The NHL’s regular season is heading into the final stretch, which means it is time to hand out our Fancy Stat Superlatives for the 2013-14 campaign. So without further ado, here they are:
Best player on a non-playoff team
The Calgary Flames never seemed to get themselves untracked. They had four losing streaks lasting four or more games, including a six-game skid early in the season, and could not establish themselves as a serious playoff contender. However, Mikael Backlund, their 25-year-old center, did all he could. The young Swede set career highs in goals (18), assists (21) and shots on net (178), plus he helped the Flames outshoot opponents 504-454 in even-strength play through Friday.
Worst player on a playoff team
The Philadelphia Flyers sent a 2014 third-round pick and a 2015 second-round pick to the New York Islanders for blue-liner Andrew MacDonald. They thought they were getting a stay-at-home defenseman who would benefit leaving the doldrums of Long Island for a contender. Instead, they got a 27-year-old who struggles to tilt the ice and drive play. Ignoring special teams and lead-protecting situations, the Isles saw just 43.3 percent of shot attempts in their favor with MacDonald on the ice. Philadelphia has gotten slightly better results at 46.6 percent; however, all MacDonald’s defensive partners are more effective when paired with other skaters.
Gustav Nyquist was cut from the Detroit Red Wings‘ roster at the beginning of the season, allowing him to gain some experience with their AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins. Then the injuries turned Detroit into a MASH unit and Hockeytown needed every healthy body it could muster. When Nyquist got the call, he didn’t disappoint. His nine points in 13 games in January helped earn him a spot on Team Sweden at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi in place of injured Red Wings teammate Johan Franzen. His 27 points in February and March over 21 games helped Detroit get in position extend its postseason streak to 23. No one saw this dark horse MVP candidate coming.
It is easy to look at all the star power on the Chicago Blackhawks and conclude that is the reason they have won two Stanley Cups in the salary-cap era, but don’t overlook the contributions of Marcus Kruger.
As you can see by the chart, Kruger is a defensive-zone specialist who often lines up everywhere but the offensive zone (x-axis). The darker the blue circle, the more shots go in Chicago’s favor.
In those crucial defensive-zone faceoffs this season, Kruger won more than 52 percent of his even-strength draws and went 81 for 156 during penalty kills, all for a modest cap hit of $1.3 million.