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A look at some off-the-beaten-track NHL marks

Friday, 07.22.2011 / 10:42 AM / Inside the Numbers

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

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A look at some off-the-beaten-track NHL marks
There's a story behind every number associated with hockey. NHL.com takes a look at some of the more unusual ones involving position players.
Each number related to hockey tells a story of its own, whether it's 1,963 (Wayne Gretzky's career assists, more than any other player's points total); 1,767 (Gordie Howe's record for games played, just 11 more than Mark Messier, who opted to retire before breaking the record) or 625 (Martin Brodeur's regular-season victory total, a number than figures to climb again this season).

If, as the saying goes, every picture tells a story -- well, so do a lot of the numbers few fans ever think about.

With that in mind, here are a few of the more interesting NHL facts and figures involving position players that you might not have known about.

Ready, aim fire -- Alex Ovechkin led the NHL in shots again in 2010-11 with 367, one less than he had in 2009-10 -- but both totals are way down from 2008-09, when he became only the second player in NHL history to take more than 500 shots in a single season. Ovi's 528 shots in '08-09 are second in League history to the 550 taken by Boston's Phil Esposito in 1970-71, a season in which Espo shattered NHL scoring records with 76 goals and 152 points.

Ovechkin has 2,526 shots on goal in his six NHL seasons -- his average of 421 per season is the highest in League history. But he still has a long way to go to match the career record for shots on goal (a stat first officially kept in 1967-68). That mark is held by the man who gave up No. 7 to Esposito when the Bruins retired Espo's number years later. Hall of Famer Ray Bourque never came close to Esposito's single-season record (his highest total was 390, in 1995-96). But by firing away for 21 seasons, Bourque retired in 2001 with ownership of the career mark for shots on goal with a whopping 6,206.

That's an incredible 840 more than the runner-up, Marcel Dionne, who holds the mark for forwards with 5,366. He's followed by Al MacInnis (5,157), Mike Gartner (5,090), Wayne Gretzky (5,089) and Brendan Shanahan (5,086). They are the only players to exceed 5,000 shots in a career -- so far. Jaromir Jagr, who signed with Philadelphia this summer, leads all active players with 4,596.
 
If there's anyone among active players who can catch Bourque, Ovechkin appears to have the best chance -- on his current pace, he would surpass the Hall of Fame defenseman before he reaches his 35th birthday.

Plus signs -- Bourque was also an impressive plus-528 during his 21 NHL seasons. But that's only good enough for a distant second on the all-time list since the stat was first made official in the 1960s. Hall of Famer Larry Robinson is the runaway leader in career plus-minus at plus-730, a mark that's not likely to be broken anytime soon. Aside from Bourque, only Gretzky (plus-518) and Bobby Clarke (plus-506) are more than plus-500 for their careers. (Bobby Orr was plus-598 in his last 11 seasons, but played one season before the stat was introduced.) The active leader is Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom at plus-429 -- and he's light years ahead of Jagr, who's second at plus-275. New Jersey's Patrik Elias is third at plus-194.

Robinson's 1976-77 season, in which he was plus-120 for a Montreal team that lost only eight games, is one of two in which a player was more than plus-100 for a full season. Orr holds the record with a plus-124 rating in 1970-71. The best showing in the past decade was plus-52 by Colorado's Peter Forsberg and Milan Hejduk in 2002-03; Boston captain Zdeno Chara was tops last season at plus-33.

Hard-working guys -- For a couple of seasons in the early 1990s, the NHL played an 84-game schedule -- 41 home games, 41 away games and two "neutral-site" contests that were played in non-NHL cities. The League returned to the 82-game schedule in 1995-96, but not before leaving two men holding a record that will be tough to break.

In 1992-93, center Jimmy Carson was traded from Detroit to Los Angeles and wound up setting an NHL record by playing in 86 games. Forward Bob Kudelski tied Carson's mark a year later when he split the season between Ottawa (42 games) and Florida (44).

Five players -- Bill Guerin, Glenn Anderson, Mark Lamb, Rem Murray and Joe Reekie -- are next with 85 games played in one season. Guerin (2000-01) and Murray (2002-03) have played in the most games since the schedule reverted to 82 games. Brad Boyes and Alex Goligoski, both of whom were traded in midseason, were the only players in 2010-11 to exceed 82 games; both played 83.

Where did he find the time? -- Players who pile up lots of penalty minutes are rarely big scorers -- among the 25 most-penalized players in 2010-11, only Philadelphia's Scott Hartnell (24) had more than 20 goals.

Nor do today's players pile up penalty minutes at the rate their predecessors in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s did. Zenon Konopka, who spent the season with the New York Islanders and was signed by Ottawa this summer, led the NHL in 2010-11 with 307 PIM (not even in the top 60 all-time) -- and was one of only two players to exceed 200 minutes (Ottawa's Chris Neil was second at 210). Konopka played all 82 games for the Isles and scored 2 goals -- the same total he had in 74 games for Tampa Bay in 2009-10, when he also led the NHL in penalty minutes, with 265.

Those kinds of numbers make Al Secord's performance in 1991-92 all the more remarkable. Secord scored 44 goals in 1991-92, helping the Chicago Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Final --  and he did it while spending 303 minutes in the penalty box. Secord is the only player to score more than 40 goals and spend more than 300 minutes in the box in the same season. Dave "Tiger" Williams (35 goals and 343 PIM with Vancouver in 1980-81) is the only other player to score 30 or more goals while spending 300+ minutes in the box.

Secord must have learned something about the value of staying on the ice. In 1992-93, he cut his penalty minutes to 180 -- and scored 54 goals.

Right place, right time -- There have been 88 times in NHL history, including three in 2010-11, in which a player has scored 10 or more game-winning goals. The single-season record for game-winners is 16, accomplished by Boston's Phil Esposito in 1970-71 and 1971-72 and matched by Quebec's Michel Goulet in 1983-84. Alex Ovechkin and Corey Perry shared the League lead last season with 11; Daniel Sedin was the only other player to reach double figures.

None of the 88 occasions in which a player scored 10 or more game-winners was more unlikely than Jeremy Roenick's in 2007-08.

In 87 of the 88 occurrences in which a player had more than 10 game-winning goals, he scored 25 or more goals (only three had less than 30). Roenick's performance was remarkable because he scored 10 game-winners on just 14 goals -- an example of timely scoring that will be hard to duplicate.

Firing blanks --
Through 2010-11, about 1,300 non-goalies have skated in at least one NHL regular-season game without scoring a goal. None had as many chances as Steven Halko, a defenseman who played parts of six seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes from 1997-98 through 2002-03.

Halko managed 15 assists in his 155 NHL regular-season games, but never turned on the red light despite being credited with 96 shots on goal. That's the most games played by anyone in NHL history without scoring at least once. Anaheim's Matt Smaby has a chance to pass that mark this season -- he's played in 122 games without turning on the red night.

Halko was no longer a Hurricane in 2003-04 when Carolina called up a defenseman named Brad Fast for his lone NHL appearance. Fast made the most of his cameo, scoring a goal before being returned to the minors. He's one of three players who've played only one NHL game and scored a goal -- the others are center Rolly Huard (Toronto, 1930-31) and defenseman Dean Morton (Detroit, 1989-90).

At least Halko managed to hit the score sheet -- unlike Gord Strate, a defenseman who played 61 games during parts of three seasons with Detroit in the late 1950s and never managed a point. No other player has skated in as many games without managing at least one point -- the runner-up is Frank "Frosty" Peters, who went 43 games without a point, all in 1930-31. Among players active in 2010-11, San Jose's Brandon Mashinter has the most career games without a point -- 13.
Quote of the Day

He seemed to thrive on his own and didn't really need any push from me. I certainly don't want to get in the way of the coaches. You see how that goes sometimes. I never really worried about it and just enjoyed the ride.

— David Ekblad on his son's [Aaron Ekblad] journey to the NHL, signing with the Florida Panthers