Stat of the Day: Islanders point streak at seven games

The Eastern Conference standings are so compact, so crunched together, that even the team with the paltriest of chances can climb back into the race.

That’s what has happened with the Islanders, who were down and out just a couple weeks ago but have found their way back into the race with a recent hot streak, going 7-1-1 in their last nine games, planting themselves on the doorstep of the Wildcard standings as a result.

New York extended its point streak to seven games (6-0-1) with perhaps the most impressive victory of the streak, beating Washington, 3-2, to hand the Capitals just their second regulation loss since December. Thomas Greiss made 28 saves to run his record to 5-0-1 in his last six games, allowing eight goals and yielding a .955 save percentage over that span.

The Isles have also gone 5-0-1 under new head coach Doug Weight, who replaced Jack Capuano when he was relieved of his duties on January 17th. As for whether the team can keep this level up for their new coach, who played the final three seasons of his 20-year NHL career on Long Island, remains to be seen.

The Islanders now sit just three points out of a playoff spot 22-17-9. Not bad for a team that was buried three weeks ago.

Stat of the Day: Capitals have just three regulation losses since start of December

The Washington Capitals are on quite a run.

After a slow start to the season, the Caps have been virtually unstoppable for two months now, having gone 19-2-3 in 24 games since a 3-0 loss to the Islanders on December 1st to open up the slate of games for the final month of 2016. Washington hasn’t lost in regulation since December 27th, going 12-0-1 over its past 13 contests, the only loss an overtime defeat in last Monday’s 8-7 thriller against Pittsburgh.

Washington, which won the Presidents Trophy last season as the NHL’s best regular season team, has reclaimed the top spot in the league standings with 70 points as of Tuesday, a two-point lead ahead of Metropolitan Division rival Columbus, which holds down second.

The one caveat to this midseason run is the ‘peaking too soon’ argument that gets thrown around when teams play at this level at this time of the year. The run isn’t dissimilar to the level of play Washington was at this time last season en route to finishing with 120 points, which tied the 1972-73 Montreal Canadiens for the eighth-best total in NHL history. The Capitals went on a 32-5-3 run between November 19th and February 22nd of last season, but were bounced in the second round by Pittsburgh in six games.

For this current Capitals roster, it’s now or never, as next year’s team is guaranteed to look much different than this season’s edition. Karl Alzner, T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams, and Danniel Winnik are due to become unrestricted free agents while Andre Burakovsky, Evgeni Kuznetsov, and Dmitry Orlov will be restricted free agents. On top of all that, No. 1 defenseman John Carlson’s deal is up after next season and will be in line for a higher wage than his current $3.97 million salary. While Washington will remain competitive, the roster will look much different come 2017-18.

The team certainly seems to be playing as if that’s the message they’re receiving. As for whether this level can be sustained and Washington can advance to the conference finals for the first time of the Alex Ovechkin era remains to be seen.

 

Stat of the Day: Sidney Crosby with no goals in last five games

Sidney Crosby, never known for his goal scoring, was out to a blazing start in the 2016-17 season.

The all-world, all-time great Pittsburgh Penguin pivot had 26 goals through 31 games to begin his season, which was delayed by a concussion suffered days before the season opener.

While Crosby was playing the best hockey of his Hall of Fame career, there was plenty of reason to believe a drop-off – even of the slightest nature – would occur. After scoring his 31st goal in a December 28th Pittsburgh win over Carolina, Crosby had connected on nearly one-quarter of his shots (24.3 percent shooting percentage), an uptick from the 14.3 percent clip he’d connected at over the first 11 seasons of his career. His 82-game pace of 69 goals was well above his career-high of 51.

So it comes as no surprise that Crosby has been held scoreless over his last five games, falling a tad bit off the thunderous pace he’d been on for the past calendar year. Of course, it hasn’t been all bad, either, over those five games, as Crosby has picked up four assists to go along with an even rating. He’s averaged 20:10 of ice-time per game while putting 15 shots on net, recording a shot in every game but Wednesday’s loss to Washington, where the 29-year-old was summoned to take on heavier defensive assignments against a high-octane, explosive Capitals team.

Crosby maintains the NHL goal scoring lead, but has Jeff Carter quickly gaining, as the Kings center scored his 23rd goal of the season on Saturday. Behind Carter is Cam Atkinson, Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, and Alex Ovechkin at 21 while Vladimir Tarasenko and Max Pacioretty have 20.

Stat of the Day: Shea Weber Leads NHL in Goal Scoring Among Defensemen since 2005

While he came at the expense of P.K. Subban, defenseman Shea Weber has been a tremendous acquisition for the Montreal Canadiens.

In seven games, Weber has three goals and nine points while averaging 25:59 of ice time per night. His plus-12 rating leads the NHL; the next-closest is Detroit forward Darren Helm, with nine. The Canadiens are out to a 6-0-1 start.

Weber’s greatness, of course, is no secret. Prior to arriving in Montreal, he spent 11 seasons in Nashville. Over the 11-plus seasons, he’s scored 169 goals, which is tops among all NHL season going back to his 2006 debut. The output, which has come in 770 games, leads second-best Dustin Byfuglien (152) by 17.

Only Chicago blue liner Duncan Keith – who has multiple Stanley Cups and Norris Trophies to his credit – and the recently-retired Dan Boyle have more points than Weber’s 452 since he came into the league. However, he’ll become second in short time, as he sits just two points behind Boyle. Keith is 12 points ahead of Weber, with 464.

Two things Weber doesn’t have (through no fault of his own)? A Stanley Cup and a Norris Trophy. Who knows, both could be crossed off the list this year.

Stat of the Day: Seattle the 14th-Biggest TV Market in U.S.

Since we’re all abuzz about the NHL possibly expanding to Seattle, why not give a neat little Seattle stat?

Of the top 15 television markets in the U.S., 12 have NHL franchises. The three that don’t? That would be ninth-ranked Atlanta, No. 10 Houston, and 14th-ranked Seattle. Atlanta, of course, is 0-for-2 in the NHL, and Houston hasn’t had a team but could in the future.

Therefore, Seattle would be the 12th-highest NHL television market should a team move there. Another good sign for the city, which looked primed to get a team for some time, and the dream came that much closer to becoming a reality on Tuesday when investor Chris Hansen proposed a privately financed arena in the city. The news reopened talks of Seattle being home to an NHL and NBA team.

The city has a good background in the NBA, of course, with the SuperSonics playing in Seattle from 1967 to 2008, when the franchise moved to Oklahoma City. The city has never had an NHL team.

Stat of the Day: Minnesota Leads League with 15 Different Goal Scorers

When the Minnesota Wild jumped out to a 4-1-1 start to the 2015-16 season, it did so riding the back of six players that accounted for all 17 of the Wild’s goals. Six of those goals were scored by Zach Parise, while Nino Niederreiter and Thomas Vanek each chipped in three.

Fast forward a year later, the Wild – under the leadership of Bruce Boudreau as opposed to Mike Yeo – are out to 3-2-1 start through six games. Despite one fewer win, Minnesota has scored 19 times. Fifteen players have accounted goals for a more balanced, spread out offense for the Wild. The closest team to that number is Montreal and the New York Islanders, who are tied for second, with 13.

Last season, the Wild had just 22 players score goals over the course of its 82-game slate, in which Minnesota came out with two points in just 38 of those games, tied for 18th in the NHL. The Wild managed to get into the playoffs because of the ever-lovely three-point play, getting the extra point via loss in overtime/shootout 11 times. They were knocked out in the first round by Dallas, in six games.

So what does this mean? Well, while depth and secondary scoring are big pieces of a puzzle when it comes to winning hockey (credit: conventional wisdom), the correlation from number of goal scorers to number of wins don’t appear to have much of a relationship. There were just two teams that finished behind Minnesota in the goal scorer count last season – Colorado and Dallas, each with 21. Dallas won 50 games and came within one win of the Western Conference finals, falling to St. Louis in seven games in the second round. While Colorado missed the playoffs, the Avalanche won 39 games, one more than the Wild’s count of 38. Winnipeg and the New York Rangers had 22 different goal scorers, which didn’t get in the way of the latter of the two clubs qualifying for the playoffs for the 10th time in 11 seasons.

As for the two Stanley Cup final participants, the Campbell Bowl-winning San Jose Sharks had 23 different goal scorers. The champion Pittsburgh Penguins had 24, the third straight year the team that won the Stanley Cup had fewer than 25 goal scorers in the regular season. The Blackhawks had just 21 in 2014-15; Los Angeles had 22 in 2013-14.

 

It’s one of the bright spots for the Wild, who are tied with St. Louis for eighth in goals, with 19. However, Minnesota has allowed 19 goals of their own and score/venue adjusted five-on-five corsi-for is 15th, at 48.98 percent.

Regardless, it’s not the worst place to be.