St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester is scheduled to play his 1,000th NHL game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; MSG+, FS-MW, NHL.TV), becoming the 307th player to reach that mark.
Among active players, Bouwmeester, 33, joins a club of 16 other skaters, headlined by Florida Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr, who has played 1,635 games and counting.
Bouwmeester's longevity can be linked to his durability and his smart defensive play during tenures with the Florida Panthers (471 games), Calgary Flames (279) and Blues (247). His reputation was established when the Panthers selected him with the No. 3 pick in the 2002 NHL Draft and he immediately joined the lineup as a 19-year-old in 2002-03 and was named to the All-Rookie Team.
He began an ironman streak in his second season, playing 737 straight games from March 6, 2004 to Nov. 22, 2014, the fifth-longest consecutive games played streak in League history. Doug Jarvis holds the all-time record of 964 games.
Video: SJS@STL: Bouwmeester scores on a slap shot
International play has further bolstered Bouwmeester's reputation. He has represented Canada in 11 tournaments. He made three straight appearances in the IIHF World Junior Championship from 2000 to 2002, played in the IIHF World Championship four times between 2003 and 2012, and twice in the World Cup of Hockey (2004, 2016) and the Olympics (2006, 2014). He was a reserve for Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Bouwmeester has won five gold medals at those events, at the World Championship in 2003 and 2004, the World Cup in 2004 and 2016, and the 2014 Sochi Olympics. The underlying numbers throughout his career confirm his reputation of being a steady hand against elite competition. As new statistics have been introduced for defensemen, Bouwmeester has become one of the prototypes of what it means to handle tough minutes. Throughout his career he has been assigned a lot of ice time at even strength and while killing penalties, against top opponents, and in the attacking and defending zones.
The toughest minutes involve playing shorthanded against the game's best offensive players, but that's Bouwmeester's specialty.
Since Bouwmeester was acquired by the Blues in a trade with the Calgary Flames on April 1, 2013, the Blues have a League-leading penalty-killing percentage of 85.3.
Bouwmeester has played 3,439:14 killing penalties during his NHL career, which ranks No. 8 among defensemen since the information was first recorded in 1997-98. On a per-game basis, his average of 3:26 per game is third among active defensemen to play at least 500 games, behind Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins (3:34) and Francois Beauchemin of the Colorado Avalanche (3:27).
Video: DAL@STL: Bouwmeester throws a big check
At even strength Bouwmeester is sixth among defensemen since 1997-98 with 18,641:43 of ice time, and his 18:41 per game ranks 14th among active defensemen with at least 100 career games.
This high volume of ice time is a strong indicator of the confidence teams have had in Bouwmeester's ability to take on top opponents. That's why ice time often is related closely to modern statistical estimates of a player's average quality of competition, which consistently places Bouwmeester at the top of the League.
The simplest way to confirm who is playing the tough minutes against top opponents is to examine a list of his most common opponents. In Bouwmeester's case, it's a real who's who of the top players in the NHL.
Common-opponent data has been compiled by David Johnson of Hockey Analysis at stats.hockeyanalysis.com for the past nine seasons. During that time, Bouwmeester's most frequent opponents have been Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks with 273:50 of ice time, Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks (253:49) and Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals (245:07).
Defensive assignments don't get any tougher than that.
Zone-start percentage is another metric used to measure the confidence a team has in its defensemen. In Bouwmeester's case, the numbers confirm that he is trusted anywhere.
During the past six seasons, Bouwmeester has lined up for 2,224 faceoffs in the defensive zone, which ranks sixth among NHL defensemen, and 2,027 in the offensive zone, which ranks 12th, for a zone start percentage of 47.7.
Video: SJS@STL: Bouwmeester scores on slap shot from point
It's easy to underestimate Bouwmeester's value when relying solely on traditional statistics like goals, assists, and plus/minus rating. For example, it's easy to be deceived by his career minus-30 without knowing that it is reflective of having spent most of his career playing the toughest minutes on weaker teams. If anything, it is quite remarkable that his numbers aren't a lot worse, given his defensive responsibilities, and that he didn't play for a team that qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs until he joined the Blues in his 10th NHL season.
As for his scoring, Bouwmeester may have dipped from his prime, but he remains a strong secondary contributor. At his peak, with the Panthers from 2005-06 to 2008-09, Bouwmeester scored 47 goals and 167 points in 328 games, 16th among NHL defensemen. From 2012-13 to 2015-16, Bouwmeester ranked 57th with 91 points (16 goals, 75 assists) in 273 games.
At this stage of his career, it no longer is necessary for Bouwmeester to be one of the League's top 20 scorers among defensemen. As long as he continues to handle tough minutes against top opponents in all zones and manpower situations, the same durability that kept him in the lineup for his first 1,000 games should keep him there for at least 500 more.