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Duffer: A Christmas stocking of hockey tidbits

Wednesday, 12.23.2009 / 10:41 AM / NHL Network

By Brian Duff - NHL Network

A whole lot of stocking stuffers for you this week -- and if that's not where you choose to stuff them, well, so be it.

One of the first statistics I remember reading about -- and being fascinated by -- was George Hainsworth's 1928-29 season for Montreal -- 22 shutouts in 44 games.

Fast forward about 30 years later for me, and I am equally as astounded by Terry Sawchuk's record of 103 shutouts falling by the wayside.

When you consider the final shutout totals for the greats of Martin Brodeur's era -- Hasek 81, Belfour 76, Roy 66 -- and that the League has acknowledged it had an obstruction problem during the primes of those goalies, Brodeur's record may well last forever.

Congratulations Marty!

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If the Blues had fired Head Coach Andy Murray after the 5-3 home ice loss to Edmonton, would they have done any better than 3-2-0 in their next five under a new coach, including tough wins against Calgary and Vancouver, and a redeeming triumph against the Oilers in Edmonton?

If the Blues keep winning three out of every five, I suspect they'll be in the hunt for eighth place in the Western Conference right until the season's end.

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From the moment it was rumored, to the time it became official; I never liked the Flyers' canning of coach John Stevens. I like it even less now that the club has three wins in 17, including just two in 10 under Peter Laviolette.

As my colleague in this business, and former Maple Leafs Assistant GM Bill Watters likes to say, "Show me a good coach, and I'll show you a good goalie."

Given that Ray Emery was hurt for the final few weeks of Stevens' tenure, and has been a non-factor under Laviolette due to surgery, should we really be surprised the Flyers have fallen on such hard times?

And…if your goaltending is unstable, and your penalty kill is No> 26 in the League, why continue parading to the penalty box at a rate that is third highest in the NHL?

(Acknowledging that some stats can be misleading, see standings for New Jersey and Chicago - the two teams that are shorthanded the least)

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Of course, the man who preceded Stevens in Philadelphia was Ken Hitchcock. Can you fathom that his current team has only two wins in its last 17?

Five wins in 34 games combined for the Blue Jackets and Flyers. The most overused word in sports is applicable here -- UNBELIEVABLE!

Count me among the many who clearly over-rated the potential impact of Derick Brassard and Nikita Filatov in Columbus.

Two losses ago, Hitchcock bemoaned that his team has been playing comeback hockey all year long and the numbers don't lie: 38 first-period goals allowed, tied for the most in the NHL, and 12 more than it's scored, which amounts to their worst period differential.

(Note to Editors: the archives may show that the first Duffer's Digest this year focused on odd similarities between Steve Mason and Roman Turek. Should we delete that from the archives, and if we do, will Mason become more like someone else?)

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Pre-wedding jitters? Mike Fisher gets engaged to Carrie Underwood -- he and the Senators get shut out in next game.

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The turning point in the Florida Panthers season was not Keith Ballard's inadvertent whack to Tomas Vokoun's head.

No, it was somewhat of a delayed reaction after that.

But you can't help but wonder if somewhere in this Florida Panthers run of 5-1-1 in the past seven, they have finally figured it all out. Team unity, even against a struggling Philadelphia squad, was a great sign moving forward for Peter DeBoer and the playoff-starved fans in Sunrise.

Let's check back in a week to see if laurels have been rested upon.

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Could the trade value of Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak ever be higher?

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Cup of eggnog half-full: Henrik Lundqvist is the reason the Rangers have won three in a row.

Cup of eggnog half-empty: The wins came at the expense of the Islanders, Flyers, and Hurricanes (see Eastern Conference standings).

Cup of eggnog overflowing: the Rangers next five games see them face off against Florida, the Islanders, the Flyers, and then, Carolina twice.

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How great are the races for the Rocket Richard and Art Ross Trophies this year?

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So much for the Oilers sensational five-game road trip.

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I have never been surer of anything.

The way the Flyers are playing, this will be the first Winter Classic that features a fight!

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Coming soon to NHL on the Fly; a splashy spreadsheet-type graphic that will show you just how many points it will take to qualify for the playoffs within each conference.

The brainchild of NHL Network Senior Analyst Gary Green, the spreadsheet validates Green's early beliefs – using nothing more than an abacus. The Eastern Conference was weakening!

Unable to locate the calculator app on his I-Phone, Green's momentum was quickly latched onto by On The Fly's Western correspondent Craig Button.

A whiz with Microsoft Excel, Button is now bombarding us on a daily basis with colors -- and numbers rarely seen behind the scenes in our studio.

Incredibly, we have seen over the past six days a remarkable recovery for the Eastern Conference. Had we gone public with this a week ago, realignment may have become priority No. 1 on the Avenue of the Americas.

On Dec. 16, Montreal was projected to nab the eighth and final playoff spot with a paltry 80 points, compared to Detroit's 97 in the West!

On the morning of Dec. 22, Florida is projected into that final spot with 84 points, while the West would have seen Detroit qualify in eighth with 93.

Stay tuned, this story has no chance of going away.

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Finally, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to one and all.

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