Hockey fans who dig into game statistics can discover new layers of the sport. This edition of Weekly Warmup takes a closer look at shots on goal. Plus, we recap the teams on the rise and teams dipping into the treacherous end of the standings.
Let's drop the Nov. 11 puck:
Ovi is the NHL Shots-on-Goal Leader-Surprised?
The phrase is used in corporate board rooms and hockey walls, whether a locker room or league office: "You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take."
This "you don't succeed if you don't try" modern proverb is widely attributed to Wayne Gretzky, the NHL's all-time leading scorer whose nickname is the Great One. Some pundits attribute the quote to the NBA's great one, Michael Jordan. But there is evidence the true-north source is Gretzky's father, Wayne.
Washington's Alex Ovechkin clearly ascribes to the Gretzky family credo. He leads the League with 90 shots on goal through Sunday's results. The surefire Hall of Famer has scored 13 goals or 14.4 percent. That represent shots on goal, which official NHL scoring considers shots that either go in or the goalie stops. It doesn't account for missed shots or blocked shots.
Ovechkin's shooting percentage is not adjusted for overall shot attempts that are blocked by a goalie's teammates or miss the net. As a marker, the 34-year-old age-defying star recorded 11 goals on 70 shots and 139 shot attempts through the first 14 games of the season. His shot attempts outnumbered the closest competitor by more than 40.
Beasts of the East
The just-mentioned Capitals at Bruins tussle is Saturday. There will be lots of top scorers to see: The B's David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand, plus Ovechkin. Pastrnak leads the NHL is goals with 15 and tied with Edmonton's Connor McDavid with 30 total scoring points. Marchand is sitting on 11 goals after a week with back-to-back two-goal games; he's fourth overall in points with 29.
Ovechkin's teammate, all-world defenseman John Carlson is fifth with 28 points (8G, 20A) and Ovi himself is 7th among scorers. Boston leads the Metropolitan division with 25 points (11-3-3).
Shots on Goal, Part 2
League-leader David Pastrnak has scored his 15 Boston goals on 61 shots on goal (SOG). Overall points leader, Edmonton forward Leon Draisaitl, is at 14 goals on 61 shots; he has 34 points overall on the strength of 20 assists. Both Pastrnak (24.5 percent) and Draisaitl (23 percent) are connecting on an overachieving if not totally surprising number of shots.
Home Sweet Buffalo
No doubt the Sabres will be happy to get back home, even if an ESPN player survey (as reported by the superb Emily Kaplan) named Buffalo as the second least favorite road trip destination (34 percent; only Winnipeg was less liked). Buffalo is coming off back-to-back losses in Stockholm, facing Swedish native and Tampa Bay all-star defenseman Victor Hedman and his Lightning teammates. After a fast start, Buffalo is wavering with a five-game losing streaks. Long-time observers say this is when new coach Ralph Krueger will use his superior communications skills with young players on how to deal with adversity.
Toronto Troubles. Or not?
The Maple Leafs lost two games over the weekend-more about that next paragraph-but more significantly young scoring sensation Mitch Marner left the game with a right ankle problem. Ankles, of course, are the foundation of hockey play, so Toronto fans are suitably worried. The early word on Marner is he will be out at least four weeks.
Toronto's other young scoring sensation, Auston Matthews, will be expected to shoulder some of the missing firepower, same for veteran John Tavares. Both made the Sunday scoresheet, two assists for Matthews plus one goal and one assist from Tavares. But the Leafs dropped a 5-4 game to Chicago, which has picked up five of a possible six points in its last three games. The Saturday night was via a shootout goal by Philadelphia's perennially underrated Claude Giroux, who scored the game-winner on an old-school slap shot, unusual for a shootout move.
Blues, Islanders Red-Hot
St. Louis is on a seven-game winning streak fresh off an overtime 3-2 win at Calgary. Forward David Perron scored the OT winner with his eighth goal during a powerplay. While Edmonton and Colorado continue to impress in the Western Conference, the Blues stand alone with the most team points (12-3-3). In the East, Mathew Barzal and his New York Isles teammates are 12 games without a loss. The former Seattle Thunderbirds star scored the first goal in Saturday's 2-1 home win against the formidable Florida Panthers.
The Best Four Seconds of Ottawa's Week
The Senators scored two goals in four seconds in an encouraging 4-1 win over Carolina. Vladislav Namestnikov tallied with 16:49 minutes gone in the first period, then Jean-Gabriel Pageau took a clean faceoff win from Ottawa's Nick Paul to light up the goal light four seconds later.
Pretty fast. But, alas, rival Montreal set the NHL record in November 2018 with two goals in two seconds by Max Domi and Joel Armia, the latter an empty-net goal when opponent Washington pulled the goalie.
How Swede It Is
The New York Rangers staged an outdoor practice at Lasker Rink in Central Park over the weekend. Veteran goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, in his 15th NHL season, was kid-like on the ice and same for NYR fans packed into bleachers and dotting a nearby hill with views to the rink.
"You compare this to going to the practice rink like we do every day, this is exciting for everyone just to try something new," said Lundqvist, who grew up in outside-hockey friendly Sweden.
Back home in Sweden, fellow Swedish NHL star Victor Hedman was enjoying a two-game sweep for Tampa Bay. Hedman missed the two previous games with an injury before the Lightning flew to Stockholm for a two-game set with Buffalo. He scored Saturday to delight the locals.
"This has been an unbelievable experience for me and my teammates," Hedman said. "For me, coming home and finish it off with two wins was a tremendous experience."
Coming to His Kade
Following his Kade's 11th birthday party - for which not one of invited friends showed up - Jason Foster tweeted out a public-facing request to Toronto's John Tavares and Mitch Marner to wish Kade a happy birthday. Tavares responded by calling Kade to wish him happy b-day on the actual day Nov. 4 (the party was the previous weekend). Better yet, the Maple Leafs organized a trip for Kade, Dad and the rest of the Newfoundland family to attend a game in person last Saturday night against Philadelphia.
"It's hard to explain but it involved very wide eyes, an open mouth and hands over his face," Kade's dad, Jason, told the Associated Press about Tavares' phone call. "I've never seen that reaction out of him before actually, he was just taken aback."