With the 2014-15 season complete, NHL.com looks at some of the biggest storylines and award contenders.
The phrase "hard to play against" takes on many different meanings in hockey, depending on who is defining it.
Some think it means playing a physical, bruising style of hockey. Others think it means playing at a higher tempo, one that is difficult to keep up with.
Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron is hard to play against because he executes every phase of the game so well. He is the best defensive forward in the NHL, makes life difficult for the top offensive forwards in the League on a nightly basis and is the favorite for the Selke Trophy.
What makes a player good defensively is also up for interpretation, but Bergeron fits all the criteria. He was sixth among forwards who have played at least 60 games with a shot attempts percentage (SAT%) of 58.09. Four of the players ahead of him -- two Los Angeles Kings
, and two Detroit Red Wings
-- played for significantly better puck possession teams.
A number that illuminates that fact, and how much better Bergeron made the Bruins, is his SAT% relative (SAT% rel). Bergeron was second among forwards who played at least 60 games at 8.99 percent, meaning the Bruins were that much better when he is on the ice. Only Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks had a higher SAT% rel.
When Bergeron didn't have the Bruins in control of the puck, he was limiting what the other team was doing. He led all forwards with a scoring chances percentage of 60.12, according to war-on-ice.com. Bergeron started 38.1 percent of his shifts in the defensive zone, and another 33.1 percent in the neutral zone, according to stats.hockeyanalysis.com. Bergeron was being put in difficult positions against the League's best forwards, and was driving possession and limiting scoring chances against.
Bergeron had the highest faceoff percentage in the League at 60.2, and took and won more faceoffs than any other player this season. He also made his linemates much better. His two most common at even-strength, Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith, saw their possession numbers plummet when they weren't with Bergeron. Marchand and Smith had SAT%'s of 59.4 and 59.6 when they were on the ice with Bergeron, respectively. When they weren't, those numbers fell to 46.6 and 45.7.
Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks --
Center - CHI
GOALS: 28 | ASST: 38 | PTS: 66
SOG: 192 | +/-: 30
In nearly 1,100 minutes at even-strength this season, Toews was on the ice for 31 goals-against. For a player who matched up against forwards like Vladimir Tarasenko
, James Neal
, Zach Parise
, Tyler Seguin
and Matt Duchene
that's a very telling statistic when it comes to Toews' defensive capabilities. He was asked to contribute more offense in the absence of right wing Patrick Kane
, and he didn't let that affect his defensive play.
Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings – After finishing third in the League in SAT% at 59.34, a down year offensively for Kopitar didn't stop him from excelling in his own end. He averaged more than 1:40 of shorthanded ice time per game, more than any other Kings forward. Kopitar was on the ice for 538 scoring chances this season versus 407 against. He's excellent at suppressing both shots and shot quality.
Also in the mix: Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings; Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay Lightning; Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals