blank'/> THE PUCK REPORT: April 2018

Monday, April 30, 2018

Today In NHL History - Kirk McLean's Game 7 Save

On April 30th in 1994, Vancouver Canucks goalie Kirk McLean denied Calgary Flames forward Robert Reichel of an overtime open net opportunity in Game 7 of the 1994 playoffs' opening round, in what is now known in Canucks circles simply as 'The Save'.
The spectacular save set the stage for Pavel Bure's double overtime series winner, considered by many as the Greatest Moment in Canucks History, capping the Canucks improbable 3-1 series deficit comeback with three consecutive overtime wins against the Flames and igniting their Cinderella run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Highlights from this historic Canucks Game 7 can be viewed below.
That's today in NHL history.

* See also Canucks Game 7 Overtime & Stanley Cup Finals.
* See also NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Game 7 History.

Today In NHL History - Steve Smith's Own Goal

On April 30th in 1986, rookie defenseman Steve Smith of the Edmonton Oilers accidentally played the puck off of goalie Grant Fuhr and scored on his own goal, putting the Calgary Flames ahead 3-2 in the third period of Game 7 of the Battle of Alberta Smyth Division Finals.
Smith's 23rd birthday blooper held up as the winner and Calgary took the series 4-3. The Flames would eventually advance to the Stanley Cup Finals only to lose to the Montreal Canadiens in five games.

That's today in NHL history.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Today In NHL History - Roger Neilson Surrenders

On April 29th in 1982, Vancouver Canucks head coach Roger Neilson surrendered to referee Bob Myers during Game 2 of the Campbell Conference Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks in protest of poor officiating.

Stymied by seemingly unjustified penalties, Tiger Williams suggested throwing all of the sticks on the ice. Coach Neilson replied, "No, I've done that before, let's surrender". And with that, a white towel was raised on the end of a stick for all to see and Towel Power was born.

Neilson was tossed and the Canucks lost the game 4-1. They went on to win the series against the Blackhawks by the same margin, advancing to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history.

Some 29 years later the Vancouver Canucks unveiled an 800 pound bronze sculpture by Norm Williams outside of the coincidentally named Rogers Arena, memorializing Neilson's historic stand that inspired a team and a tradition.

That's today in NHL history.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

2018 NHL Draft Lottery Results

Tonight Bill Daly presented the NHL Draft lottery results live on Sportsnet, with the top overall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, to be held on June 22-23, 2018 in Dallas, being awarded to the Buffalo Sabres. The actual lottery was conducted 30 minutes earlier in Sportnet's Hockey Central Studio in Toronto. This article and the video below, describes the process.
Designed to guard against teams purposely losing regular season games to improve their draft position, the weighted lottery system implemented prior to the 1995 NHL Entry Draft provides weaker teams with a greater chance of a higher pick without any guarantees for poor performance.

Until 2013, only the league's five worst regular season teams were eligible for the top overall pick, allowing teams to advance up to four spots and fall only one spot in the lottery. That changed in 2013 with all non-playoff teams eligible for the top overall pick albeit with their statistical likelihood directly tied to their final regular season standing. Though, a team could still only fall one spot in lottery position.

In 2014, additional changes were implemented for the lottery to reflect the competitive balance of the league, with more balanced odds being introduced in 2015 and separate draws starting in 2016 for the top three positions (as opposed to just for the top overall pick), allowing the league's worst regular season performer to slip as low as fourth overall (as opposed to just second overall under the prior regime).

The added wrinkle to this year's offering is the introduction of the Vegas Golden Knights. This expansion team is participating in its first draft and has been accorded the same starting probabilities as the 28th place finisher (i.e., Arizona Coyotes). If neither Las Vegas or Arizona win any of the three lotteries (i.e., 1st pick, 2nd pick, 3rd pick), then Vegas shall pick immediately before Arizona.

Despite Buffalo earning its favored first selection (1st, 18.5%), this year lottery again defied the odds delivering top picks to underdogs Carolina (2nd, 3.3%), Montreal (3rd, 9.7%), moving up nine and two spots, respectively. Ottawa and Arizona were the biggest losers of this lottery, each dropping two spots. 

For the third straight year, Vancouver dropped in the lottery. This year it was only one spot (6th to 7th), as opposed to the two spot drop in 2016 (3rd to 5th), and the historic three spot slide of 2017 (2nd to 5th). Interesting that the worst NHL team over the past three seasons has selected no better than 5th in any entry draft during that span.

The chart below shows final draft position by team with accompanying odds of selecting first, second or third overall, along with their most likely seeding in the lottery.
Draft Position 1st Pick    2nd Pick    3rd Pick    Likely Pick
1. Buffalo  
   4th (50.6%)
2. Carolina
   11th (69.6%)
3. Montreal
   6th (34.0%)
4. Ottawa
   4th (33.3%)
5. Arizona
   5th (37.7%)
6. Detroit
   6th (34.5%)
7. Vancouver
   7th (38.9%)
8. Chicago
   8th (39.5%)
9. NY Rangers
   9th (36.0%)
10. Edmonton
  10th (30.7%)
11. NY Islanders       
   11th (25.7%)
12. NY Islanders
   12th (78.0%)
13. Dallas
   13th (85.5%)
14. St. Louis
   14th (91.8%)
15. Florida
   15th (96.7%)

Per HockeyViz math wiz Micah Blake McCurdy, the lowest seven finishers (i.e., 24th to 30th overall) are more likely to fall one spot in the draft than to move up under the current draft lottery mechanism.

Remaining NHL Entry Draft positions are set after the playoffs with the Stanley Cup champion and runner-up picking 30th and 29th, respectively. Conference finalists (28th, 27th) as well as division winners and wildcard teams (26th through 15th) are then ordered among their respective subgroup based on regular season standings, positioning teams with better regular season records to pick later than their peers.

* See also 2017 NHL Draft Lottery Results.
* See also 2016 NHL Draft Lottery Results.
* See also 2015 NHL Draft Lottery Results.
* See also 2014 NHL Draft Lottery Results.
* See also 2013 NHL Draft Lottery Results.
* See also 2012 NHL Draft Lottery Results.
* See also 2011 NHL Draft Lottery Results.
* See also 2010 NHL Draft Lottery Results.
* See also 2009 NHL Draft Lottery Results.

Battle of Alberta & NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs

For the past four decades, the province of Alberta has hosted two NHL teams, the Edmonton Oilers (emigrating from the WHL in 1979) and the Calgary Flames (relocating from Atlanta in 1980). Separated by a mere 175 miles, these two franchises have forged one of the most intense rivalries in the game, playing hundreds of regular season games and five playoff series against each other, in what's known throughout the league as the "Battle of Alberta". The Oilers have qualified for the postseason 21 times, skating in the Cup Final seven times (1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1990, 2006) and winning the Stanley Cup five times (1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1990). The Flames have skated in the playoffs 22 times, cracking the Cup Final three times (1986, 1989, 2004) and hoisting once (1989).

To put the early years of these fierce provincial foes in perspective, both teams made the playoffs each year from their inauguration through 1991, with one of them skating in the Stanley Cup Final for eight consecutive years (1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990) and winning it six times during that span, spilling oceans of blood en route.

There were dark times too. Edmonton missed the postseason 17 times (1993-1996, 2002, 2004, 2007-2016, 2018), including a NHL record 10 consecutive postseason absences (2007-2016). Calgary failed to qualify for the playoffs 15 times (1992, 1997-2003, 2010-2014, 2016, 2018). 

Both missed the same postseason eight times (2002, 2010-2014, 2016, 2018), including seven of the past nine playoffs. On the other hand, both qualified for the same postseason 13 times (1981-1991, 2006, 2017), though it's only happened twice in the past 26 seasons (2006, 2017).

In terms of head-to-head playoff matchups, the Alberta teams have locked horns five times (1983, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1991). Edmonton has won all but one such series (1986), owing to a spectacular Steve Smith own goal, with the winner reaching the Stanley Cup Final four times (1983, 1984, 1986, 1988) and hoisting twice (1984, 1988) after such affairs.

Regarding other NHL teams facing both Alberta squads in the same postseason, only the Winnipeg Jets (1985, 1987), Los Angeles Kings (1989, 1990) and Anaheim Ducks (2006, 2017) have done it. To date, only the 2017 Anaheim Ducks have won series against both Alberta teams in the same postseason. 

Interestingly, when both Alberta sides have played the same opponent in a postseason, the victor has advanced to the Stanley Cup Final every time (1985, 1987, 1989, 1990, 2006) but once (2017), hoisting the Cup all but twice (2006, 2017).

With Edmonton and Calgary returning to the postseason in 2017, there's early signs the rivalry may reach its former heights in years to come.

For the sake of NHL fans everywhere, let's hope that happens.

Today In NHL History - Dale Hunter Hits Turgeon

On April 28th in 1993, Washington Capitals forward Dale Hunter delivered a late shoulder-separating hit on New York Islanders center Pierre Turgeon after the Lady Byng recipient converted Hunter's defensive-end turnover for the Isles 5th goal in Game 6 of the Patrick Division Semifinal.
Witnessing the foul firsthand at Nassau Coliseum, the newly appointed Commissioner Gary Bettman assessed a 21 game suspension costing Hunter $150,000, one-quarter of his $600,000 annual salary. New York beat Washington that night by a score of 5-3 to win the series 4-2.

That's today in NHL history.

Friday, April 27, 2018

NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Series Win Droughts

Every Stanley Cup winning season begins by qualifying for the postseason. Only 8 teams, however, take the second crucial step of winning a playoff series. For the remaining 23 teams, the playoff series win drought begins.

The chart below describes, in descending order, the number of seasons each of these 23 teams has gone without winning a series in the Stanley Cup playoffs, showing the last year they actually won a postseason series. Where no year appears, that team has NEVER won a playoff series.

Team       Seasons      Last Series Win
New Jersey
Los Angeles
New York*
New York^
St. Louis

* New York Islanders
^ New York Rangers

The Phoenix Coyotes hold the all-time series win drought record of 23 seasons going 14 seasons in Phoenix and 9 seasons in Winnipeg without a series win, a streak that was snapped in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.

The current leader is the Florida Panthers with 21 seasons separating them from a postseason series win. Arguably worse are the Columbus Blue Jackets who have never won a playoff series in their 17 season existence. This postseason was special for the Winnipeg Jets (formerly Atlanta Thrashers), as won their first ever playoff game on April 11, 2018 (6,767 days since their first game on October 2, 1999) as well as their first playoff series win, ending a 17 season drought on both counts.

Interestingly, 6 of the 7 Canadian teams (Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, Edmonton, Ottawa) find themselves on the list, with Winnipeg winning their first ever opening round playoff series this postseason. Unfortunately for the hockey-crazed nation, their teams also rank high on the Stanley Cup Championship drought lists, with 25 years separating the country from its last Cup win (Montreal 1993).

Of the eight teams advancing to the second round of the 2018 Playoffs, three (Washington, Pittsburgh, Nashville) won at least one playoff series last year.  None of the others (Tampa Bay, Boston, Winnipeg, San Jose, Vegas) won a series in the 2017 Playoffs, the latter not even being drafted.

Playoff berths are harder to come by every year. Make the most of each opportunity as parity promises your window will likely quickly close.

* See also NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Qualification Droughts.
* See also NHL Stanley Cup Final Appearance Droughts.
* See also NHL Stanley Cup Championship Droughts.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Game 7 History

When two teams split the first six games of a best-of-seven playoff series, a 'winner take all' Game 7 is staged. Heroes are born and victors crowned in this high-stakes affair. Not surprisingly, Game 7s have produced some of the most memorable moments in NHL postseason history.
Once reserved solely for the Semifinal and Final rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the best-of-seven format was expanded to include the Quarterfinals in 1968 and Preliminary round in 1987. Of the 651 best-of-seven NHL playoff series played, 166 (25%) have resulted in a Game 7 with the home team holding a healthy 97-69 (58%) edge. The team that scores first has a 124-42 (75%) edge, including a 5-0 record in 2016. 40 of the 166 (24%) Game 7s have gone to overtime, with the home and road teams each winning 20 times (50%).

Of the 166 Game 7s, 28 times a team trailing their series 3-1 won Game 7 and 4 times a team down 3-0 in their series won Game 7.  The most Game 7s in single playoff season is seven (1994, 2011, 2014). Only three times has a postseason gone without (1970, 1973, 1977).

Over the past 29 postseasons since the 1987 expansion of all series to best-of-seven, a Game 7 has been played in 122 of the 435 series. Put another way, 28% or approximately every 1 in 3.6 playoff series have gone to seven games. The chart below describes Game 7s by year, noting the number and round in which a seventh game(s) occurred.

Year: Game 7s (Round)                   Year: Game 7s (Round) 
1987: 5 (1P, 3Q, F) 2002: 5 (2P, 2Q, 1S)
1988: 3 (1P, 1Q, 1S) 2003: 6 (3P, 1Q, 1S, F)
1989: 3 (2P, 1Q) 2004: 5 (3P, 1S, F)
1990: 4 (3P, 1Q) 2006: 3 (1P, 1S, F)
1991: 4 (3P, 1Q) 2007: 1 (1P)
1992: 6 (6P) 2008: 3 (3P)
1993: 4 (1P, 2Q, 1S) 2009: 6 (2P, 3Q, F)
1994: 7 (4P, 1Q, 1S, F) 2010: 4 (2P, 2Q)
1995: 4 (4P) 2011: 7 (4P, 1Q, 1S, F)
1996: 2 (1Q, 1S) 2012: 4 (3P, 1Q)
1997: 3 (3P) 2013: 5 (3P, 2Q)
1998: 1 (1Q) 2014: 7 (3P, 3Q, 1S)
1999: 3 (2P, 1S) 2015: 5 (2P, 1Q, 2S)
2000: 3 (1P, 2S) 2016: 5 (2P, 2Q, 1S)
2001: 4 (3Q, F) 2017: 3 (2Q, 1S)

(P = Preliminary, Q = Quarterfinal, S = Semifinal, F = Final)

Breaking it down by round, the most Game 7s over the past 30 seasons on a percentage basis have occurred in Semifinal (17/60 = 28%) and Quarterfinal (34/120 = 28%), followed by the Stanley Cup Final (8/30 = 27%) and Preliminary (66/240 = 27%) round. Interestingly, 6 of the past 16 Finals and 5 of the past 8 Semifinals have been decided by a seventh game. In sum, the likelihood of a Game 7 in a NHL playoff series since 1987 is 1 in 3.5 for the Semifinal and Quarterfinal with a slight decrease to roughly 1 in 3.65 for the Preliminary round and 1 in 3.75 for the Stanley Cup Final.

The charts below show the total number of Game 7s played by each NHL team along with their win/loss records, with all-time statistics on the lefthand side and data since 1987 on the righthand side.

NHL Game 7s All-Time                   NHL Game 7s Since 1987
Team: Series (Record)       Team: Series (Record)
Detroit: 25 (14-11) Pittsburgh: 16 (10-6)
Boston: 25 (13-12) New Jersey: 15 (7-8)
Montreal: 23 (14-9) Washington: 15 (4-11)
Toronto: 22 (12-10) Boston: 14 (8-6)
Pittsburgh: 17 (10-7) Detroit: 14 (7-7)
Philadelphia: 16 (9-7) New York*: 11 (9-2)
St. Louis: 16 (8-8) Philadelphia: 11 (6-5)
New York*: 15 (9-6) Toronto: 11 (6-5)
New Jersey: 15 (7-8) Montreal: 10 (7-3)
Washington: 15 (4-11) San Jose: 10 (6-4)
Chicago: 14 (7-7) Vancouver: 10 (6-4)
Calgary: 12 (5-7) Colorado: 10 (4-6)
Los Angeles: 11 (7-4) St. Louis: 10 (4-6)
Edmonton: 10 (6-4) Los Angeles: 8 (6-2)
San Jose: 10 (6-4) Chicago: 8 (5-3)
Vancouver: 10 (6-4) Anaheim: 9 (3-6)
Colorado: 10 (4-6) Edmonton: 8 (5-3)
Anaheim: 9 (3-6) Calgary: 8 (2-6)
Tampa Bay: 7 (5-2) Tampa Bay: 7 (5-2)
Minnesota^: 7 (3-4) Buffalo: 6 (1-5)
New York**: 7 (3-4) Ottawa: 6 (0-6)
Buffalo: 7 (1-6)(5-2) Dallas: 5 (2-3)
Ottawa: 6 (0-6) New York**: 5 (2-3)
Dallas: 5 (2-3) Carolina: 4 (4-0)
Carolina: 4 (4-0) Minnesota^^: 3 (3-0)
Minnesota^^: 3 (3-0) Phoenix: 3 (0-3)
Quebec: 3 (2-1) Florida: 2 (1-1)
Hartford: 3 (0-3) Nashville: 2 (1-1)
Phoenix: 3 (0-3) Hartford: 2 (0-2)
Florida: 2 (1-1) Minnesota^: 2 (0-2)
Nashville: 2 (1-1) Winnipeg~: 2 (0-2)
Winnipeg~: 2 (0-2) Quebec: 1 (0-1)
Oakland: 1 (0-1)

*   New York Rangers
** New York Islanders
^   Minnesota North Stars
^^ Minnesota Wild
~   Winnipeg Jets (1979-1996)

Detroit and Boston have skated in the most Game 7s (25) in NHL history with Detroit and Montreal winning the most (14). Over the past 30 seasons, however, Pittsburgh has played more Game 7s (16) than anyone else and winning the most (10). Carolina and the Minnesota Wild have never lost a Game 7; Ottawa, Hartford, Phoenix, Winnipeg (1979-1996) and Oakland have never won a Game 7; and Winnipeg (formerly Atlanta) and Columbus have never skated in one.

In terms of winning more than one Game 7 in a single postseason, 22 teams have done it twice with only two teams winning three best-of-seven series in a Game 7 in a single playoff (Boston 2011, Los Angeles 2014). The chart below lists all NHL teams that have ever won two or more Game 7s in a single postseason, indicating year and rounds in which they turned the trick.

NHL Game 7s Won Same Year
Year: Team (Round)
1950: Detroit (S, F)*
1964: Toronto (S, F)*
1968: St. Louis (Q, S)
1990: Chicago (P, Q)
1993: Toronto (P, Q)
1994: New York^ (S, F)*
2001: Colorado (Q, F)*
2002: Colorado (P, Q), Toronto (P, Q)
2003: New Jersey (S, F)*, Minnesota (P, Q)
2004: Tampa Bay (S, F)*
2006: Carolina (S, F)*
2009: Carolina (P, Q), PIT (Q, F)*
2010: Montreal (P, Q)
2011: Boston (P, S, F)*
2012: New York^ (P, Q)
2014: Los Angeles (P, Q, S)*
2015: Tampa Bay (P, S)
2016: St. Louis (P, Q)
2017: Pittsburgh (Q, S)*

* Stanley Cup Champion
^ New York Rangers

(P = Preliminary, Q = Quarterfinal, S = Semifinal, F = Final)

The 2017 postseason featured three Game 7s, with the team that scores first going 3-0, home teams holding a 2-1 record, and none recovering from a 3-1 series deficit.
Game 7 ... kill or be killed.

* See also NHL Playoff Comebacks Trailing 3-0.
* See also NHL Playoff Comebacks Trailing 3-1.
* See also NHL Stanley Cup Playoff First Round Upsets.
* See also Canucks Game 7 Overtime & Stanley Cup Finals.

Today In NHL History - Carcillo Fights Talbot

On April 25th in 2009, Pittsburgh Penguins forward Maxime Talbot challenged Philadelphia Flyers tough guy Daniel Carcillo to a scrap down 3-0 in the second period of Game 6 of the Conference Quarterfinals.

Carcillo won the fight but Pittsburgh stole the momentum responding with five unanswered goals to win the game 5-3, clinch the series 4-2 and eventually hoist the Stanley Cup seven weeks later. Though some discredit the fight as a turning point, Talbot's silencing was golden.

On July 1, 2011, the Flyers parted ways with Carcillo and signed Talbot. Carcillo took a one year $750,000 deal with the Chicago Blackhawks. Talbot earned a five year $8.75m deal with the Flyers.

That's today in NHL history.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Today In NHL History - Alan Eagleson

On April 24th in 1933, Robert Alan Eagleson was born in St. Catherines, Ontario. Once considered the most powerful man in hockey, Eagleson's reputation was destroyed and person imprisoned when his fraudulent ways towards his colleagues and clients were revealed.

Starting out as a player agent before pioneering the NHLPA and international tournaments among professionals (1972 Summit Series, 1976 Canada Cup), the NHL icon was enshrined into the Hockey Hall of Fame and appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1989 only to have both honors stripped nine years later upon cross border convictions.

The unraveling originated with articles penned by player agents Ritch Winter and Ron Salcer, and Eagle-Tribune sports editor Russ Conway. Allegations of embezzlement, colluding to repress player salaries, misrepresenting player negotiations, and skimming disability funds resulted in disbarment as a lawyer, U.S. courts taking his money ($700,000) and Canada's his freedom (18 month sentence of which he served six), as described in Conway's 'Game Misconduct'.

That's today in NHL history.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Today In NHL History - Ference Fingers Montreal

On April 21st in 2011, Boston Bruins blueliner Andrew Ference celebrated his first playoff goal in a decade, tying the game 2-2 in the opening period, with a one finger salute for the Montreal Canadiens fans at the Bell Center.
Afterwards, a straight-faced Ference assured anyone who would listen that the unpenalized gesture was inadvertent, noting that his glove "got caught up" as he was pumping his fist in the air.
The NHL didn't buy it either, electing to fine Ference $2,500, the maximum allowable amount under Rule 75.5(ii) for unsportsmanlike conduct, representing 1/900th of his $2.25m annual salary.

Fourteen months later Ference came clean admitting he intentionally flipped-off Habs fans and cowardly lied to cover his tracks:

"Accountability is lacking in our world. Just look at nuisance lawsuits, or the finger-pointing of politicians around the globe. I am guilty myself of trying to blame a middle-fingered celebration after a goal in Montreal on a glove malfunction. In round one of the playoffs between two of the fiercest rivals in our sport, I scored a tying goal in the enemys building, only to have my fist pump turn into a sign language that crosses all borders. Facing the media and a possible suspension after the fact proved to be too much for my self-accountability. Self-preservation is a powerful thing it is easier to place blame elsewhere and overlook your own responsibilities."

Boston went on to beat Montreal that night in overtime by a score of 5-4, knotting their first round best-of-seven series at 2-2.

That's today in NHL history.

Today In NHL History - Lidstrom Beats Cloutier

On April 21st in 2002, Norris winner Nicklas Lidstrom scored on Vancouver Canucks netminder Dan Cloutier from center ice in the final minute of the second period breaking a 1-1 tie in Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarter-finals.

The goal marked a playoff turning point as the Detroit Red Wings won the game 3-1 and overcame a 2-0 series deficit to steal the series 4-2. 52 days later Detroit hoisted the Stanley Cup with Lidstrom taking the Conn Smythe trophy as the MVP of the 2002 Stanley Cup playoffs.

That's today in NHL history.