Evgeni Malkin is an all-around good player and leads the NHL in scoring, to boot. (Getty Images)
Going into the holiday season, it’s always good to have some conversational ammunition whence going into office parties, family gatherings, drinks with friends, etc. Hockey always comes up with me (could be the occupation, I suppose), so I thought it would be prudent to pose a question and try to answer it quick and dirty: If you could have one forward to build a team around right now, who would you take?
Here were my categories: points, hits, blocked shots and a special plus-minus based on giveaways (bad) and takeaways (good). My logic was such: If I’m building my team around someone, I naturally want offense, but I also want commitment to physical play (hence the shot-blocking and hits) and responsibility with the puck, which is why giveaways and takeaways were important.
So who is my guy, statistically speaking?
True, Pittsburgh’s got another pretty good young talent on its roster, but Sidney Crosby can’t set up hits for Geno, nor push him in front of point shots or prevent him from turning the puck over. All the players included have at least one great linemate, so Malkin wins fair and square.
Along with Pittsburgh’s duo, my crew was as follows: Alex Ovechkin, Jarome Iginla, Marc Savard, Joe Thornton, Patrick Kane, Ryan Getzlaf and Marian Hossa. All are currently on playoff teams, which kind of seemed like an important factor itself.
In points, naturally Malkin took the prize with 55 through 32 games. But Geno was also the best of the bunch in both blocked shots (15 to Sid and Ovie’s 14 each) and giveaway/takeaway ratio, with a plus-8. In fact, Hossa was the only other star to register a positive mark in that category at plus-2, while Getzlaf sawed off with 27 giveaways and 27 takeaways.
For the most schizophrenic stats, look to Washington, where Ovechkin bottomed out among players in the giveaway/takeaway stat at minus-19, but obliterated the competition in hits, racking up 118 bruise-inducers. Once again, Getzlaf was in the mix, tallying 64, while the rest of the elite settled in the 30-hit range. Savard (12) and Kane (seven) trailed the pack.
Depending on how one chooses to crunch the stats, Ovie could actually be considered the winner, as his amount of hits more than counterbalance his giveaways. But that would be putting too much weight on one category, so Malkin wins by taking three of four categories.
BATTLE OF THE MASKS
Something amazing happened last week that I didn’t get a chance to mention, but I really need THN Reader Nation to help me out on. When Washington defeated St. Louis 4-2 last Thursday, both goalies wore all-white masks. Simeon Varlamov was an emergency call-up for the Caps, while Ben Bishop was in a similar situation with the Blues. It was the first time I think I had seen a double white helmet game and I have to imagine it’s rare. After all, minor league goalies such as Cory Schneider and John Curry still had paint on their masks, since the color schemes of their American League teams were the same or similar to their NHL squads.
If anyone can recall a recent double-white mask game, drop me a line. I’m thinking Martin Biron could have been involved in one when he was waiting for a trade out of Buffalo back in 2005 and 2006.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his features, The Hot List and Prep Watch appears Tuesdays and Thursdays.
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