Scoring is one of the hardest things to do in the NHL, and it’s even more difficult when nothing will break your way. These five players have done everything in search of goals, but the goals still aren’t coming.
From Sidney Crosby’s scoring streak to Patrik Laine’s most impressive start to his rookie campaign, the one thing anyone who pays close attention to statistics will point out is that anyone who’s riding a hot streak to start the season might need to be wary of coming back down to earth.
Reason being is that eventually, for most players, shooting percentage over the course of a campaign is bound to even out.
Some of the easiest players to point to when it comes to full-season dips in shooting percentage are defensemen, two standout examples this season being Nick Holden or Niklas Hjalmarsson. Neither have ever had a shooting percentage above seven percent, so the fact that they’re currently shooting at 17.4 and 12 percent rates, respectively, at this point in the season means they’re probably at or near their goal quota for the season.
That kind of downturn in production might be less true for someone such as Crosby, who has started with 21 goals in his first 24 games, given he’s shot 14.8 percent for his career and is arguably the greatest player in the world today. But even still, him sustaining his current 26.9 percent shooting percentage seems unlikely.
Unfortunately, for every player who seemingly can’t miss, there are a handful who simply aren’t having the puck go in, no matter how many attempts they muster. Here are five players who fall into the latter category, struggling to find the back of the net despite getting pucks on net:
5. Tomas Plekanec, Montreal Canadiens
Plekanec’s most prized ability throughout much of his career hasn’t been his penchant for scoring, but rather his two-way play. That’s what makes him such an effective player for the Canadiens to this day. That said, it feels like the 20-goal seasons, of which Plekanec has had seven of 11 years in Montreal, are a thing of the distant past.
Of course, it doesn’t help much when he’s finding the back of the net at a rate that’s less than half of his career average.
Since debuting in the league, Plekanec has found some consistency in his shooting percentage around the 10-percent mark and his career average is 10.4 percent. There was a high of 15.6 percent in his career-best 29-goal season and the past season’s 7.4-percent mark was the lowest of Plekanec’s career, and his 14 goals were representative of that.
This season, though, he’s shooting at just 3.6 percent, finding twine on only two of his 56 shots. Only rookie Braden Point has had a similar bout of bad luck, but he’s not getting near the minutes Plekanec is.
4. Shane Doan, Arizona Coyotes
When Doan decided to come back for (at least) one more season on a one-year deal, it seemed like something that could help add a middle-six weapon to the Coyotes lineup. He was almost remarkably coming off of a great season in which he scored 28 goals and 47 points — outstanding totals for a 39-year-old — and had one of the best point-per-game rates of his past five seasons.
But the shots that were finding twine last season have been meeting anything but over the course of the first two months of 2016-17. Through 29 games, Doan has mustered just three goals and nine points, and he’s on pace for an eight-goal, 25-point campaign. He’s put 61 shots on goal, and, of the forwards to hit the net at least 50 times this season, Doan’s 4.9 percent conversion rate is the seventh-worst.
Thanks to some shaky seasons to start his career, those numbers wouldn’t be the worst full-season totals Doan has put up, but they’d certainly be the worst since he became a prominent player in the desert.
3. Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators
Remember that dazzling rookie campaign that made everyone tease the Washington Capitals for giving up on Forsberg? And then remember how he followed that up with a 33-goal, 64-point, what-sophomore-slump season? That was fun.
Not as fun is the scoring trouble that has haunted Forsberg this season. Through 28 games, he has just three goals, is on pace to muster just nine this season and is shooting at a rate nearly 10 percent worse than he did during his sophomore campaign.
It wouldn’t be as bad if Forsberg wasn’t getting the chances, but he is. He’s fired 71 pucks on goal and his 4.2 shooting percentage is the fourth-worst among players who’ve put that many pucks on net.
You can probably expect Forsberg’s luck to start turning at some point. Or at least one would hope that would be the case. As far as individual shots attempts, Forsberg ranks 51st in the league with 101, per Stats.HockeyAnalysis. He’s getting the chances.
2. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
From a pure goal scoring perspective, the Bruins have never seen a season like the past one from Bergeron. He was a 30-goal scorer for the third time in his career and set a career high by putting 32 pucks past opposition netminders. His shooting percentage wasn’t even that outlandish, settling in at 11.3 percent over the course of they’d year, a mere 1.2 percent higher than his career average heading into the campaign.
But this year has been tough. In 28 games, Bergeron has only been able to light the lamp four times on 94 shots, and his 4.3 shooting percentage is far and away the lowest of any player who ranks among the top 20 in shots on goal.
Compare Bergeron’s conversion rate to those around him: Jeff Carter has 14 goals on 94 shots, Evgeni Malkin has 12 on 96 shots and Auston Matthews has netted 13 with 101 shots. Bergeron has even watched David Pastrnak, he of 88 shots, score 19 goals without any of that luck rubbing off.
Given that Bergeron has managed the 26th-most individual shot attempts, we’d suspect he’s bound to get back on track.
1. Torey Krug, Boston Bruins
Not to pile on the Bruins, but the only defenseman on this list is Krug. It’s with good reason, too. Through the first two months of the season, only four defenders find themselves in the top 20 for shots on goal, with Krug sticking out like a sore thumb.
In 31 games, Krug has blasted 93 pucks on goal. Now, there’s a good number of those that are going to be low and hard with little chance of going in and some others are going to be shots that floated in with a hope of catching a deflection and slipping past the goaltender. Fact of the matter is that under normal circumstances a handful of those would have crossed the goal line. Krug hasn’t had such luck.
In fact, of all players who have scored at least one goal, no player has a worse shooting percentage than Krug’s 1.1 percent mark. To put that in different terms, 98.9 percent of the time Krug has managed to get the puck on net, the shot has been turned away. Brutal.
And while this list is limited to this season, the reason Krug ranks first ahead of all the forwards who are getting stymied in the same way is that he has taken nearly 350 shots over the course of the past two seasons and scored just five goals. Of players who have scored five goals in the past two years, Krug’s shooting percentage is the worst by more than a full percent.
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