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Behind The Numbers

Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel of Penguins among first-round standouts

Jake Gardiner of Maple Leafs, Pekka Rinne of Predators, Henrik Lundqvist of Rangers also excelled

by Rob Vollman / NHL.com Correspondent

As we get ready for the start of the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which begins Wednesday, here is a look at the first round and some of the interesting stats it produced.

Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel of the Pittsburgh Penguins were among the most effective forwards; Jake Gardiner of the Toronto Maple Leafs handled some of the toughest minutes among defensemen; the Minnesota Wild dominated the St. Louis Blues in shots; goalies Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators and Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers played their best hockey of the season; and forward Auston Matthews of the Maple Leafs was among the handful of first-year players who made his presence felt.

Here are five interesting statistics from the first round:

 

Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel

Statistically, the most effective forwards in the first round were Malkin and Kessel of the Penguins, who outscored the Columbus Blue Jackets 12-0 when Malkin and/or Kessel was on the ice.

Pittsburgh scored on 20.5 percent of its shots on goal when Malkin and/or Kessel was on the ice. That's third among those to play at least four games, behind Nate Thompson and Rickard Rakell of the Anaheim Ducks (25.0 percent, 23.1 percent).

Malkin and Kessel were two of the six players to score a point in all manpower situations, along with teammate Jake Guentzel, Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers, Mika Zibanejad of the Rangers and Mikael Backlund of the Calgary Flames.

Pittsburgh out-attempted Columbus 107-50 with Kessel on the ice in all manpower situations, an NHL-high .682 shot attempt percentage.

Video: CBJ@PIT, Gm5: Kessel snipes from circle for PPG

 

Shot attempts

In terms of shot attempts, the most lopsided series of the first round was between St. Louis and Minnesota, but not in the direction that would be expected given the Blues' 4-1 series victory.

Minnesota out-attempted St. Louis 283-182 at even strength (plus-101). That's an extra 20.2 shot attempts per game.

In terms of individual SAT, Wild players held the top seven positions in absolute terms, and five of the bottom six were held by Blues. Minnesota defenseman Ryan Suter led the first round with an SAT of plus-53.

In terms of even-strength faceoffs, 60 percent occurred in the St. Louis end, based on Minnesota's 93-62 edge. The Wild led the first round winning 57.4 percent of their faceoffs.

 

Hot goalies

When compared to their performance in every stretch of consecutive games in the regular season, some goalies played their finest hockey of the season in the first round.

Rinne allowed three goals in four games during Nashville's sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks. He had a .976 save percentage, and his two assists put him tied for 37th among scorers. His best four-game stretch in the regular season was Nov. 8-17, when his save percentage was .974.

Lundqvist also had his best stretch of the season. His save percentage of .947 in six games against the Montreal Canadiens exceeded his previous season best of .939 from Nov. 1-15.

One goalie had his least-effective stretch of the season: Sergei Bobrovsky of the Blue Jackets, a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, had a save percentage of .882 in five games against the Penguins. That tied his worst five-game stretch of the regular season, from Jan. 26 to Feb. 9.

Video: MTL@NYR, Gm6: Lundqvist uses pad for clutch save

 

Tough minutes

There are a number of statistics that can measure the difficulty of a player's assignment. In the first round, those stats suggested Gardiner effectively handled some of the toughest minutes.

Gardiner led the first round with an average of 25:46 per game at even-strength, most of which was spent against the Washington Capitals' top line. He spent more than twice as many minutes against Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie than any other Washington forwards.

A lot of this time was spent in the defensive zone, where Gardiner led the NHL by lining up for 51 faceoffs, compared with 24 in the offensive zone.

Though Gardiner played big minutes in the defensive zone and against top players, Toronto had an 18-9 edge in shots off the rush and a 14-3 advantage in rebound shots when he was on the ice, according to data collected at Corsica Hockey from NHL game files. That led the NHL in rush shots and ranked second in rebounds to teammate Auston Matthews, a center who was on the ice for 15.

Video: TOR@WSH, Gm1: Gardiner buries wrister through traffic

 

Standout rookies

With an NHL-leading nine rebound shots and seven shots off the rush, Matthews was among several rookies who made a big impact in the first round. 

Guentzel led the NHL with five goals in five games against the Blue Jackets and tied three others for the lead with two game-winning goals (Bobby Ryan, Ottawa Senators; Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues; Zack Kassian, Oilers).

Canadiens forward Artturi Lehkonen scored four points (two goals, two assists) in six games, which was second on the Canadiens to forward Alexander Radulov, who finished with seven points (two goals, five assists) against the Rangers.

Defenseman Shea Theodore of the Ducks made the most of the opportunity to play more because of injuries to Cam Fowler and Sami Vatanen; Theodore tied forward Rakell and Ryan Getzlaf for the Ducks lead with five points (two goals, three assists) in four games against the Flames.

Rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy of the Boston Bruins played 157:09 in six games against the Senators, which ranked second to captain Zdeno Chara (172:35). McAvoy's three points (assists) were one behind the Bruins lead (four forwards had four).

Video: PIT@CBJ, Gm3: Guentzel nets hat trick, OT winner

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