BY ALEX FLETCHER – FAN FUEL BLOGGER
Nothing remains constant in the National Hockey League. Players go on hot and cold streaks, teams drop in and out of the playoff race, and new concussions seem to crop up every night.
Here’s a collection of stats, facts, thoughts, and questions about recent events from around the NHL.
** After being dealt to the Colorado Avalanche last February, Brian Elliott somehow managed to worsen his dreadful .894 save percentage, 3.19 goals against average, and 13-19-8 record, and, in the process, helped the Avs plummet to the depths of the NHL’s basement. This season is a different story, though. Elliott is 15-5-1 to go along with a 1.68 GAA and .937 SVP. And he’s an all-star. Go figure.
** Alexnder Ovechkin has sure fallen from grace. In his first five seasons in the NHL, his worst goal output was 46 and his lowest point total was 92. After recording a relatively disappointing 32 goals and 85 points last season, he’s on pace for just 34 and 66 this year. That would translate to earnings of $264,706 per goal.
** Dany Heatley is another goal-scorer that is on the decline. Except for one jump in production in 2009-2010, his goal and point totals have decreased every season since 2006-2007, when he recorded 50 goals and 105 points with the Ottawa Senators, and is on track to do so again this year. Interestingly, Heatley is currently on pace for 23 goals – the exact amount that Milan Michalek, the main component of the package that Ottawa received when they dealt Heatley away, has already recorded this season. (By the way, Heatley will have earned a whopping $347,826 per goal if he finishes the year with 23.)
** The Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs are the only two NHL clubs that have not qualified for the playoffs since the 2004-2005 lockout. The Ottawa Senators were supposed to be in the midst of a rebuild this season. However, the combined points-percentage of those three teams (.576) is higher than that of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, and Tampa Bay Lightning (.533). No, that is not a calculation error. Yes, I think the sky really is falling.
** Has anyone heard from Matt Cooke this season? Maybe he was serious when, after a couple of hefty suspensions last year, he vowed to clean up his act. With zero suspensions and just 14 penalty minutes so far this season, it looks like he’s decided to reinvent himself as a perennial Lady Byng Trophy candidate.
** Without cheating, guess which player is the Washington Capitals’ second-leading goal scorer. Alexander Semin? Nicklas Backstrom? Actually, Jason Chimera, who is already just three short of his career high, is tied with Troy Brouwer.
** Many fans were taken aback by the price the Ottawa Senators paid to acquire Kyle Turris from the Phoenix Coyotes in December. It’s early, but the deal has worked out well for the Sens so far; the team has managed an 11-2-2 record since the trade, and Turris has potted 11 points in that time.
** When he acquired Joffrey Lupul last February, Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke figured that Lupul would be able to contribute offensively. He surely didn’t anticipate this kind of production, though; Lupul is hovering around the NHL’s top 10 in both goals and points, and he’s already just five points shy of his career high in points – and he’s reached that mark in 36 fewer games, too.
** Amazingly, Nikolai Khabibulin has actually performed better this season after spending some time in an Arizona jail over the summer. He’s cooled off somewhat since his scorching hot start to the season, but the ‘Bulin Wall’ still has a very respectable .919 SVP and 2.41 GAA.
** Some fans always wondered whether the Phoenix Coyotes did well because of Ilya Bryzgalov, or if Bryzgalov did well because of the Coyotes. Well, Bryzgalov has posted a .893 SVP and 3.00 GAA in 31 games with the Philadelphia Flyers, while Mike Smith, Bryz’s replacement in the desert, has managed a .923 SVP and 2.43 GAA. I’ll let you decide the verdict!
** The Detroit Red Wings are known for not often spending a lot of money on goaltending, and you could say that it’s worked out pretty well for them. Maybe more teams should follow suit. Consider this: Brian Elliott, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Mike Smith, Jose Theodore, and Tomas Vokoun, who all signed with new teams over the off-season, carry a combined cap hit of $6.85 million. This season, they’ve combined for a .922 save percentage. Meanwhile, Martin Brodeur, Ilya Bryzgalov, Jonas Hiller, Ryan Miller, and Cam Ward carry a combined cap hit of approximately $27.92 million. Their combined save percentage this season? .900.
** There were 211 players selected in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, but only eight of them have played at least one game in the NHL this season. Andrew Shaw is one of those eight. Drafted 139th overall, the 20-year-old forward has already potted five goals and an assist in just eight games for the Chicago Blackhawks. It’s too early to call him the steal of the draft, but even if he never plays another game in the NHL he will have exceeded expectations for a fifth-round pick.
** The Columbus Blue Jackets are dead last in the NHL. And by dead last, I really mean dead last. The Jackets are already seven points behind the league’s second-worst team, the Edmonton Oilers, and would need to collect 66 of a possible 74 remaining points just to meet last season’s Western Conference playoff cut-off marker of 97 points. That’s a .892 points-percentage the rest of the way. You wouldn’t want to bet on that happening.
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