Five absurd, unsustainable stats from NHL’s opening month

Watch as Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog records his third career hat trick.

With the opening month of the 2018-19 campaign in the books, we’ve finally moved past the period of early-season silliness, of all those absurd numbers we just knew would level out eventually.

Or not, apparently.

As the calendar stretches into November, a fair few amount of clubs are still engaging in some statistical tomfoolery. That being the case, let’s take a look at the most wild, unsustainable stats around the league at the moment:

1. Arizona has no time for your defensive-minded penalty kill

The Arizona Coyotes just don’t understand how killing penalties works, I guess. Or, at the very least, they simply don’t appear to be down with the method everyone else is working with.

Forty-five times this season, the Coyotes have found themselves shorthanded. In that span, they’ve managed to become the most stingy penalty-kill club in the league, allowing only four power-play goals-against. They’ve also, somehow, scored double that amount in those situations themselves, putting up eight short-handed goals against the four power-play tallies they’ve allowed.

Michael Grabner and Brad Richardson lead this oddly prolific pack with three shorties each, while Derek Stepan (two) and Lawson Crouse (one) round out the league-leading group.

You have to assume this one normalizes soon (there have been a few gimmes, after all), but either way, the numbers are likely ending up somewhere pretty odd. The Devils led the league last year with 11 shorthanded goals in total (10 at 4-on-5, one at 3-on-5). It’s near impossible to imagine Arizona not making up that three-goal gap over their next 68 tilts — they potted two more last night, alone.

And, because this is just how the Coyotes PK does business, they also limited the opposing Flyers power-play units to a goose egg on four man-advantage chances. Because why not.

2. Gabriel Landeskog wants to hang with Colorado’s high-flyers

The Avalanche offence has been reborn over the past couple seasons, with Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon blossoming into bona fide superstars on the top line. The latter Avs scorers posted a combined 181 points last season, with linemate Landeskog finishing more than 20 points below each of them with 62 on the season.

It appears like the captain is intent on finishing a bit closer to his mates this time around. Through 16 games this season, Landeskog already has 11 goals and 18 points to his name. Still not enough to put him level with Rantanen and MacKinnon — who’ve amassed 24 and 22, respectively — but enough to leave him on track for his best year yet, by far.

The 25-year-old only had 25 goals to his name in 2017-18, and his career high is just one higher than that total, from 2013-14. He’s already nearly halfway there in just one month, with a whopping 67 games left to go.

Landeskog is a pretty sure bet to cool off — apologies to any Avalanche fans who thought he might ride this pace all the way to a 60-goal effort — but even if his scoring pace drops off significantly, where might he wind up?

Even if his goal-scoring pace (0.69 goals per game) were to be cut in half from this moment on, Landeskog would still net another 23 goals over those remaining 67 games, taking his end-of-season total to 34.

3. Nashville’s on the hunt for that empty-net Rocket Richard

There may not be as inglorious a part of the game as the empty-net goal. Though potting one on a tender-less net isn’t the most thrilling of point-attaining methods, getting the extra tally and closing out games is an important part of piling up wins, nonetheless.

The Predators need no reminding of that fact, as the club has somehow already managed an absurd eight empty-netters thus far this season. They even went four games straight with an empty-net goal potted daily from Oct. 13–20, and added their most recent in a tilt against Colorado on Wednesday.

To put that in perspective, the Predators put up only 10 empty-net goals over the entirety of last season. They had just 11 through all of 2016-17. You get the idea — through their first slate of games, Nashville appears to already be approaching that mark with just one month in the books.

The trend doesn’t figure to sway Nashville’s chances that much either way, particularly because you likely aren’t getting these goals unless you’re already doing something right (opposing clubs aren’t emptying their net unless they’re already down and desperate) but it should still be interesting seeing how this one shakes out — and how much these extra goals help them in the long run.

4. Canada taking over the Pacific Division at long last?

This is exactly how we all saw the Pacific Division shaking out in November, right?

With the opening month set and the sample size growing, the apparently mighty Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames sit atop their division as they embark on the second month of the campaign. League-wide, Vancouver and Calgary also rank higher than every club the Metropolitan Division, producer of the past three Stanley Cup champions.

Needless to say, the Canucks and Flames have exceeded expectations by a mile so far, especially the former, as Elias Pettersson has emerged even more dominant than expected.

What are the chances this holds?

Well, with San Jose the team creeping right beneath the two — the same San Jose squad that boasts one of the best top lines in all of hockey and what could wind up being one of the most stacked blue lines in history — the two division-toppers shouldn’t get too comfortable.

The last time two Canadian clubs topped the Western division that housed Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton (currently the Pacific, previously the Northwest) was back in 2011-12. Doing so again in 2018-19 seems unlikely given the compositions of the rosters involved — although, this year’s Pacific has been enough of a mess that it’s still up in the air.

Only two of the eight Pacific clubs have positive goal differentials — those two teams? Calgary (plus-1) and Arizona (plus-7). Meanwhile, Vegas and Anaheim — last year’s division-leading duo — sit at minus-6 and minus-11, respectively.

5. Hotsam Batcho trying to prove he’s the new Erik Karlsson

The escapades of the Uber Crew have taken over Ottawa headlines, stealing the spotlight from what is, without a doubt, the biggest story out of the nation’s capital at the moment.

Ottawa has become accustomed to seeing one name hang around the top end of the scoring charts all year long, a defenceman who routinely proved to be the club’s best in the other end of the rink as well. But with No. 65 gone and the Senators descending into a rebuilding mess, everyone in attendance is pretty sure this is the year that streak ends.

Thomas Chabot, it seems, is not.

The 21-year-old affectionately known as ‘Hotsam Batcho’ has been all sorts of hot so far this season. Case in point, here are all the players in the NHL who have more points than Chabot at the moment:

Mikko Rantanen
Connor McDavid

That’s it, that’s the end of the list. Every other elite scorer you can think of is currently producing less than the Senators wunderkind.

Of course, key to consider is that 13 of Chabot’s 22 points have been secondary assists, so he’s not exactly carrying the team on his back. But, regardless, three more points and he’ll have already tied the career-high he set last season.

What are the chances that Karlsson or Brent Burns (or, more likely, both) don’t unseat the young Senators prince? Wafer thin, and downright nonexistent given the two blue-line forces are now suiting up in the same uniform. The plateau is coming, but for now, it’s Chabot’s world, and we’re all just living in it.

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