Six weeks into the new season, NHL teams are doing a much better job of deciding games in the regulation 60 minutes than they have in the last two.
Through Thursday night, 227 games have been played and just 34 (15.0 percent) have gone past regulation. Fifteen of those have been settled in overtime; the other 19 went to a shootout.
That’s a 33-percent decline from last season, when 51 of the first 227 games (22.5 percent) were decided after regulation, and also markedly lower than 2005-06, when 46 of the first 227 games were decided after regulation time.
The biggest drop from last season has been in the number of shootouts. Just 19 of the first 227 contests this season (8.4 percent) went to a shootout; in the same number of games last season, that number was 32 (14.1 percent). In 2005-06, the first season of the shootout, 18 of the first 227 games went to a shootout, but 28 others were decided in overtime.
In each of the last two seasons, a total of 281 games have gone past regulation time. At this pace, that number this season would be 184.
This season’s shooters have been slightly more successful than in the first two years of the shootout. So far this season, 41 of the 120 shooters (34.17 percent) have been successful, up from 32.76 last season and 33.64 percent in 2005-06.
One change from last season is that home teams have been more successful. Twelve of the 19 shootouts (63.2 percent) have been won by the home team; last season, home teams were 79-85 (48.1 percent).
Copying history – Mike Modano became the NHL’s all-time leading U.S.-born scorer Wednesday night, scoring twice in the first period to tie and then break the mark held by Phil Housley. He’s the fifth player to hold the mark since Cecil Dillon retired after the 1939-40 season with 298 points. Modano is the fourth of those five to tie and break the mark in the same game. Tom Williams had points 298 (an assist) and 299 (a goal) for Minnesota against Pittsburgh on April 5, 1970; Reed Larson, then with Detroit, had assists for points 430 and 431 against Chicago on Feb. 18, 1984; and Calgary’s Joe Mullen scored goals for points 685 and 686 against Toronto on Jan. 13, 1990. Only Housley, who had an assist against St. Louis on March 9, 1999, for point No. 1,063 and one against Washington four nights later — also while playing for Calgary – took more than a game.
Modano had two firsts on his record-setting night: He was the first to break the mark with a short-handed goal, and the first to get both the record-tying and record-setting points in the same period.
One mark Modano won’t get is the highest average points per game by an American player. Modano has averaged 0.98 points per contest; Pat Lafontaine, who had 1,013 points in 865 games, an average of 1.13 per game, holds that mark, and no active player is close.
Watching the world go by – Who has the easiest job in hockey this season? Here’s one vote for Steven Valiquette, who has spent the first few weeks of the season sitting and watching Henrik Lundqvist play goal for the New York Rangers.
Valiquette has had less to do than the Maytag repairman: Lundqvist is the only goaltender in the NHL to play every second of his team’s games this season. Calgary has started Miikka Kiprusoff in every game, but he’s been replaced twice.
All that work must agree with Lundqvist: The Rangers have allowed just 27 non-shootout goals in 15 games, second in the league to Columbus’ 26, though the Blue Jackets have played only 14 games.
In all, Lundqvist has started 43 consecutive games for the Rangers since Valiquette beat St. Louis in a shootout on March 2. That includes the final 17 regular-season games last season, all 10 playoff games and the Rangers’ first 16 games this season. He’s played every second of every game since being lifted at 9:47 of the second period in a 6-4 loss at Montreal on March 27.
Road blues – As good as the Rangers have been at home this season – they’re 8-2-0 after Thursday’s 4-2 victory over Pittsburgh – they’re off to their worst start on the road in 55 years. The Rangers take their 0-5-1 record away from Madison Square Garden to Toronto Saturday for the start of a four-game road trip. Not since 1952-53, when they were 0-10-1 in their first 12 games, have the Rangers started so poorly on the road. The Rangers actually went 0-12-4 that season before finally winning a road game by beating the Bruins, 2-1, on Christmas night.
Wrong spot, wrong time – Calgary’s Dion Phaneuf is one of the NHL’s top defensemen, but he’s also the League leader in a category he’d rather not be No. 1 in – most times in the penalty box when the opposition scores a goal. Phaneuf has been in the box for six of the 21 power-play goals scored against the Flames, five by himself and once for a 5-on-3 goal. He’s been in the box more than two teams: Columbus has allowed just four power-play goals and St. Louis has surrendered only five.
What happens? – The Boston Bruins’ opponents must be great at making adjustments after the first period. That’s the only way to explain the fact that the Bruins have allowed a league-low five goals in the first period this season, but have surrendered 16 in the second period and 13 more in the third.