The five most surprising statistics from the beginning of the NHL season

As of Saturday, Oct. 20, the NHL season is about 10 percent complete.

Although the standings still remain largely meshed, especially in the middle, a slight picture of the contenders and rebuilders can be made out. With that comes a list of standout performances and busts. This extends both team-wide and individually. 

Here are the five most surprising statistics from the beginning of the 2018-19 NHL season:

1. Max Pacioretty – one point in seven games for Vegas

The Golden Knights traded for Max Pacioretty in early September and immediate signed him to a four-year extension at $7 million per. The price for Pacioretty was high, as Vegas dealt Nick Suzuki, who was drafted in the first round in 2017, Tomas Tatar, who Vegas acquired for a first, second, and third round pick at the trade deadline, and a second-round pick for the power forward.

Since his arrival in Vegas, however, things have not gone smoothly for the player or the team. Through seven games, Pacioretty has only one point, which is a goal that came against Minnesota in the team’s second game of the year. Pacioretty is also averaging under three shots per game.

Since the dawn of the regular season, Pacioretty has seen his ice time diminished by Gerard Gallant as well. After skating for over 16 minutes in each of the first three games, marked by a season-high 20:44 against Minnesota, Pacioretty’s usage has dropped to as low as 13:24.

Vegas desperately needs Pacioretty to get going if it wants to repeat last season’s success. General manager George McPhee paid a king’s ransom to get the winger, and as of now, it has not worked out.

2. Maxime Lajoie’s hot start

Most people within the hockey world, if not all, predicted the Ottawa Senators to finish at the bottom of the league this season. However, the team currently sits at a comfortable 3-2-1 through six games.

A large part of this has been Maxime Lajoie’s emergence as a juggernaut on defense. The 133rd overall pick in the 2016 draft split time between the AHL and ECHL last season after a four-year stint with the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos.

So far in the pros, Lajoie is making the most of his opportunity. Without Dion Phaneuf and Erik Karlsson eating up minutes, Lajoie was able to step in and become a full-time player for Guy Boucher.

Through six games, he has four goals and seven points. Given his pedigree and past statistics, however, it is anyone’s guess as to whether or not Lajoie will keep up at this pace.

In fairness to Lajoie, stranger things have happened. Sometimes it just takes the right scenario for a player to thrive. Boucher and general manager Pierre Dorion are sure hoping that is the case.

3. Valtteri Filppula’s ridiculous shooting percentage

After John Tavares’ departure to Toronto in the offseason, the Islanders were left with an enormous hole down the middle. The short-term solution, at least for general manager Lou Lamoriello, was to ink veteran center Valtteri Filppula to a one-year deal.

Despite Filppula proving in the past that he can put up serious numbers (such as 58 points with Tampa Bay in 2013-14), the signing was met with plenty of scrutiny. Filppula had a rough few years in Philadelphia and it appears that his better days are behind him.

Since coming to New York, though, Filppula has shined. He was helped revitalize the Islanders’ penalty kill early on, and he has also racked up six points in six games in the meantime.

Filppula’s most absurd stat is his shooting percentage. On seven shots, he has scored four goals, which is good enough for a whopping 57.1 percent.

Obviously, Filppula will not be able to keep it up. In 2017-18, the highest shooting percentage for a player with over 50 games played was Alex Kerfoot at 23.4 percent.

The Islanders can only pray that this somehow keeps up. Even if it does not, however, Filppula has proven to be a worthy acquisition and could perhaps fetch them a mid-round pick in February.

4. Toronto’s absurd fun-factor

Everyone knows that the Toronto Maple Leafs can score goals. The Leafs’ top-nine is about as good as it gets. After eight games played, they rightfully lead the league with 33 goals for.

The Leafs, however, sacrifice plenty of defense in place of offense. They have given up the fourth-most goals against with 26, but the statistics get even more crazy from there.

Of the lowest seven players in terms of shot attempts against this season, five are Maple Leafs. Jake Gardiner leads the charge with 181 against. In fourth is Nikita Zaitsev at 174, and Morgan Rielly, Auston Matthews, and Patrick Marleau follow suit.

For the record, second and third belong to Cam Fowler and Josh Manson, respectively.

The fact that some of Toronto’s top players are high on this list is extremely concerning. If the law of averages holds true, then some of these shots are bound to go it. It is a troubling prototype that the Leafs are currently building, and it may be one that does not hold up in the playoffs.

5. Arizona’s bad luck

The Coyotes have had a really, really good start to the season, but they are only 2-4-0. That is because they have scored only seven goals despite averaging a ridiculous 35 shots per game.

To put it straightforward — the PDO gods are mocking Arizona.

The Coyotes simply have no luck. Injuries to players such as Alex Galchenyuk and Christian Dvorak certainly do not help, but they should not be struggling this hard to score goals and win games.

The Coyotes will turn it around soon and jump right back into playoff contention. Just the fact, though, that they are averaging 1.2 goals per game is hard to understand.

Like most things, there is still time for each of these five statistics to turn around as the sample size gets larger. But, whether things change for the better or worse, it is interesting to look at from an analytical perspective.

Reply on Twitter or drop a comment on the most surprising stat you saw in this article, or another one of your choosing that you have seen!

 

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