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On Dec. 10, David Pastrnak was atop the NHL leaderboard with 25 goals. He was on an unfathomable scoring pace and appeared untouchable in the Rocket Richard race.
Of course, that pace was unsustainable. We dove into the reasons why he wasn't worth backing at the time at 5-2, and who was most likely to catch him.
Let's take a look at how we did.
At the time, Pastrnak had 12 power-play goals thanks to a 34.2% shooting percentage with the man advantage, which was double his 18% average from the previous three seasons. He was also aided by an unsustainable 16.7% shooting percentage at five-on-five. We noted that "it's too much to expect him to continue this rate of production," and that the likely regression would open the door for those chasing him.
Pastrnak's pace predictably slowed. After scoring 25 goals through his first 27 games, he managed 23 tallies over the next 43 contests. When the season was suspended, his five-on-five shooting percentage had dropped to 13.8%, and his power-play shooting percentage experienced an even bigger dip, dropping to 25.3%. The lead he had built on Alex Ovechkin had evaporated, while Auston Matthews had pulled to within one.
McDavid missed seven games due to injury, effectively knocking him out of the Rocket Richard race. Of course, that's somewhat of a cop-out, as his scoring rates also decreased.
The biggest culprit to McDavid's decreasing goal rate was a downtick in power-play production. He had eight power-play goals through the first 25 games, one shy of his career best of nine. When the season was officially suspended, McDavid was sitting at 11 goals with the man advantage, having managed just three through his next 39 games. That's not going to cut it.
On Dec. 10, Ovechkin was Pastrnak's closest competitor with 21 goals to the Boston Bruins sniper's 25. It didn't take a genius to predict Ovechkin would be near, or at, the top of the NHL goal leaderboard at the end of the season, with the Washington Capitals captain having won the award in six of the past seven seasons.
Ovi was on pace for 54 goals and, as we pointed out, just about all of his underlying numbers were on par with his career averages, with the exception of his five-on-five shooting percentage, which was a bit lower than his average from the previous three seasons. We concluded that it was realistic to expect his scoring pace to continue and for him to finish right around 54 goals, if not a tad higher, should his shooting percentage experience some positive regression.
Ovechkin was on pace for 57 goals when the season was suspended.
When we checked in on the race in December, Matthews was trailing Pastrnak by seven goals, but we really liked his value at 7-1.
As per his team's direction, Matthews was shooting a lot more on the power play, but his shooting percentage with the man advantage was 3% below his career average of 18.4%. We noted that with some positive regression in that area, the Toronto Maple Leafs sniper could be in for a monster second half of the season, and given the Leafs' uptick in power-play production under Sheldon Keefe, it was likely to happen.
While Matthews' power-play production remained the same over the next three months - recording five power-play goals through the first 31 games and six through the next 39 - his five-on-five production catapulted to lofty heights. His even-strength goals per game jumped from 0.42 to 0.59 as he closed the gap on Pastrnak, but he didn't do so with an elevated shooting percentage. He simply shot the puck more. His 214 shots (3.1 per game) were a lot more than the 2.8 and 2.5 per game he managed in his previous two seasons.
Let that be a lesson to all the kids out there. Shoot the puck and good things will happen.
Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.