…

Around the Hockey World; 37 wins straight and a man called Jade

A semi-annual look at interesting numbers and people from around the hockey world.

Ziggy Palffy (39), who hasn't played in the NHL in 6 years, leads the Slovakian League with 83 pts in 48 games. He has a 24 point lead on second place Rene Skoliak.
40 year old Peter Nedved, himself five years removed from the NHL was top scorer in the Czech League with 61 points in 49 games.
Tomas Zaborsky (pictured above) led the Finnish SM Liiga with 35 goals and 59 pts in 52 games. He has an impressive 12 goals more than anyone else in the league. The 5'11", 200 pounder was drafted by the NY Rangers 137th overall in 2006.
23 year old Phoenix, Arizona native Broc Little topped the Swedish 2nd Division in scoring with 34 goals and 64 points in 50 games for Vasteras. The 5'9", 170 pound centre signed this season after a four year career at Yale University.
35 year old goaltender Alfie Michaud (he of 2 games with Vancouver Canucks in 1999/00) posted the best Goals Against Average in th…