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

by John Kreiser
Mathematicians aren't the only ones who love numbers -- we at do, too. Each 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 602 (Martin Brodeur's regular-season victory total, a number than figures to keep climbing for a few more seasons).

If, as the saying goes, every picture tells a story -- well, so do a lot of the numbers few people 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 on goal in 2009-10 -- with "only" 368, a huge drop from 2008-09, when he became only the second player in NHL history to take more than 500 in a single season. Ovi's 528 shots in 2008-09 are second in League history to the 550 taken by Boston's Phil Esposito in 1970-71, a season in which he shattered NHL scoring records with 76 goals and 152 points.

But Ovechkin has a long way to go to match the record for shots on goal (a stat first officially tabulated in 1967-68) in a career -- a mark 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. Among players who were active in 2009-10, Mike Modano is tops with 4,194.
But Ovechkin appears to have a good chance to overtake Bourque -- he has 2,159 shots in his first five seasons, an average of more than 430. That pace would move Ovi past Bourque before he reaches his 35th birthday.

Plus signs -- Bourque also was 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 first was 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. Besides Robinson and Bourque, only Gretzky (plus-518) and Bobby Clarke (plus-506) are more than plus-500 for their careers. The active leader is Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom at plus-431 -- and he's light years ahead of runner-up Patrik Elias of New Jersey, who's plus-198.

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. Bobby 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.

Working overtime -- 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 in 1993-94, 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. Guerin (2000-01) and Murray (2002-03) have played in the most games since the schedule reverted to 82 games. Last season, Ian White was the only player to play more than 82 games; he led the League with 83 -- 56 with Toronto, 27 with Calgary.

Where did he find the time? -- Players who pile up lots of penalty minutes rarely are big scorers -- among the 12 most-penalized players in 2009-10, only Tampa Bay's Steve Downie had more than 20 goals (22).

Nor do today's players pile up penalty minutes at the rate their predecessors in the 1970s, '80s and '90s did. Zenon Konopka, who spent the season with Tampa Bay and was signed by the New York Islanders this summer, led the NHL in 2009-10 with 265 PIM (not even in the top 100 all-time) -- and was one of only four players to exceed 200. He scored 2 goals in 74 games.

That's what makes Al Secord's performance in 1981-82 all the more remarkable. That season, Secord scored 44 goals 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, 343 PIM with Vancouver in 1980-81) is the only other player to score 30 or more goals while spending at least 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 85 seasons in NHL history 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; no one reached double figures in 2009-10).

None of the 85 is more unlikely than Jeremy Roenick's 10 game-winners in 2007-08.

In 84 of the 85 seasons in which a player reached double figures in GWGs, he scored 25 or more goals (only three of the 84 had less than 30). Roenick's performance was remarkable because he scored his 10 game-winners on just 14 goals -- an example of timely scoring that will be hard to duplicate.

Firing blanks -- Through 2009-10, almost 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.

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 have 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.

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