Monday, October 31, 2011

30 years ago today.

Oct. 31, 1981...hockey was just a little bit different than it is today. Below are the standings from exactly 30 years ago today.

To illustrate the amazing difference in goal scoring, the 1981 Colorado Rockies with 30 goals in 11 games would rank 10th in scoring today. Today's leaders, Philadelphia and their 41 goals would have ranked 15th out of 21 teams in 1981. On the other end of the spectrum, Montreal's league best 28 goals allowed in 11 games would be merely tied for 13th today.


On the individual front Phil Kessel, today's NHL leader with 18 points would have been 15th overall on the same date in 1981, one point behind Oilers defenceman Risto Siltanen and one ahead of St.Louis Blue Mike Zuke. Kessel's league best 10 goals would be only 9th in 1981.


In all honestly, comparing today's scoring to that from 30 years ago is more of a fun thing. There really is no comparison as I've shown. In 1981/82 there was just over an average of 8.00 goals scored per game, as of today it is 5.38 per game...just about exactly two-thirds.






Friday, October 28, 2011

Firewagon Hockey, It's been a while.

The 17 total goals scored in the Winnipeg/Philadelphia game is the highest scoring NHL game in over 15 years. The 17 goals are the most by two teams since Jan. 13, 1996 when the San Jose Sharks beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 10-8. Interestingly, Jaromir Jagr played in both of these games and had only one point in each.

No player scored more than four points in either of these high-scoring affairs. Mario Lemieux and Ray Sheppard had 4 each in '96 , Danny Briere and Kimmo Timonen also had 4 points each.


Also,
From New York Islanders home game statistician Eric Hornick, the five games in which a goaltender played in ONLY a shoot-out of a game.

10/27/2011 in Pittsburgh, Rick DiPietro became the 5th goalie to appear only in a shootout when he replaced Evgeni Nabakov.

The others:
10/22/2008 Toronto v Anaheim. Curtis Joseph replaced Vesa Toskala for shootout for Toronto.
10/26/2006 Atlanta v Philadelphia. Kari Lehtonen replaced Johan Hedberg for Atlanta.
3/7/2006 Edmonton v Dallas. Mark Morrison replaced Ty Conklin for Edmonton.
11/22/2005 Buffalo v NY Rangers. Martin Biron replaced Mika Noronen for Buffalo.

Incidentally, all shoot-out replacement goalies lost their respective games.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Trouble with Luongo



I don't want to pile on Roberto Luongo. People who are calling for his head are being reactionary and counter-productive. This season is still in the very early stages and most people are aware that Luongo is a notorious slow starter.

However, given the fact that I live in Vancouver, I hear alot of this nonsense and honestly it's interesting to follow. The one thing I have noticed is the manner in which Luongo has been failing, dating back to last year's playoffs. It seems to me that when he loses, he breaks down in spectacular Hindenburg-ian fashion. I figured I'd have a look at the numbers.

Now, it may be a relatively small sample size, but I wanted to compare Luongo's numbers in games which he won to games which he lost and how those compare to the league averages.

2011/12 NHL Average
In Losses, teams had an GAA of 3.68 and Save Pct of .877
In Wins, teams had an GAA of 1.77 and Save Pct of .942

These numbers are obvious and predictable. So, how did Roberto Luongo fare in these categories last year, quite exceptionally actually.

In 22 Losses he was well better than the League with a 2.88 GAA and .903 Save Pct
In 38 Victories, he was closer to the League numbers with 1.67 GAA and .942 Save Pct

Last season Luongo managed to (on average) keep games fairly close even in a loss. He was far better than the normal in this regard and coupled with his slightly above numbers in his team's victories, he put together a Vezina nominated season.

These stats have all gone out the window since the start of last year's post-season. As stated, it is a fairly small sample size, but he has played 32 games since then, pretty much half of a full season. If these numbers are a "blip", it's a pretty big one. Since the playoffs started, his numbers;

17 Wins are 1.69 GAA and .950 SavePct.

...again, noticeably superior to the League averages.
On the other hand, since the playoffs began he has;

14 Losses and a 4.68 GAA and .838 SavePct.

His Goals Against Average in losses is a full goal higher than the NHL average. If I was a Canuck fan, I would be alarmed at that. As a comparison, let's look at the only other goalie to play as often since the playoffs started, Tim Thomas.

In Thomas' 19 Wins since the playoffs began;
1.56 GAA and .954 Save Pct.

In 12 Losses,
2.79 GAA and .906 Save Pct.

Thomas is well ahead of the average in games he won and ridiculously ahead in games he lost. Suppose that adds up to a Stanley Cup win. Perhaps Roberto Luongo had a bad few games in the playoffs, perhaps it's a trend that will continue. Either way it looks like he is prone to catostrophic collapses in games, at least over the last half-season worth of games.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sweeney Schriner and the Dangers of Backchecking.

Last week, when looking at historical comparisons for Phil Kessel's hot start, I learned of the 1944/45 season of Maple Leaf, Dave 'Sweeney' Schriner. Kessel's 8 goals through 7 games was bested only by Schriner's 9 goals in the first 7 games of 1944. That season of course was the year of the NHL's first 50 goal season by Maurice Richard. Perhaps, if not for an injury that cost him almost half the season, Sweeney Schriner may have joined Richard as the first 50 goal scorer.

The 33 year-old Schriner would be shutout in his 8th game but notched 2 goals on Nov 8, 1944 in his 9th match of the season, the game in which he would be injured. Schriner was quoted afterwards;"That's one time the coach can't say I wasn't backchecking." The Toronto Star described the injury; "Schriner says he was cruising in home waters looking for a stray puck when he saw Mush March pounce and start for (goaltender) McCool with dirt in his eye. He swung along with Mush and next thing he knew he was mushed into the steel upright. 'You should see this leg', said he,'It's turned hard like cement.' Sweeney thinks the fibre leg pad he wore saved the limb from a fracture."

His 11 goals was four more than any other player to this point in the season. Four more than Marice Richard, the man who would indeed score 50. By mid-December, Schriner and his 17 points still sat 13th in the NHL points race. The Rocket had tallied 12 goals in 8 games since Schriner went down to sit with 19 through 17 games, well on his way to history.

Schriner would spend the Christmas holidays at home in Calgary, resting his injured knee. He planned on returning to Toronto in the New Year but at that point coach Hap Day did not know when Schriner would be ready to put the skates on again. It took until Jan. 6 for Schriner to begin a conditioning program, but he returned quickly to game shape and played on Jan. 9. He notched one assist in that game versus the Rangers, then scored 2 goals in his second game back against Montreal.

As of early March, Schriner had played 12 games since returning to action, scoring 7 goals and 5 assists in the process. Certainly his pace had slowed down, but on the strength of his hot start he managed to reappear in the NHL's scoring leaders on March 6. His 18 goals, 11 assist and 29 points sat 29th in league scoring. He finished strong with 4 goals and 8 points in his last 5 matches and ended up 22nd in points despite missing 24 of the 50 games.

In fact, Schriner's 22 goals finished 13th in the NHL. Certainly it would have been next to impossible for him the continue his early season scoring rate through an entire season, but if not for his injury he almost certainly would have bested second place goal man Herb Cain's 32 and maybe given the Rocket a run at 50.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Leaf Notes and Numbers

Toronto's Special Teams


2011/12: Power Play 16.00%, PK 77.27%

2010/11: Power Play 15.95%, PK 77.45%


Toronto's Strength (or weakness) of Schedule

so far this season is rated as the easiest by far at Minus 0.82, Zero is average and Los Angeles has had the most difficult schedule at +0.90


Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul have scored 11 of Toronto's 16 goals.
The Kessel, Lupul and Bozak line have counted 23 of the team's 45 scoring points.

Kessel is the first Leaf to tally 7 goals over the first 5 games of a season since Sweeney Schriner in 1944 (see below).


1944/45 Season

Although not the last time Toronto had an undefeated five game start, it's interesting to look
back into the past at another dominating start and how it panned out over the season. After five wins, the Leafs had scored 30 goals and surrendered 12 and sat two points up on Montreal. Toronto also had the top three point scorers in the entire line of Sweeney Schriner (13 points), Gus Bodnar (13 points) and Lorne Carr (12 points).

Leafs would come back to earth and finish with 52 points in the 50 game season in third place, 28 points behind first place Montreal. Carr finished with 46 points, Bodnar 44 and Schriner 37 in only 26 games.

Toronto knocked off Montreal in 6 semi-final games then beat Detroit in 7 to win the Cup.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Phil Kessel's Hot Start

Thanks to Leaf play-by-play man Joe Bowen, last night I learned that Phil Kessel is only the third Maple Leaf in history to score 5 goals in the first 3 games of the season. In game 4 he added a 6th goal to tie a Leaf record to start a season. The two players that previously scored 5 in the first 3 were Darryl Sittler and Wendel Clark (twice).

Darryl Sittler 1978
Game 1: 2G
Game 2: 3G-4A
Game 3: 0
Game 4: 1G-1A

On the strength of a 7 point game, Sittler had 6 goals and 5 assists through the first 4 games in 1978/79. He would slow down to 1 goal and 2 assists over the next 6 games finishing October 1978 with a scoring line of: 10-7-7-14.

Wendel Clark 1986
Game 1: 1G
Game 2: 4G
Game 3: 0
Game 4: 0

After 5 tallies in his first two matches. Clark notched 2 goals, 2 assists in his next 6. His October scoring ended up: 9-7-2-9

Wendel Clark 1991
Game 1: 2G-1A
Game 2: 3G-2A
Game 3: 1A

Clark had a Gretzky-esque start to 1991/92 with 6 goals and 9 points in the first three games. Unfortunately for he and the Leafs, in the third game he tore his left MCL in collision with Rich Sutter of St.Louis. He would be out for the next 10 games, came back for three then re-injured the knee putting him on the shelf until January.




Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Atlanta lives on in the hockey record books.

I read yesterday how the new Winnipeg Jets announcers and media will have to be careful when referring to franchise 'firsts'. The next Jets hat-trick will be neither the first in Jets history or in franchise history. The confusion will stem from the fact that there already has been a Winnipeg Jets, although an entirely different franchise and the defunct Atlanta Thrashers records will carry on to the current Winnipeg Jets.


Unless Mark Scheifele ends up being the second coming of Dale Hawerchuk, the new Jets record book will remain dominated by ex-Thrashers. Ilya Kovalchuk's 328 franchise goals and 615 points should be number one for years to come. The likes of Marian Hossa, Slava Kozlov and Kari Lehtonen will be part of the Jets records for a while still.


In fact the previous Atlanta franchise, the Flames, have a record book peppered lightly with Atlanta players from before the franchise shift. In addition to the new Jets, Atlanta hockey is still represented in the Calgary records.



  • Eric Vail played only 70 of 539 Flames games in Calgary and still sits 8th in franchise goals with 206.

  • Guy Chouinard played more than half of his Flames career in Atlanta and remains 7th in points with 529. His 107 points in 78/79 remain 4th best in Flames history.

  • Bob MacMillan has the 3rd highest scoring season in Flames history, 108 with Atlanta in 78/79. That same season he tallied the 3rd most assists by a Flame with 71.

  • Dan Bouchard played only 14 of 398 Flames games in Calgary. He sits 3rd in goalie games and his 5 shutouts in 73/74 are 4th most in any Flames year. His Flames career GAA of 3.03 is 6th best in franchise history.

  • Phil Myre, who never played in Calgary also notched 5 shut outs in 74/75 and sits 7th in career GAA at 3.21.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

1930, Maple Leafs start the year with 5 shutouts.

Researching Toronto's history of opening night shutouts, I found that the Leafs actually started the 1930/31 season with FIVE consecutive shutouts. This was the last year in the Mutual Street Arena for Toronto before moving the next season to Maple Leaf Gardens. Somewhat strange about the five shutouts is the fact that Toronto alternated goaltenders Lorne Chabot (pictured below) and Benny Grant (above), each taking turns starting games. This was fairly rare in an era when the majority of teams used one goalie for the entire year.

Following are the summaries from the Canadian Press of each of the five games:

Nov.13, 1930
0-0 vs. New York Americans
Lorne Chabot vs. Roy Worters

"The game, played before about 8,000 spectators, was a typical early season exhibition of the popular winter pastime. Neither team showed real form, and as a result the game was somewhat dull. In addition to this the unseasonably warm weather and ultra strict officiating detracted from the game's attractiveness. King Clancy, recently purchased from Ottawa, was the backbone of the Leafs, both offensively and defensively."

Nov.15, 1930
4-0 vs. Philadelphia Quakers
Benny Grant vs. Joe Milller
"Making every post a winning one, Toronot Maple Leafs last night humbled Philadelphia Quakers, in a NHL fixture here. The final score was 4-0, and the Leafs were full value for the victory. The Leafs scored two goals in the first period and two in the second period, but were held scoreless in the final. The first tally of the game came when Red Horner, husky defenceman, took Jackson's pass and drove it into the twine. One and a half minutes later, Primeau scored, and again Jackson figured in the play. Conacher and Jackson combined for the third goal, and then Ace Bailey made it four on Clancy's pass."

Nov.18, 1930
3-0 vs. Montreal Maroons
Lorne Chabot vs. Flat Walsh
"Working like Trojans in front of superb goal-tending by Lorne Chabot, the still undefeated Toronto Maple Leafs took their second victory of the young season by defeating Montreal Maroons three goals to nil. In three games Maroons have not scored a single goal." Leaf goals were tallied by Clancy, Bailey and Horner.

Nov.20, 1930
0-0 vs. New York Americans
Benny Grant vs. Roy Worters
"Eddie Gerard's 'Amazing Amerks' again presented an airtight defensive system to hold the Toronto marksmen scoreless. The game was far from being of a spectacular nature, as the Leafs didn't take many chances either with the Americans adopting Kitty-bar-the-door tactics. It was the second time these teams have played scoreless games and it marked Toronto's fourth game in which the opposition has not tallied a goal against them." Grant made 40 saves while Worters had 36.

Nov.22, 1930
2-0 vs. Ottawa
Chabot vs. Connell
"Playing super-hockey, the Toronto Maple Leafs downed Ottawa Senators 2-0, in a brilliant National Hockey League fixture here Saturday night, registering their fifth straight shutout. The Leafs have won three gamee, tied two and have not had a single goal tallied against them this season. From bell to bell, the two teams struggled at top pace, with both goalies showing brilliantly. Of the two, Connell, of Ottawa, had the much harder evening, and the two goals which did beat him were practically impossible to save." Goals were scored by Cotton and Conacher.

Toronto failed to parlay this terrific start to the year into much success. Although they would finish second to Canadiens in the Canadian Division, they would slip to sixth overall in goals allowed among the ten NHL squads. Leafs would lose to Chicago in the Quarter-Finals that year.

The team that finally did score a goal on Toronto and defeat them for the first time that season....the Quakers of Philadelphia beat them 2-1 on Nov. 25. The Quakers of course were in the midst of the worst season in NHL history and would finish 1930/31 with a 4-36-4 record.






Friday, October 7, 2011

Maple Leafs Opening Night Shutouts

Leaf goalie James Reimer shutout Montreal in the opener of the 2010/11 season and perhaps surprisingly it's only the fourth time in over 70 years that it's happened. In the almost 100 year history of the Toronto franchise, they've recorded a season opening shutout on only 7 occaisons.
The other six times were as follows:

Oct. 10, 2002 Ed Belfour
Toronto 6 at Pittsburgh 0
Belfour stopped 33 Penguin shots in his Toronto debut. Leafs were led by the line of Sundin (2G, 2A), Mogilny (2G, 1A) and Tucker (3A).

Oct.7, 2000 Curtis Joseph
Montreal 0 @ Toronto 2
On goals by Jonas Hoglund and Sergei Berezin, Toronto beats the Habs despite being outshot 26-18.

Oct.11, 1984 Allan Bester
Toronto 1 @ Minnesota 0
Bester stopped 23 shots, out-duelled Don Beaupre in a 1-0 overtime victory. Miroslav Frycer tallied the winner two minutes into extra time.

Nov.4, 1939 Turk Broda
Boston 0 @ Toronto 5
Two goals from Syl Apps and solos from Gord Drillon, Pete Langelle and Bob Davidson.

Nov.13, 1930 Lorne Chabot
NY Amerks 0 @ Toronto 0
Chabot and Roy Worters battled for 70 minutes in a sluggish game that featured 20 penalties called and unseasonably warm temperatures.

Nov.15, 1928 Lorne Chabot
Chicago 0 @ Toronto 2
Andy Blair and George Horne counted the markers as Chabot shut down Chicago.




Wednesday, October 5, 2011

2011/12 Hockey Draft Sleepers


Most hockey fans and poolies are rightly concerned with Sidney Crosby and how close he is to a return. Overlooked perhaps is the return of Evgeni Malkin. He is healthy and coming back with a vengence. To say Malkin is a sleeper may be a stretch, TSN's Bob McKenzie is even predicting him to win the ArtRoss. If you can get him at 10th overall in your draft (like I did) you should be estatic.
Prediction for Malkin 95 points.

Tomas Fleischmann is another player coming off an injury and he's also on a new team. He steps into a prominent role as second line centre behind Stephen Weiss in Florida and should produce accordingly. Fleischmann is 27 years old and primed for a breakout. Two seasons ago he registered 51 points with the Capitals and after being traded to Colorado he put up 21 points in 22 games.
Prediction for Fleischmann 67 points

Another light sleeper is Brent Burns who had a career high 46 points last year. Being traded to San Jose and stepping into a powerplay with Thornton, Marleau, Pavelski and Boyle should allow him to set another career high.
Prediction for Burns 60 points

James Neal is only 24 years old and has scored at least 20 goals in each of his three NHL seasons. He'll easily top his career highs of 27 goals and 55 points this season playing alongside of Malkin or Crosby.
Prediction for Neal 67 points

Kyle Okposo is another strong candidate for a comeback from an injury ravaged season. Having returned for the second half of last year, Okposo never got on track and had a mere 20 points in 38 games. Playing with a still improving and breakout candidate John Tavares, Okposo should be good for at least 60 points this year. Prediction for Okposo 65 points


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