Top 10 interesting numbers so far, early in the 2016-17 NHL campaign
I’ve always been a numbers guy. Things that are strange and different than normal have always interested me. This fascination can help when it comes to fantasy hockey. Knowing which numbers are a sign of things can help you pick up on trends as they start to develop instead of waiting until everyone else catches on.
Looking at the NHL stats, there are plenty of interesting numbers at the quarter mark of the season. Here are their stories:
That’s the number of combined goals for Duncan Keith, John Carlson, Colton Parayko and Rasmus Ristolainen this season. Only Carlson has been disappointing across the board and not helping fantasy owners in many categories. The others have at least been somewhat fantasy relevant: Keith has 15 assists, Parayko is on pace for 224 shots, and Ristolainen is on pace to hit triple digits in shots, hits and blocked shots. It’s great that they can still be beneficial despite the lack of goal-scoring, but the goose egg really stands out.
That’s the goals for per game for the Rangers so far this year. A team hasn’t scored this many goals since the 2009-10 Washington Capitals. It’s getting to the point that Ranger players are becoming hot commodities in fantasy leagues. One of my points-only keeper pools doesn’t have a regular waiver wire. We call it an equalization draft. At one point during November, we can drop one player and pick up a replacement. Ten days ago, we held our equalization draft. Three of the first six picks were Rangers: JT Miller, Brady Skjei and Kevin Hayes. There’s a lot of optimism that New York can keep up this pace.
That’s the plus/minus for Michael Grabner. That not only leads the NHL, but is a career high for Grabner. He’s only had two games this year where he’s been a minus player. But everything about Grabner screams regression. Just click on his name and look at all the red that is saying he’s a great sell candidate. But he’s been wielding a hot stick and hasn’t slowed yet despite not seeing any power play time.
That’s the split starts between Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray in Pittsburgh’s last 10 games. I mentioned Fleury was a droppable asset in last week’s column as he wasn’t getting the starts. He’s starting more, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. In Pittsburgh’s last 10 games, Fleury has zero wins with a 4.02 GAA and a 0.890 SV %. Murray has five wins with a 2.22 GAA and a .918 SV %. How long can Pittsburgh keep starting Fleury?
That’s the number of league-leading faceoffs won by Ryan Kesler. Kesler has been great (and slightly underrated) in the faceoff circle for years. But he’s taken it to a new level this year as he’s won 60 percent of his draws. Kesler has to be the frontrunner for comeback player of the year. He’s on pace for 60 points, a plus-34, 82 PIM, 198 shots, 30 power play points and 1,122 faceoffs. That would put him in some elite fantasy company in many leagues.
That’s the goals against per game for the Minnesota Wild. It’s getting to the point you’re better off stashing some of your players that happen to play against the Wild that night. Only one other team in the past six decades have finished the season with less than a two GAA (the St. Louis Blues in 2011-12). It’s all thanks to the excellent Devan Dubnyk.
The number of goalies that have played 10 games (about half the season so far) and have less than 2.00 GAA. They are Pekka Rinne, Jimmy Howard, Carey Price, Devan Dubnyk and Tuukka Rask. Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy just miss the cut with eight games each, and Peter Budaj is just outside of the group with a 2.04 GAA. The last time five goalies hit that mark in the same year, you have to go all the way back to 1928-29.
That’s the number of blocked shots for league leader Erik Karlsson. That’s right. Erik freaking Karlsson leads the league in blocked shots. That would be like Sidney Crosby leading the league in penalty minutes. Amazingly, Karlsson has more blocked shots than shots on net and would be the first Karlsson had more of the former than the latter. Karlsson is on pace for 250 blocked shots. If he hit that mark, that would be the third-highest amount of blocked shots in the last five years.
That’s the goals for per game for the Buffalo Sabres. I talked a little about their scoring futility a few weeks back but this is still a crazy stat. The last time a team was this low was the Montreal Canadiens all the way back in 1935-36 when it was a 48-game season. The Sabres have pretty much killed all fantasy hope until Jack Eichel comes back.
That’s the amount of goals for Sidney Crosby so far. It leads the league. It’s even more remarkable when you remember he’s played just 16 games. I always get amazed at just how talented Crosby is. He’s only been held goalless in five games this year. And he gets the job done by playing with guys like Conor Sheary, Carl Hagelin, Scott Wilson, Matt Cullen and Patric Hornqvist. Just imagine how much damage he could do if he ever had a Jari Kurri type winger as his linemate.