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Behind The Numbers

First-quarter numbers paint interesting picture

Increase in League scoring, decrease in Crosby output among trends

by Rob Vollman / NHL.com Correspondent

With the season having reached its quarter mark Tuesday, it is interesting to look at what the numbers tell us about what has happened across the first six weeks of the season. Here are five rather interesting statistics at the individual, team and League levels.

 

1. Scoring is up

An average of 6.1 goals per game have been scored during the 2017-18 season, up from 5.54 in 2016-17, which was right around the average for the past 10 seasons. The 6.1 mark is the highest average for goals per game since 2005-06, when it was 6.16, and the second-highest since a 6.28 average in 1995-96.

In 2005-06, the higher scoring rate was a result of an unusually high average of 11.7 power-play opportunities per game and a shooting percentage of 9.9. The same explanation applies in 1995-96, which averaged 10.1 power plays per game and a shooting percentage of 10.2.

This season's averages of 7.0 power plays per game and an 8.9 shooting percentage is slightly above the average for the previous 10 seasons, 6.94 and 8.56 percent, respectively. It's not quite enough to explain the entire gain.

The cause for the rise in goals is most likely due to an increase of shot volume, from an average of 60.2 shots per game in 2016-17, to 63.4 in 2017-18, which is the highest since 63.8 per game in 1970-71. The average for the past 10 seasons is 59.6 shots per game.

Video: Top goals of the first quarter of the NHL season

 

2. Sidney Crosby's struggles

Center Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins is 10.1 points behind scoring expectations, the largest shortfall in the NHL.

In 2016-17, Crosby was runner-up for the Art Ross Trophy, with 89 points (44 goals, 45 assists) in 75 games, a scoring rate of 1.19 points per game. At that scoring rate, Crosby would be expected to have 26.1 points in 22 games in 2017-18. He has 16 points (six goals, 10 assists), for a differential of minus-10.1.

Crosby's drop is due to an unusually low shooting percentage of 8.7 percent, below the 17.3 percent from 2016-17, as well as his career average of 14.6 percent. Once his shooting percentage returns to normal, his scoring should increase as well.

Video: BUF@PIT: Crosby nets rebound for power-play goal

 

3. Arizona's slow start

Through the first 20 games of the season, the Arizona Coyotes had a record of 2-15-3, for a points percentage of 0.175. That ties the franchise low for points set when they were the Winnipeg Jets, who started the 1980-81 season with a 1-14-5 record.

The main problem was on the defensive side; the Coyotes allowed a League-high 651 shots and 78 goals through the first 20 games.

This comes as a surprise for a team that added two experienced top-four defensemen, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Jason Demers, solid two-way center Derek Stepan, and goalie Antti Raanta before the 2017-18 season.

Things may already have started to turn around for the Coyotes, who kicked off their season's second quarter with their first victory in regulation, 5-4 against the Montreal Canadiens on Nov. 16. They have also won back-to-back games against the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs, against whom they allowed a combined total of three goals.

Video: CAR@ARI: Keller dances around Darling to score in SO

 

4. The Sedins as secondary players

Veteran forwards Henrik and Daniel Sedin have been moved to secondary lines By Travis Green, the first-year coach with the Vancouver Canucks.

Henrik Sedin has played 99 minutes, 44 seconds less than would be expected based on his average ice time in 2016-17, and Daniel Sedin is down 86:48. Henrik Sedin has seen his ice time reduced more than any other forward in the League.

In terms of scoring, the reduction in ice time has dropped Henrik Sedin to seven points (two goals, five assists) and Daniel to eight points (three goals, five assists) in 20 games.

However, Vancouver's share of 5-on-5 shot attempts improves from 46.9 to 57.83 percent with Daniel on the ice, for a Relative SAT percentage of 10.9 that ranks third among NHL forwards (minimum 10 games). Henrik ranks fourth with 10.7 percent.

Video: VAN@LAK: H. Sedin banks in goal from tough angle

 

5. Tampa Bay's dynamic duo

The Tampa Bay Lightning are in first place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 15-3-2 and lead the NHL with a goal differential of plus-28. The main reason is a first line that includes the high-scoring duo of Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov.

The most interesting stat is 4.07, which is the number of points per 60 minutes that Stamkos has scored at 5-on-5, which leads the NHL (minimum 10 games). Kucherov ranks No. 3 with 3.68, behind Teuvo Teravainen of the Carolina Hurricanes at 3.82. That's a significant increase from last season, where Stamkos averaged 3.27 points per 60 minutes (though he missed the Lightning's final 65 games with a knee injury), and Kucherov averaged 2.37.

They are not just doing their scoring at 5-on-5. Stamkos leads the NHL with 15 points with the man advantage, and Kucherov ranks second with 13.

Video: DAL@TBL: Stamkos buries great feed from Kucherov

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