An inforgraphic from the AHL shows the changes made to overtime rules – a seven minute period with four minutes of 4-on-4 and three of 3-on-3 – have limited the amount of games that have been decided by the shootout.
Thanks to an infographic released by the AHL, it looks like Ken Holland’s overtime brainchild may be closer to coming to life. For years now, the AHL has been the testing ground for potential NHL rules. From thicker bluelines to the introduction of the trapezoid, before a rule is made a rule in the big leagues, it gets a look in the AHL. This season’s big change has been the introduction of a seven-minute overtime that changes from 4-on-4 to 3-on-3 in the frame’s final three minutes.
What’s most remarkable about the data, aside from the wonderful layout, is the vast difference from year to year. The league is on pace to see more than twice as many games decided in the extra frame than the shootout than they did in 2013-14. While the new format isn’t necessarily adding up to more games decided in regulation, it is showing a positive change in games decided by more than just a shooter-on-goalie competition. There has yet to be firm word on whether or not the overtime format will make its way to the NHL, but 2014-15’s numbers look oddly similar to those of last AHL season. In 453 games played as of Monday, 114 have gone to an extra frame, or roughly 25 percent. Of those, 65 (57 percent) were solved in shootout, with the remaining 49 (43 percent) solved during regular overtime action. That makes for a grand total of nearly 14.5 percent of NHL contests decided by the shootout. When it comes to goal breakdown, the AHL’s spread of overtime winners is very similar of that of the NHL. However, unlike the AHL, which sees most of its game-winning overtime goals come in the final minute of 3-on-3 action, the NHL is seeing most of its winners in the middle of the extra frame. The NHL’s breakdown, by minute, is six goals in the first minute, nine in the second, 13 in the third, nine in the fourth, and 12 in the final sixty seconds. It’s become increasingly evident that the changed overtime format does indeed work for the AHL. If the NHL adopts the rule change, you can be assured there would be similar results.
The usual suspects -- Bergeron, Kopitar, and Toews -- appear to be out of the discussion for the Selke Trophy. Here are five names that seem to have the best chance at stepping in.
When it comes to handing out hardware at the NHL Awards, the Selke hasn't been all that tough to figure out in recent seasons. For the last five years, the same three players have dominated the voting. Patrice Bergeron, Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Toews have accounted for all five wins, as well as eleven of the fifteen finalist spots.
But this year is shaping up like it could be different, with all three players slumping offensively. Maybe that shouldn't matter, since the Selke is supposed to be a defensive award. But over the years, it's morphed into a trophy that recognizes two-way play, which means you need to be scoring to get much consideration. If you pro-rate the lockout year, nobody has won the Selke with fewer than 55 points in the salary cap era. None of the Big Three are on pace to get there this year.
With half a season left to play, that could still change. And it's always possible that in the absence of a slam dunk candidate emerging somewhere else, voters could opt to play it safe and go back to one of the old familiars. But for the first time in years, the Selke really does seem up for grabs.
So who has a shot? Assuming that Bergeron, Toews or Kopitar don't take the trophy home this time, here are the five names that seem to have the best chance at stepping in.
Ryan Kesler, Ducks
The case for: The veteran is having his best season since 2011, and is on pace for about 65 points while playing tough minutes for a first-place Ducks team. His advanced stats won't blow anyone away, but they're good enough that the analytics guys shouldn't push back too hard, and everyone loves a good comeback narrative.
The case against: While it wouldn't be held against him by voters, Kesler doesn't really fit our "new blood" theme; he was the last player to win the award before the Bergeron/Toews/Kopitar trinity took over, and he finished third in the voting last year.
More importantly, there's at least an argument to be made that linemate Andrew Cogliano deserves the award, too. If that line of thinking catches on, the two could end up splitting votes and knocking each other out of the running.
Mikko Koivu, Wild
The case for: While it's meant as a single-season award, voters tend to like to treat the Selke as more of a career achievement; it's rare for somebody to win the award without having built up a resume over the years. That works in Koivu's favor, as he's been considered a strong defensive forward for a decade now, finishing as high as fourth in the Selke voting back in 2009. He hasn't come especially close since, but he's had votes every year.
New coach Bruce Boudreau has leaned heavily on Koivu in the defensive zone, and his ability to handle the duties has been a big part of Minnesota's unexpected success. With the Wild emerging as one of the one of the year's best surprises, voters will be paying attention.
The case against: Koivu's all-around numbers are good but not great, and he's benefitting from a sky-high on-ice save percentage and PDO that's unlikely to continue. With Devan Dubnyk looking like the Vezina favorite and Boudreau having a shot at the Jack Adams, voters might figure that their ballots are already getting crowded with Wild names.
The case for: Backlund seems to have emerged as a trendy dark horse pick in recent weeks. It's well-deserved: his numbers are excellent, and he's posting them in tough minutes for a young Flames team that asks a lot of him. His offensive numbers aren't jaw-dropping, but he's leading the team in scoring, and that should be enough to satisfy those "two-way" demands if he can keep it up.
The case against: While Backlund's been an underrated defensive player for a while now, he's never received a Selke vote. Again, you can argue that that shouldn't matter, but history has shown that it does. That could make it tough for him to get enough votes to win outright.
Aleksander Barkov, Panthers
The case for: At 21, Barkov would fit the new blood narrative perfectly. And he's already on voters' radars after finishing sixth in last year's balloting. He checks most of the boxes that voters tend to look for, posting solid offensive stats and strong possession numbers. And in a season where the biggest story has been the emergence of the next generation of star players, you could see the voters turning to one of the best young two-way forwards in the game.
The case against: Barkov is hurt right now and has already missed two weeks, so if he's not back soon he probably falls out of the running. He's also been playing a more offensive role this year under new coach Tom Rowe, which may be good for the Panthers, but probably not for his Selke chances. And given how things are turning out in Florida this year, voters may not be interested in having many Panther names on their ballot.
Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals
The case for: If building up enough support to win the award is a long-term process, this could be your guy. Backstrom generated plenty of Selke buzz last year, but finished just outside the top ten for the second straight year. It helps that he's putting up the sort of big offensive number that voters like to see. And after years of largely playing in Alex Ovechkin's shadow, he seems to be settling in as one of those guys that everyone in the hockey world decides has been underrated for too long. What better way to make it up to him than with some awards ballot love?
The case against: In terms of pure numbers, you could make a good case that Backstrom's defensive game was better last year than it is now. That won't necessarily hurt him with voters who feel like he's finally due, but it could keep him from getting the kind of widespread groundswell of support that would help push him past a strong candidate like Kesler.
Honorable mentions (and why they won't win):
- Brad Marchand (Bruins): He's getting some buzz, and has earned votes in the past. But has he really become a better option than Bergeron right now? And if not, how can you win the Selke when you're not the best defensive forward on your own team?
- Nazem Kadri (Maple Leafs): He's a relatively new candidate who'll face the same uphill climb as Backlund, with the added disadvantage that plenty of people don't seem to like him.
- Sidney Crosby (Penguins): He's been underrated in his own end for years, and you could see him getting some consolation ballots if voters decided to break for Connor McDavid for the Hart. But right now, the Crosby focus is still on the MVP race.
- Joe Thornton (Sharks): He gets votes every year and finally had his first top five finish last season, so the timing seems right. But his offensive numbers are down this year.
- Ryan O'Reilly (Sabres): He's been in the mix before. But the Sabres' disappointing season may doom him; there's never been a first-time Selke winner from a team that didn't make the playoffs.
- Jordan Staal (Hurricanes): He'd face the same hurdle as O'Reilly if the Hurricanes miss the playoffs, although these days that seem less and less likely. He may have the best case of anyone in this section.
Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008, most recently for ESPN and Grantland. He spends most of his time making jokes on twitter, where you may know him as @downgoesbrown. He appears weekly on TheHockeyNews.com.
Going into Thursday night, the previous couple of games had not been kind to Henrik Lundqvist. "It hasn’t been fun the last couple of days," he said. "I’m not going to lie."
It’s probably a toss-up as to what was more surprising – the way Henrik Lundqvist was playing going into Thursday night or how deeply it seemed to affect him. As far as the former was concerned, it was ugly. Really ugly. And the nadir for Lundqvist came Tuesday night when the New York Rangers faithful, who have had a decade-long love affair with Lundqvist, gave him the Bronx cheer in a terrible game against the Dallas Stars.
All of which pretty much led up to the latter. As accomplished and decorated as Lundqvist is, he’s a human being. And you post a .789 save percentage and a 6.94 goals-against average and you’re yanked in two games, it’s bound to do a number on your confidence, even if you’re almost certainly headed to the Hall of Fame one day.
So when Lundqvist pulled on the Broadway Hat – a fedora that Brad Richards bought from a Swedish model for $100 a few years back – to commemorate his status as player of the game, he did so with a little more gusto and a lot more relief than he has in a long time. Lundqvist’s 19th win of the season and the 393rd of his career will go down as a 23-save effort in a 5-2 New York Rangers win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, but in reality, it was so much more than that.
“Sometimes,” Lundqvist said after the game, “a win means a little bit more. You play 82 games and some wins, right away you put it in your bag, but I think today you enjoy it a little extra with what I’ve been through the last week or so. It’s not fun as a goalie to give up a lot of goals.”
Rangers television analyst Steve Valiquette, who played with Lundqvist and has been watching him for a decade, said there was little technically that Lundqvist was doing wrong in his recent slide, with the exception of perhaps not seeing the puck come off the stick as well as he usually does. “I think for the fans to turn there (in the Dallas game), I think that really hurt on a personal level,” Valiquette said. “You should have seen the building. It was a really tough building to be in. He came out of that game after the second period and I don’t think he picked his head up for the entire third. That’s as low as I’ve seen Henrik.”
Lundqvist reiterated a couple of times how difficult the last week has been for him. He seemed to be straddling that line between personal responsibility and acknowledging that like wins, losses are a team effort. He knows his teammates played poorly in front of him, but he’s also cognizant of the fact that he earns an average of $8.5 million a year to be the last line of defense. There are times when you have to bail your teammates out and Lundqvist, who has done it countless times, knows that as well as anyone.
“I’m not going to put everything on me,” Lundqvist said. “There have been a lot of breakdowns, but I know it’s my job to clean it up a little bit.”
The Leafs managed only 25 shots in the game, but there were a good number of high-quality attempts. The turning point of the game came in the middle of the second period when Lundqvist came out and aggressively challenged Mitch Marner on a partial breakaway and forced him to miss. On the next rush up the ice, the Rangers opened up a two-goal lead on a shot by J.T. Miller that Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen overplayed. And early in the third, with the Rangers clinging to a 3-2 lead, Lundqvist stopped Leo Komarov on a terrific opportunity.
“He keeps saying, ‘I’ve got to get back to playing on my toes,’ ” Valiquette said. “And what he means by that is getting out there and getting on top of the puck instead of being back and trying to protect the net behind you.”
Those were the plays Lundqvist wasn’t making in the three games after the Rangers came off their one-week furlough. And once they started piling up, it became more and more difficult to stop that train.
“I think every athlete and hockey player, you go through stretches where it’s just a lot harder to get it done, especially at this level” Lundqvist said. “All it takes is you lose five, six percent and that’s the difference between being OK and being great. Again, when you’re confident, that’s what you do. You clean it up, you make that extra save.”
So now all is presumably well in Ranger-land, a theme park where the roller coasters have gotten quite the workout this season. “We have a lot of confidence in Hank, we knew it was just a matter of time,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, “and now he’s going to follow it up with another big game against Detroit.”
Clarke MacArthur won’t be able to return to the Senators’ the lineup this season after suffering his fourth concussion in 18 months. MacArthur was injured during a training camp scrimmage and last suited up on Oct. 14, 2015.
For the second straight season, a concussion has cost Clarke MacArthur a year of his career.
MacArthur had been skating off and on with the club over the past couple of months in an attempt to get back onto the ice for game action in what has now been more than 15 months. MacArthur was last able to play in an Oct. 14, 2015 game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but after skating only 6:05 in that outing, MacArthur hit the shelf and he’s yet to return.
The major concussion issues started during the 2015-16 campaign when MacArthur suffered two head injuries in less than a month spanning across the pre-season and into the early days of the regular season. Those two concussions left MacArthur questioning whether he’d be able to return to the game, which made his comeback to the Senators to start the campaign so great to see. However, only days into training camp, MacArthur was injured again, suffering a concussion on a dangerous hit from teammate Patrick Sieloff in a training camp scrimmage.
Shortly after suffering that concussion, MacArthur took to Instagram to announce that he was “encouraged by how my body has reacted in the days since the injury” and said that he had intended to return this season. Unfortunately, per Dorion’s announcement Friday, that won’t be the case.
In December, MacArthur acknowledged that returning to action following four concussions in roughly 18 months didn’t come without any uncertainties, but said he felt it was something he needed to do in order to fulfill some of the five-year, $23.25-million deal that kicked in to start the 2015-16 season.
“It’s a risk,” MacArthur told Garrioch in early December. “For sure it’s a risk but it’s my risk, but I feel I’ve completely come around full circle…I haven’t been able to fulfil anything in this contract I’ve signed, and that’s a kind of cloud over top of me.”
Dorion said this isn’t necessarily the end of the line for MacArthur, however. According to Garrioch, MacArthur will continue to work out and his aim is to return tot he lineup at some point in the future.
The Jets have done a lot of things well since moving back to Winnipeg. Drafting and developing goalies has not been one of them.
When it comes to their goaltending, the Winnipeg Jets remind me a lot of the clueless prospect with the wicked slapshot. It’s great that he has a bomb from the blueline, but he has a lot of deficiencies in his game that are keeping him from getting better. So what does he do? He continues to work on his slapshot at the expense of the areas of his game that really need work.
In a desperation move that worked, at least in the short term, the Jets recalled veteran Ondrej Pavelec from the minors for their game against the Arizona Coyotes last night. After allowing a bad goal on the very first shot he faced, Pavelec stopped 30 of the next 32 he faced – including a candidate for save of the year - and helped deliver a much-needed victory to his team. Jets coach Paul Maurice hinted strongly that Pavelec had earned the start Saturday afternoon when the Jets host the St. Louis Blues.
And who knows what will happen? Perhaps the Jets will ride a rejuvenated Pavelec down the stretch after picking him up off the scrap heap, and into the playoffs the way the Minnesota Wild did with Devan Dubnyk two years ago. That move was every bit as desperate as the one the Jets made in turning to Pavelec. Dubnyk has emerged as a contender for the Vezina Trophy this year, proving that goalies can get back to the top of their game after hitting rock bottom. Mike Smith did the same thing. There is no shortage of examples.
But the deeper issue here is the Jets and how they’ve handled their goaltending. And that’s where the clueless prospect comparison comes into play. Since moving to Winnipeg from Atlanta five years ago, the Jets have done a ton of good things. They’ve drafted and developed skaters very, very well and have a roster that should allow them to compete on most nights. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has not been afraid to make significant deals, he re-signed Dustin Byfuglien long-term when conventional thinking had him out of town on the first luxury jet and he stared down defenseman Jacob Trouba when he demanded a trade. The Jets have a terrific group of young players and prospects as well.
Yeah, but that goaltending, though. According to corsica.hockey, the Jets have had a save percentage of .905 since 2011-12, which is better only than the Calgary Flames, New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers. In that time, they’re the fifth-worst team in the NHL in goals-against per 60 minutes, despite the fact that they’re a very respectable 11th-best in the league in scoring chances against per 60 minutes.
And all the while, it seems that Cheveldayoff and the Jets have been whistling through the graveyard, not worrying too much or addressing the root problem. Since moving the Winnipeg, the Jets have used a total of six goaltenders in five-plus seasons – Pavelec, Michael Hutchinson, Al Montoya, Connor Hellebuyck, Chris Mason and Peter Mannino. That’s not very many, which would be a good thing if the Jets were at or near the top of the goaltending statistics. But they aren’t. And with the exception of 2015-15, the only season they’ve made the playoffs since moving to Winnipeg, they haven’t been.
In Cheveldayoff’s time, the Jets have drafted five goalies – Hellebuyck, Eric Comrie, Jamie Phillips, Jason Kasdorf and Mikhail Berdin. Not one of them was chosen with a pick higher than 59th overall. In addition, he has traded for only two goalies, dealing for the negotiating rights to Jonas Gustavsson before he signed as a free agent with the Detroit Red Wings, and dealing for Peter Budaj, who was left in the minors and never played a game for the Jets. His only free agent signing was Hutchinson.
Those are not the moves of an organization that is being proactive about its goaltending, either in the immediate future or the long-term. And when you ignore that aspect of your game, both from a drafting and developing standpoint, it’s bound to suffer and show up in the results. Back in our annual Future Watch edition in 2015, we at THN boldly predicted that based on their prospect crop, the Jets would win the Stanley Cup in 2019.
We're going to have to amend that because unless they do something bold to address their goaltending, the Jets can forget about winning the Cup. They’re going to continue to struggle to make the playoffs.