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A look at the biggest numerical happenings of 2010-11

Sunday, 04.10.2011 / 10:21 PM / Inside the Numbers

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

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A look at the biggest numerical happenings of 2010-11
It's been a season of ups and downs, individual and team accomplishments and disappointments, and more than a few oddities along the way. Here's a look at some of the most notable numerical happenings of the just-concluded regular season.
The 2010-11 NHL regular season is history -- 1,230 games that sent 16 teams onto the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It's been a season of ups and downs, individual and team accomplishments and disappointments, and more than a few oddities along the way.

Here's a look at 10 of the most notable numerical happenings of the just-concluded regular season.

V is for victory -- Even if the Canucks go on to win their first Stanley Cup, no one (well, maybe no one outside of Vancouver) will put them among the NHL's legendary teams. But they did do something that only the legendary Montreal Canadiens squads of the late 1970s have been able to do since expansion -- lead the League in most goals scored and fewest goals allowed. Excluding shootout goals, the Canucks were tops in scoring with 258 non-shootout goals (one more than Detroit) and stingiest in allowing goals with 180.

The Canucks barely missed becoming the first team since the 1984-85 New York Islanders to lead the League in power-play percentage and penalty-killing. Vancouver's power play was the best in the NHL at 24.3 percent, and the Canucks were third on the penalty kill at 85.6 percent – barely behind Pittsburgh's League-leading figure of 86.1.

O Brother, where art thou – For the second straight season, a Sedin born on Sept. 26, 1980, won the NHL scoring championship – just not the same one. One year after Vancouver's Henrik Sedin led the NHL in points, twin brother Daniel topped all scorers with 104 points, five more than Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis. The Sedins are the first brothers to follow one another as scoring champions, and the first twins to top the League in points. They could also become the first brothers to win the Hart Trophy – Henrik was the NHL’s most valuable player last season; Daniel has a good chance to take home the award in June.

Tim Terrific -- Tim Thomas started the season as the No. 2 goaltender for the Boston Bruins. He ended it as the most successful stopper in NHL history.

The 2008-09 Vezina Trophy winner didn't get the call in the Bruins' opener against Phoenix in Prague on Oct. 9. But after a 5-2 loss, he got the call a day later and delivered a 3-0 shutout. Thomas spent the rest of the season as the Bruins' No 1 goaltender, and finished the season with a 31-save performance against Ottawa on Saturday -- giving him an NHL-record .938 save percentage, .001 better than the mark set by Dominik Hasek in 1997-98.

Life begins at 40 -- Teemu Selanne and Nicklas Lidstrom are proof that age isn't a barrier to greatness.

Selanne, who turns 41 in July, became only the third player to average more than a point a game (80 in 73 games) after his 40th birthday, helping the Anaheim Ducks on a late run that put them into the playoffs. Appropriately, it was Selanne who scored both goals in Friday's 2-1 victory against Los Angeles that clinched the postseason berth -- he had saved the Ducks' season in March by setting an NHL record with four game-tying goals in the final minute of regulation, all in games the Ducks won in OT or a shootout.

Lidstrom will turn 41 during the first round of the playoffs later this month -- and like Selanne, shows little indication that his game is slipping. Detroit's captain had his best offensive season since 2007-08 with 62 points, including 16 goals.

Jon be nimble, Jon be Quick -- It's easy to dismiss the importance of the shootout -- after all, the team that loses doesn't go home empty-handed. But you can argue that the reason the Los Angeles Kings are in the playoffs is the play of goaltender Jonathan Quick, who simply refused to lose in the tiebreaker. Quick was a perfect 10-0 in shootouts this season, matching the most shootout wins by a goaltender in one season and equaling Mathieu Garon's 10-0 mark in 2007-08.

One reason for Quick's perfect record was the sharpshooting of teammate Jarret Stoll, who has scored nine times in 10 tries -- his 90.0 percent success ratio is the best by any player with 10 or more attempts in the six-year history of the shootout.

Mighty Michael
-- No player in recent history (15+ years) had scored more than 19 goals in a season in which he was claimed on waivers, so the New York Islanders couldn't have had any huge expectations when they claimed Michael Grabner on waivers from Florida just before the start of the season. Six months later, Grabner has turned into one of the most dangerous players in the NHL. His 34 goals are more than any Islanders rookie in franchise history not named Mike Bossy and were tops among all first-year players this season.  The last first-year players with more were Alex Ovechkin (52) and Sidney Crosby (39) in 2005-06.

Grabner also finished second in the NHL in shorthanded goals with six, one behind linemate Frans Nielsen -- the two quickly became the most dangerous pair of penalty-killers in the NHL.

Always be closing
– Coaches always talk about the importance of closing out a game – being able to make sure that late-game leads turn into two points. No team was better at it than the New York Rangers.

The Rangers took a lead into the third period 29 times this season – and came out with a win all 29 times. They were the only team in the NHL not to lose a point when leading after 40 minutes.

Wither Ovi? – You have to go all the way to seventh place in the scoring stats – and down to 14th in goals – to find the name "Alex Ovechkin."
 
In many ways, this has been the toughest season in Ovechkin's fabulous career. Though he passed the 300-goal mark, Ovi's final total of 32 was 14 below his previous low, and his 85 points were also a career-low (he had 46 goals and 92 points in 2006-07, the only time he didn't get to 50 and 100 before this season).
 
Are goalies catching up with Ovi? His League-leading 367 shots on goal (20 more than Atlanta's Dustin Byfuglien) were just one below last season's total – but his shooting percentage dropped from 13.6 to 8.7 – three full percentage points lower than his previous low.
 
O from D – Byfuglien, who was returned to the blue line by Atlanta after the Thrashers got him from Chicago during the summer, found the net with 20 of his shots, more than any other defenseman. But Anaheim's Lubomir Visnovsky, who flew under the radar for most of the season, wound up tops among defensemen in assists (50) and points (68).
 
But perhaps more impressive than the accomplishments of Byfuglien and Visnovsky was the season out up by Nicklas Lidstrom. Detroit's captain was tied for third in goals (16) and second in points (62) – superb numbers for anyone, but off the charts for a player who will turn 41 during the first round of the playoffs.
 
California dreamin'– The Stanley Cup Playoffs will have a heavy California presence. For the first time in history, all three California teams will be in the tournament, with the San Jose Sharks finishing second in the West, Anaheim coming in fourth and Los Angeles finishing seventh – setting them up for a matchup with the Sharks.
 
There are actually more teams from California in the playoffs than from Canada – the Vancouver Canucks and Montreal Canadiens were the only Canadian teams to get in.
 
Sweep dreams – The Philadelphia Flyers are the Atlantic Division champions due in large part to their ability to beat the New York Islanders. Philadelphia won all six games against the Isles this season; Pittsburgh, which had the same number of points as the Flyers, went 4-1-1.
 
But the most dominant team vs. team performance belongs to the Minnesota Wild, which won all six of its games against Edmonton by two goals or more. The three home victories give the Wild 16 in a row against Edmonton at the Xcel Energy Center. That’s the second-longest current home streak by one team against another: Nashville's 4-1 victory against Columbus on Friday was its 17th in a row against the Blue Jackets at Bridgestone Arena.

The Blueshirts were no slouches at coming from behind, either. New York was tied for second in the NHL with eight wins and 20 points in games in which it trailed entering the final period.

Ouch! – Maybe Minnesota forward Cal Clutterbuck and Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi can get together during the summer and compare bruises. They've earned the right.

Clutterbuck retained his title as the NHL’s busiest hitter – he was credited with 336 hits, 27 more than runner-up Tuomo Ruutu of Carolina (and 18 more than his League-leading total last season). L.A.'s Dustin Brown, the last player prior to Clutterbuck to lead the League in hits, was third with 300.

Girardi earned his bruises by leading the NHL with 236 blocked shots. Runner-up Greg Zanon of Minnesota (212) was the only other player with 200.

Both players contributed offensively as well. Clutterbuck had career-highs with 19 goals and 33 points, while Girardi scored 4 goals and led Rangers defensemen with 31 points.

They work hard for the money – Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith won't repeat as the Norris Trophy winner, but no one in the NHL put in more time on the job this season. While Keith was among the 92 players who played in all 82 games (Buffalo's Brad Boyes and Dallas' Alex Goligoski actually played in 83 due to midseason trades), he saw more ice time than anyone – averaging 26:53 per game, 29 seconds more than San Jose's Dan Boyle (who missed six games with injuries).

What was the easiest job in the NHL this season? How about being the backup goaltender for the Carolina Hurricanes. That's because starter Cam Ward led all goaltenders in appearances (74, two more than Montreal's Carey Price) and minutes played (4,318, 112 more than Price). Ward was also the runaway leader in shots against (2,375) and saves (2,191), leading Price by more than 200 in both categories.

Amazing but true – It was a tough season for the Edmonton Oilers, who finished last in the overall standings for the second straight season. But despite their disappointment, the Oilers can boast one accomplishment that no one else had: Edmonton was the only team in the NHL that went the entire season without allowing a goal while playing down two men – in fact, the Oilers were the first team to do so since the 2003-04 New Jersey Devils. Each of the other 29 teams allowed at least three goals while playing 3-on-5.

Also, the Oilers weren't nearly as good when trying to kill off conventional one-man disadvantages. Edmonton allowed a League-high 69 goals while playing down one man and finished 29th overall on the penalty kill.

High-rollers club ­– Anaheim's Corey Perry was having a good enough season to be selected to the NHL All-Star Game. But even Perry couldn’t have expected to finish the season as the League's only 50-goal scorer. Perry had 31 goals through Anaheim's first 66 games, then scored 19 times in the Ducks' final 16 contests to pass early-season sensation Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay (45) for the League lead. He capped his amazing run by getting Nos. 48, 49 and 50 against San Jose on April 6, capping one of the great four-week spurts in NHL history.

Perry was one of only five players to reach 40 goals; Vancouver was the only team to have more than one – Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler, who went from 25 goals a year ago. Calgary's Jarome Iginla finished with 43, giving him four seasons with 40 or more goals and 10 in a row with 30-plus goals.

Though Henrik Sedin didn't repeat as the League's scoring leader, he did finish first again in assists with 75. He's a big reason twin brother Daniel's 41 goals included a League-high 18 on the power play.

A record they’d rather not have – A 95-point season is normally good enough to qualify for the playoffs with room to spare. But it wasn't good enough to get the Dallas Stars into the top eight in the Western Conference. Dallas had a chance to pass Chicago by winning the 1,230th and final game of the regular-season schedule, but the Stars' 5-3 loss left them two points behind Chicago – and in a tie with the 2007 Colorado Avalanche for the most points in NHL history by a team that missed the playoffs.

Kid stuff – There were a lot of puzzled looks at the Entry Draft last June when the Carolina Hurricanes selected Jeff Skinner with the No. 7 pick. Ten months later, the 'Canes look like geniuses. Skinner, who doesn't turn 19 until May 16, not only made the roster as an 18-year-old, he played all 82 games and led all first-year players in scoring with 63 points, including 31 goals. Skinner's offensive output was 50 percent higher than the first pick in the draft, Edmonton's Taylor Hall, who had 42 points in 65 games.

While Skinner was a top-10 pick in the draft, the four top rookie goaltenders came out of nowhere. Corey Crawford led the Chicago Blackhawks to the playoffs with 33 wins and a 2.30 goals-against average, while Sergei Bobrovsky went 28-13-8 with a 2.59 GAA for Philadelphia. Crawford won the No. 1 job in Chicago after spending most of five seasons in the minors, while Bobrovsky came to Philadelphia as an undrafted free agent after spending four seasons in Russia.

Two other rookies also won 20 games – Michal Neuvirth (27) for Washington and James Reimer (20) for Toronto.


Quote of the Day

It's time we got a break. People that have watched us, I'm sure they said, 'Finally, some things are going our way.' We'll take the breaks when they go our way.

— Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien after a 3-2 overtime win against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday to snap a three-game losing streak
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