"I wish the Flames the absolute best."
- Jarome Iginla, who was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins early Thursday morning.
"I wish the Flames the absolute best."
- Jarome Iginla, who was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins early Thursday morning.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin
The Stastnys, Peter and Anton, combined for 16 points on this date in 1981. No sibling duo has matched the mark, but the past 30 years has seen some great offensive nights from brothers.
Darryl Sittler’s 10-point night is the pinnacle of single-game statistics. Others have come close in the years since Sittler managed the feat, but it takes a special performance for any player to even flirt with matching or potentially surpassing Sittler’s mark.
The thing is, though, that it doesn’t really seem as though it’s an impossible feat to match or surpass. Others have, at the very least, come close to matching Sittler. Twice during his career, Mario Lemieux scored at least eight points in a single outing, and Bernie Nicholls registered eight points in a game back during that same 1988 campaign where Lemieux hit the mark twice. The closest in recent memory, as most will recall, was Sam Gagner’s magical eight-point night, but even that left him two points shy with less than four minutes left to play.
But while it’s hard to fathom Sittler’s record falling, it’s still within the realm of possibility. Not sure the same can be said for the feat the Stastny brothers, Peter and Anton, pulled off exactly 37 years ago today. On Feb. 22, 1981, the Stastnys came out flying against the Capitals and, in an 11-7 thrashing of Washington, the brothers racked up a ridiculous 16 points. The pair of eight-point nights gives the Stastny’s the distinction of having the highest scoring game by a pair of brothers on one team in a single game, and it’s unlikely that record ever falls. It’s hard enough for one player to score eight points in a single game, let alone two.
There have been some incredible nights by sibling duos over the past 30 years, however. Dating back to 1987-88, here are the five best single-game performances by a pair of brothers:
Daniel and Henrik Sedin — Nine points, Nov. 21, 2015
The Blackhawks had front row seats to Gagner’s incredible performance, and they were also witnesses to the biggest night by a pair of siblings in the past 30 years. During the November contest between the Blackhawks and Canucks early in 2015-16, the Sedins scored early and often. The first point came midway through the first period, a power play tally that saw both Sedins pick up a point, followed by another point for Henrik before the first period was through.
The Sedins made all the difference in the final 40 minutes in what was a tie game heading into the second frame. Daniel registered his first goal of the game midway through the second, then added two more in a span of two minutes late in the third period. Henrik had the primary assist on all three of Daniel’s goals, and the Canucks skated away with a 6-3 victory thanks to the remarkable night from the Sedins.
Peter and Anton Stastny — Eight points, Feb. 21, 1988
First all-time and second on this list, the Stastny’s were, in a sense, the early version of the Sedins. They made magic happen together. The only thing they were missing was the seemingly psychic twin abilities the Sedins have, but the Stastnys more than made up for it with their ability to fill the net and stuff the score sheet. Fitting that one of the biggest nights of their careers came almost seven years to the day after their famous 16-point night, too.
The Nordiques didn’t exactly buzzsaw their opponents like they had on the Stastny’s 16-point night, however. Rather, they only managed to eke out a 6-5 victory on the strength of a hat trick by Peter and an awesome four-assist night from Anton. All that was missing was a goal from Anton for the Stastnys stat line to match the Sedins exactly.
Jamie and Jordie Benn — Five points, Jan. 23, 2014; Dec. 13, 2016
When your brother is one of the top scorers in the league over the past few years, you’re bound to benefit from time to time. That’s exactly the case with Jordie Benn, but it wouldn’t be fair to say that he’s ridden Jamie’s coattails onto this list.
The first time the brothers combined for a five-point night was back when Jamie was just starting his rise to becoming a perennial contender for the Art Ross Trophy, and his four-point night was one of his best of the campaign in a 7-1 defeat of the Maple Leafs. Jordie’s assist, which came while playing shorthanded with his brother, pushed them up to five total points. They then matched the feat earlier this season when Jamie chipped in a goal and three points to add to Jordie’s two helpers in a 6-2 defeat of the Ducks.
However, there is a six-point night among the brothers. Trouble is there’s no split. Jamie scored six points — a goal and five assists — in a 7-3 victory by the Stars over the Flames. Jordie didn’t hit the score sheet that night.
Scott and Rob Niedermayer — Five points, March 31, 2009
The Niedermayers played more than 2,400 combined games in the NHL, and nearly 25 percent of those came with the brothers suiting up together for the Ducks. The time together started during the 2005-06 season in the post-lockout NHL, and it continued on through to the 2008-09 campaign. And it was right around the time their tenure as teammates was coming to a close — less than a few months, to be exact — that they had their biggest night together.
On the final day of March, five games before the season was set to close, the Ducks squared off against the Oilers and the Niedermayers struck gold, especially in the second frame. Scott scored on a power play 33 seconds into the second, assisted on a Chris Pronger goal less than five minutes later and added a second helper on Rob’s goal with 1:25 left in the period. Rob capped the scoring with an empty-netter with 36 seconds left.
Eric and Jordan Staal — Four points, five times
The Staals were the center of the offense for the Hurricanes for a four-season stretch that spanned nearly 270 games, and the duo produced like a solid one-two punch for much of their time with the team. There are four different occasions in which four total points came off the sticks of the Staals. Incredibly, however, three of those big nights came in one spurt.
Eric and Jordan combined for three four-point games across a span of five weeks starting in November 2013. In a Nov. 24 game, Eric scored once and had three points with Jordan adding an assist on the first Hurricanes goal of the game to lead Carolina to victory, they again combined for four points in a win over the Coyotes less than three weeks later and had the four-point night a third time in an overtime win over the Canadiens on Dec. 31, 2013. As it turns out, another sibling duo was doing the same that night.
Eric and Jordan again pitched in a combined four-point night to close out March 2015. Eric scored early on an assist from Jordan then started piling up helpers of his own. First came an assist on an Alexander Semin goal, following by the primary helper on the final nail in the coffin, an Andrej Nestrasil power play tally late in the third.
Brayden and Luke Schenn — Four points, Dec. 31, 2013
The Schenn household sure had an exciting close to 2013. Brayden and Luke were in their second season playing together in Philadelphia. Brayden was just starting to become a fixture of the offense as the brothers combined to contributed 24 goals and 53 points during the 2013-14 season, but nothing seemed to click quite like it did on New Year’s Eve in 2013.
Early in the contest, Brayden picked up his first of two assists in the game and he added a goal in the dying minutes of the second period, while Luke had his lone contribution of the outing when the brothers both got in on a Scott Hartnell insurance marker midway through the third period. It was the most productive the Schenns ever were in a given game for the Flyers.
The brothers were split up in 2015-16 when the Flyers shipped Luke to the Kings, coincidentally the same team from which they received Brayden.
(All statistical information via Hockey-Reference.com)
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Joe Thornton is two assists away from becoming the 13th player to reach the 1,000-assist milestone, and it should have him considered among the greatest playmakers the league has ever seen.
Two assists. That’s all Joe Thornton needs to hit 1,000 for his career, and there’s a chance he could be celebrating the milestone helper in less than one week, earning an undeniable spot as one of the greatest playmakers the game has ever seen.
When he reaches the milestone mark, and there’s no question he will, it only stands to add to what are some already stellar Hall of Fame credentials. Thornton has a Hart Trophy and Art Ross to his name, a first all-star team nod and two times he was voted to the league’s second all-star club. But forget the awards and look past the nearly 400 goals, because reaching the 1,000-assist milestone is the most impressive of all of Thornton’s feats. It’s a statistical achievement the likes of which has seldom been recorded.
It may seem like the 1,000-assist mark wouldn’t be so rare given there are two assists handed out for every goal scored, but there are only 12 players to have hit 1,000 assists for their career. By comparison, 19 players have at least 600 goals and there are 45 with 500 or more tallies in their career. The all-time assists leader, as one would expect, is Wayne Gretzky, with the likes of Mario Lemieux, Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman, Ray Bourque and Jaromir Jagr among those who round out the 12-man 1,000 assist club.
That’s indicative of the type of savvy playmaker Thornton has been throughout his career. His puck distribution skills have been and remain some of the best in the league, and that he’s still managing to dish out perfect tape-to-tape passes as he inches closer to his 38th birthday is telling about the dedication he has to his craft. This season, only 15 players have more assists than Thornton, and the list includes a number of the league’s current greats, from Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby to Brent Burns and Duncan Keith.
It’s not as if Thornton has maneuvered his way to 1,000 assists by way of being in the right place at the right time, either. Some contest that he’s racked up a boatload of secondary helpers over his career, but stats.HockeyAnalysis.com has data on primary assists over the past 10 seasons. No one has registered more overall assists than Thornton’s 548, and no player has more first assists than the 314 Thornton has compiled.
But with Thornton close to the end of his career, it’s worth wondering how far up the all-time assist chart he can rise. Once he hits the 1,000-assist milestone, he’ll be 16 back of matching Joe Sakic, 33 behind Lemieux, Marcel Dionne will sit 40 assists ahead and Howe 49 up on Thornton. Realistically, he could make a dent in the chase to tie Sakic by the time the season ends, possibly by as much as another 10 to 12 assists. That would put Thornton up to 1,010 in his career. What happens next season, though?
First and foremost, the concern has to be about returning to a lineup where he can produce. There has been speculation that Thornton, a free agent come July, wants to hang around for at least another couple seasons, playing into his 40s and possibly beyond. That’s not out of the realm of possibility, especially with him continuing to contribute, and we’ve seen the likes of Jagr, Shane Doan and Matt Cullen contribute as they enter the “over the hill” stage of their career. If Thornton does come back, as it seems he will, the question then becomes the rate at which he is actually able to contribute.
At his current rate, he’s registering .57 assists per game, down from last season’s .77 rate and slightly down from his .63 rate during the 2014-15 campaign. Over the past three seasons, that’s a pace of .66 assists per game, which means over the course of an 82-game season he’d register roughly 54 helpers.
It’s likely, though, that Thornton’s assist rate drops as he continues on. Let’s say he nabs 43 assists in 2017-18, 39 in 2018-19 and 34 in 2019-20. That’s a consistent dip of .05 assists per game from his current rate over the next three seasons. It’s only an estimation, of course, but that would net Thornton another 116 assists over the following three seasons. Add that to the 1,010 he projects to have by the time the post-season rolls around, and Thornton would have 1,126 assists in his career. He would sit seventh all-time, ahead of Adam Oates and Steve Yzerman and only slightly behind Bourque and Paul Coffey.
The thing about the all-time list, though, is that it doesn’t take into account the era the player’s career occurred in. The first seven seasons of Thornton’s career came in the low-scoring pre-lockout years, and he’s spent 12 in the post-lockout, more free-flowing game that we see today. Scoring isn’t up all that much, however. Thankfully, Hockey-Reference has done the legwork in adjusting scoring for the separate eras, and on that list, Thornton is already top-five all-time. The only players he trails are Gretzky, Howe, Jagr and Ron Francis.
As far as catching the foursome at the top of the adjusted assists list goes, it’s not going to be easy. He sits 87 back of Francis, and it’s going to take much of the rest of Thornton’s career to surpass him, and there’s about no chance he reaches the same heights as Jagr, Howe or Gretzky. Even still, that’s company even more exclusive than the list of players with 1,000 assists. Being mentioned alongside arguably the three greatest offensive players in the league’s history, and three veritable legends of the sport, would put into perspective the type of assist machine Thornton has been.
Thornton’s chase to the 1,000-assist milestone is something to pay attention to and worth even more recognition than it’s sure to get. While the Stanley Cup may have eluded Thornton to this point, the longer he plays, the more he cements his legacy as one of the greatest set-up men the league has ever seen. And when the time comes, he’ll be more than worthy of enshrinement in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
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Patrick Kane and Corey Crawford. Image by: Getty Images
With a 7-3 record in their past 10 games, the Hawks are beginning to look a lot like the dynasty that has won three Stanley Cups since 2010.
During the pre-game festivities at the United Center, the Blackhawks play a campy fight song called Here Come the Hawks! And as we enter the stretch drive of the season, that fight song could very well be a recurring theme.
Because, well, here come the Hawks. With a 7-3 record in their past 10 games and a seven-game winning streak on the road, the Hawks are beginning to look a lot like the dynasty that has won three Stanley Cups since 2010. Will the Blackhawks make any tweaks before the trade deadline? Well, the way some of their young players have been performing lately, that might not be necessary. With their current hot streak, particularly on the road, the Blackhawks find themselves atop THN.com’s weekly Power Rankings. (Last week’s rankings in parentheses.):
CREAM OF THE CROP
1. Chicago Blackhawks (3)
2. Florida Panthers (12)
3. New York Rangers (2)
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (5)
5. Washington Capitals (1)
6. Boston Bruins (7)
7. Minnesota Wild (4)
8. New York Islanders (16)
9. San Jose Sharks (8)
10. Toronto Maple Leafs (13)
Captain Serious Jonathan Toews is seriously heating up with 8-12-20 totals and five multi-point games in his past 12…The Panthers may have saved their season by sweeping a five-game road trip for the first time in franchise history...The Rangers’ power play has gone dry. It’s 1-for-18 in the past seven games and 3-for-39 in the past 14…Don’t look now, but the Penguins are only three back of Washington for first overall in the NHL. (The Caps have a game in hand). By the way, Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had the line of the year describing the Penguins 3-1 win over Carolina Tuesday night: “The first two periods of the Penguins’ 3-1 victory against Carolina Tuesday night at PNC Arena were, as hockey games go, a work of art,” Molinari wrote. “The kind a sleep-deprived first-grader might produce if working with a limited selection of broken crayons.”…The Capitals have used a league-low 26 players – goaltenders included – so far this season…Claude Who? The Bruins go into Wednesday's game in Anaheim 4-0-0 under interim coach Bruce Cassidy…Back in the lineup after missing four games with a knee injury, Matt Dumba was minus-4 in a 5-3 loss to Chicago Tuesday night…The Islanders are just 8-13-4 on the road, but started a brutal nine-game road trip with a 3-1 win over Detroit Tuesday night…The Sharks have lost just one regulation game in their past 10, but have dropped four in overtime and one in a shootout…After suffering a shoulder injury last week, rookie Leafs Mitch Marner is on injured reserve.
THE MUSHY MIDDLE
11. Tampa Bay Lightning (21)
12. Columbus Blue Jackets (11)
13. Ottawa Senators (20)
14. St. Louis Blues (6)
15. Montreal Canadiens (19)
16. Edmonton Oilers (10)
17. Anaheim Ducks (9)
18. Los Angeles Kings (18)
19. Calgary Flames (24)
20. Philadelphia Flyers (17)
Ben Bishop is not making things easy for the Lightning. They have a major decision to make before the trade deadline. Do they trade him to avoid losing him for nothing in the expansion draft, or do they ride his hot hand and hope they can make the playoffs?...Brandon Dubinsky is heating up for the Blue Jackets. He has 4-6-10 totals in his past nine games, including the overtime winner against his arch-rival Pittsburgh Penguins…Senators GM Pierre Dorion told TSN of Curtis Lazar, “We’re just not going to give him away.” So now they’re openly talking about trading him. Is it just me or do the Senators seem intent on ruining this kid?...With Kevin Shattenkirk and Patrik Berglund pending UFAs, Blues GM Doug Armstrong will be both a buyer and a seller at this year’s trade deadline…Paul Byron is the Canadiens’ secret weapon. He has both game-winners in the Habs’ two shootout wins this season…Brian Boyle and Martin Hanzal are the two players most linked to the Oilers at the trade deadline… In an effort to try to spread out the offense, the Ducks broke up the Andrew Cogliano-Ryan Kesler-Jakob Silfverberg line, but that didn’t last long. Coach Randy Carlyle put them back together in a 1-0 win over Los Angeles Sunday…The Kings’ 2-1 win over Colorado Tuesday night was Darryl Sutter’s 215th victory as coach, tying him with Andy Murray for No. 1 on the franchise’s all-time wins list. It was also his 1,262nd game, tying him with Jacques Lemaire for 13th on the all-time NHL list…Johnny Gaudreau had four assists in the Flames 6-5 overtime win over the Predators Tuesday night, but has just one goal in his past 20 games…The Flyers face Eastern Conference teams in 20 of their final 23 games.
VYING FOR THE PARTICIPATION BADGE
21. Winnipeg Jets (25)
22. Buffalo Sabres (22)
23. Nashville Predators (14)
24. Dallas Stars (28)
25. Arizona Coyotes (23)
26. New Jersey Devils (15)
27. Detroit Red Wings (29)
28. Vancouver Canucks (26)
29. Colorado Avalanche (30)
30. Carolina Hurricanes (27)
Patrik Laine is just the third active player – Jeff Skinner and Sidney Crosby are the two others – to score 30 goals as an 18-year-old…Evander Kane has 14 even-strength goals since Dec. 3, which is the most in the NHL in that time span…Talk about efficient. Filip Forsberg scored three goals on three shots in just 16:16 of ice time in Nashville’s 6-5 overtime loss to Calgary Tuesday night…Jamie Benn has 10-7-17 totals in his past 15 games, but the Stars are only 5-8-2 in that span…The Coyotes kicked off their annual Fire Sale by dealing pending UFA Michael Stone to Calgary last week…Just a thought here: With two years at a $5 million cap hit, is there any way 34-year-old Michael Cammalleri gets some attention at the trade deadline? Probably not…It’s pretty clear Henrik Zetterberg is doing everything he can to prevent the Red Wings from missing the playoffs on his watch. He has 5-10-15 totals in his past 13 games…Bo Horvat has 40 points this season, which matches his career high…Avs defenseman Nikita Zadorov is out for the year after breaking his ankle in practice…The Hurricanes have scored just four goals in the past five games, only two at even strength.
Jonathan Toews. Image by: Getty Images
The Blackhawks captain may look like he’s merely shaken off a big slump. But the underlying numbers suggest he’s emerged as a different player – more offense, less defense.
The three-goal, five-point night wasn’t the match that ignited Jonathan Toews’ season. It was a squirt of gasoline on an already-raging fire. Toews got piping hot over the past two months, and Tuesday was the boiling point.
The Chicago Blackhawks captain started 2016-17 posting the worst offensive numbers of his career. Even as his regular right winger Marian Hossa enjoyed a resurgent offensive campaign, Toews just couldn’t find the net. He sat at four goals and 12 points after 22 games. Plenty of fans and pundits scoffed on social media at his All-Star Game invite over teammate Artemi Panarin.
Typically, we’ve accepted that Toews trades a bit of offense to be an elite two-way pivot. He’s shown the highlight-reel hands to be an 80-point player – just look at his immortalized shootout performance for Canada at the 2007 World Junior Championship – but he’s let Patrick Kane be the scoring star and sacrificed some scoring to play a shutdown role. Still, even by Toews’ Selke Trophy-winning standard, his offense was pitiful through mid-December. He sat at 0.60 points per game and had never finished a season below 0.73.
Even more concerning: Toews wasn’t performing as well as advertised from a defensive standpoint, either. Per corsica.hockey, Toews rates as one of the NHL’s very best possession players since stats like Corsi and Fenwick were born. Among NHL forwards with 1,000 or more minutes played since his rookie campaign of 2007-08, Toews ranks 16th in 5-on-5 Corsi at 55.8 percent. That includes a Corsi For of 61.48 and a Corsi against of 48.68, representing a player equally adept at driving shot attempts for his team and preventing shot attempts against his team.
Toews, though, slipped to a 5-on-5 Corsi of 51.38 percent in that lackluster 22-game sample to start 2016-17, with a Corsi For per 60 of 58.51 and a Corsi Against of 55.37. Teams were having a much easier time than normal getting attempts on Chicago’s net with Toews on the ice.
But the possession stats did show a player still creating a lot of offensive action for his team, and he was scoring on just 7.3 percent of his attempts, so a positive regression was coming. Since that juncture at Game 22, Toews has ignited for 30 points in his past 29 games, including a whopping 20 in his past 12, sprinkled with four- and five-point performances. He’s doing it primarily playing with Richard Panik and rookie Nick Schmaltz, so it’s not like another star scorer is carrying Toews. He’s scoring on 12.6 percent of his shots during his hot streak, still below his career average of 14.7, so we could see this goal-scoring run continue for a while.
The most interesting change for Toews comes in his possession numbers since the 29-game binge started. Defensively, he’s actually been worse, coughing up a Corsi Against per 60 of 57.2, but he’s sizzling with a Corsi For per 60 of 64.54. Per stats.hockeyanalysis.com, Toews faced the toughest quality of competition of any NHL forward with at least 500 minutes played last season, as Toews’ opponents averaged a 5-on-5 Corsi of 50.8. This season, his opponents average 50.2, ranking him 124th among forwards in quality of opponents. So he’s facing weaker competition yet still faring worse defensively.
What, then, are we witnessing? This isn’t The Old Jonathan Toews making a triumphant return. The possession numbers suggest he’s instead reversed his career trend and sacrificed some defense for a major spike in offense. He’s still not bad defensively, as his relative Corsi Against per 60 is still among the better figures on the Hawks, suggesting the team as a whole has regressed defensively this season, not just Toews. But he’s currently not the smothering defensive player he’s reputed to be. His offense, meanwhile, is right up there with Artemi Panarin for the team’s best on the year if we judge it by Corsi For per 60 relative to teammates.
Interestingly, with Toews filling the net, the Hawks have won 14 of their past 20 games and seven of their past eight. Unlocking Toews’ scoring seems to correlate directly with Chicago re-emerging as a dangerous Western Conference contender.
Meanwhile, the first-place Minnesota Wild have dropped their past two meetings with the Hawks, including Tuesday’s. The Wild still own a five-point lead in the Central Division with a game in hand, but would anyone put it past the Blackhawks to stay hot and steal the division crown and home ice advantage for the playoffs? If that happens, watch out. Toews has not returned as a powerhouse two-way forward yet, but he has emerged as a new beast altogether, albeit in a small sample size. It’s tough to say if the Hawks are a better or worse team with Toews no longer playing great shutdown hockey, but so far, so good.