As summer moves from July towards August, players begin to train in different ways. They start returning to the ice, they stop partying as much, and they stop getting french fries with their sandwich as they head towards the back nine.
For hardcore hockey fans bored with summer stories (nothing like reading the legalese of arbitration hearings to quench that hockey thirst!) it can be fun to dig through the numbers of the previous season and learn a few things.
I spent some time doing that today, and came across some fun bits of information you may not have been aware of. Below are five players who excelled in unique ways.
(All stats via Extra Skater.com)
Caveat: some of the NHL’s “real-time stats” aren’t recorded the same way from one building to the next, subjective as they are, so take them with a grain of salt. Still, they do give us a general idea of how players play (did you know Matt Martin hits an awful lot of people?), so they’re not entirely irrelevant. Onwards!
Skill: Drawing penalties, not taking them
The stat: +24 penalty differential (penalties taken versus penalties drawn)
Commentary: A few things go a long way towards drawing penalties, the foremost of which is speed. Fast players are often hauled down by desperate defenders resigned to taking a penalty over allowing a grade A scoring chance. Duchene’s teammate Nathan MacKinnon was fourth, which speaks to how tough the Avalanche forwards are to deal with for D-men. Ryan O’Reilly is in the top-15 as well.
The stat: -147 hit differential, 51.2% Corsi (+0.7 rel)
Commentary: Canucks defenseman Chris Tanev was hit a whopping 172 times last season going back on pucks...in only 64 games. Despite the constant abuse, he drove possession at a positive rate, which once again highlights how “true toughness” is getting to the puck first and taking the pain to get it going the right way.
Jonathan Toews is first (last?) among forwards with a -116 hit differential. His 59.3% Corsi (+5.5 rel) just shows ya: when you’re good and have the puck a lot, you’re gonna get thumped.
Skill: Set-up passes
The stat: 726
Commentary: I thought this was a cool stat: Extra Skater shows that no player in the NHL made a pass that led directly to a shot more often than Joe Pavelski. The estimate is that nearly nine times per game Pavelski found a teammate a shot, which helped him pick up nearly 40 assists.
Skill: Drawing penalities
The stat: 45 penalties drawn
The commentary: Perry doesn’t do quite as well in the penalty differential stat because he’s kind of a rat who takes a few PIMs himself (still an impressive +14), but man, does he drive people nuts. Because of that (and being good enough to have the puck a lot) he tied for most drawn penalties in the league with Dallas’ Antoine Roussel (who took 56 for a -11 differential).
Commentary: Okay, “failing” might be a tad dramatic. I’ve written before about how you have to be good to fail a lot in pro sports (nobody has more losses than Martin Brodeur, nobody threw more interceptions than Brett Favre), and this is no different. To have your shot blocked that much you have to have the puck a lot, you have to be in the right place a lot, and you have to play a lot. Likewise with giveaways - Karlsson always has the puck, so he has more opportunities to give it away than your average plugger.