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A by-the-numbers look at Howe's legacy

Friday, 03.28.2008 / 10:11 AM / Columns

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist


Gordie Howe owned the NHL career marks for games played, goals, assists and points when he retired at age 52.
Gordie Howe turns 80 Monday. It's been nearly three decades since "Mr. Hockey" played his last NHL game -- April 12, 1980, when the Montreal Canadiens completed a three-game sweep of Howe and the Hartford Whalers with a 4-3 overtime victory at the Hartford Civic Center.

Howe owned the NHL career marks for games played, goals, assists and points when he retired at age 52. The scoring marks have been eclipsed; the games played mark is still his. And it's safe to say there will never be another Gordie Howe.

Howe's legend is so immense that his skills as a hockey player are often overshadowed. Here's a look at just a few of his accomplishments.

* Howe won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's top scorer six times, the most of anyone in the pre-Wayne Gretzky era (Gretzky had 10; Howe and Mario Lemieux are next with six). The last one came in 1962-63, when he turned 35 (Gretzky won his last scoring title at 33; Lemieux's last one came when he was 31). Howe finished in the top five in the NHL in points an amazing 20 consecutive seasons; counting 1969-70, he had 21 consecutive top-10 finishes.

* He's the only player to score 100 points in a season after turning 40. Howe was third in the NHL with 103 points (44 goals, 59 assists) in 1968-69, reaching triple figures just after he turned 41. It was his only 100-point season in the NHL.

* Howe had a streak of 15 seasons (1955-56 through 1969-70) in which he had 40 or more assists -- no mean feat, considering that he played most of that time in an era when goals were scarce and the schedule was shorter.

* Howe set the Wings' franchise record with five game-winning goals in a month -- he did it in February 1952 and again in January 1958. Henrik Zetterberg matched the record in February 2007, getting five in an eight- game stretch. Johan Franzen has equaled the mark this month, getting his fifth in Tuesday night's 2-1 win against St. Louis.

* Unless Gretzky has a son who becomes an NHL player, Gordie and sons Mark and Marty figure to hold the League mark for most points by a father-son combination for a while. Together, the Howes have 1,000 goals and 1,623 assists for 2,623 points in the NHL; Gretzky's NHL scoring totals are 894-1,963-2,857.

* Howe had a "Gordie Howe hat trick" -- a goal, an assist and a fighting major in the same game -- once in his career. It happened Dec. 22, 1955, in Detroit's 3-2 victory against the Bruins at Boston Garden. Howe assisted on Real Chevrefils' power-play goal at 3:30 of the first period and tied the game at 2-2 with a goal at 18:19 of the second against Hall of Famer Terry Sawchuk. The fight came against another Hall of Famer, Boston defenseman Leo Boivin, at 4:37 of the first period.

Overworked -- Atlanta goaltenders Kari Lehtonen and Johan Hedberg must feel like they have bull's-eyes instead of Thrasher crests on their chests. The Thrashers lead the NHL in the dubious category of games in which they've been outshot by the opposition. It's happened 63 times in Atlanta's 78 games; the Thrashers have outshot their opponents just 10 times, with the shots even in the other five.

Incredibly, the Thrashers have been outshot by double-digit margins 31 times, including nine games in which the differential was 22 shots or more. It's a credit to the goaltending that the Thrashers have won three of those nine contests.

More depressing for Hedberg and Lehtonen is the fact that the Thrashers have been outshot by 25 or more in three of their last six games -- and lost all three. Atlanta broke a five-game losing streak Thursday with a 3-2 win at Florida despite being outshot 45-29.

Impressive company-- Alex Ovechkin scored his 155th career goal March 14, giving him the third-highest total ever by a player in his first three seasons in the NHL. He passed Pavel Bure (154) for third place -- but with 159 entering the weekend and a little more than a week left in the season, he's unlikely to catch the top two: Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky (198) and Mike Bossy (173). Ovechkin is also on pace to join Calgary's Jarome Iginla as the only players since the Original Six Era to lead the NHL in scoring with more goals than assists. Iginla had 52 goals and 44 assists when he topped the League with 96 points in 2001-02. Ovechkin enters the weekend with a League-high 61 goals, and his 107 points are four more that runner-up Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
   
Striking midnight? -- The Penguins would be nowhere this season without the play of goaltender Ty Conklin, who stepped in and played brilliantly after being recalled from the minors when Marc-Andre Fleury was injured in early December. But Conklin's Cinderella season may be starting to unravel.

Flyers goalie Martin Biron has won all six of his games against the New York Islanders this season.
Conklin was 17-4-5 with a .931 save percentage after a 50-save performance in a 4-2 road win against the New York Islanders on Feb. 26. Since then, he's just 1-4-0 with an .877 save percentage -- and allowed four goals on 36 shots Monday night in a return visit to Long Island, this one a 4-1 loss. Conklin has lost the starting job to Marc-Andre Fleury, who's 8-1 in his last nine decisions, including a 3-1 win in Thursday night's rematch with the Isles.

Bet on Biron -- Expect Martin Biron to be in goal Saturday night when the Philadelphia Flyers visit the Islanders. The Flyers have won six of the teams' seven meetings this season, and Biron has been in goal for all six (they lost the other with Antero Niittymaki in goal). Biron is only the third goaltender to beat the Islanders six times in a season, joining the Rangers' Mike Dunham (6-0-0 in 2003-04) and New Jersey's Martin Brodeur (6-1-0 last season).

One reason for Biron's unblemished record against the Islanders has been the Flyers' ability to score with the man advantage. Philadelphia is 12-for-31 (38.7 percent) on the power play against the Islanders, including 7-for-13 in three meetings this month. Philly's penalty-killers have done the job, too. The Isles are just 3-for-29 with the extra man in seven games.



Quote of the Day

I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic