A truism from the (pardon the expression) New NHL™: Special teams are important. A key stat, the PP and its PK flipside. But what I'd like to see: stats kept on fouls committed, and who they've been committed against. The NBA (at least on fouls in the act of shooting) and soccer keep track in their play-by-plays of both ends of the candle, but the NHL, as far as I can see, does not.
|Tim Larsen/Associated Press|
|Gionta: A natural hat trick AND three power-plays created.|
I'm not being geeky here. Okay, perhaps a little. But in an age of new statistical paradigms, wouldn't this go further to defining a player's worth? Over at Raking Leafs, Mike noted this week how much more valuable (binkie alert) Kyle Wellwood is because of the fouls he forces opponents into making. It was on display again last night, a lovely little feint at his own blueline leading to an errant stick tap that put the Devils on the penalty-kill.
I kept a scorecard from last night's game on fouls (my call on the infraction, not the official one) - who committed them and (in bold here) who the foul was committed on, along with the ensuing PP result:
Ponikarovsky Tor hooking foul on Gionta, NJ = penalty killed
Brylin, NJ hooking foul on Wellwood, Tor = PP goal, O'Neill
Peca, Tor tripping foul on Gionta, NJ = penalty killed
McCabe, Tor hooking foul on Brylin, NJ = PP goal, Gionta
O'Neill, Tor roughing foul on Brodeur, NJ = penalty killed
Gill, Tor interference foul on Gionta, NJ = PP goal, Gionta
A pretty clean and tidy game here - some nights would be a lot messier. But look again, at the contributions of Brian Gionta. Besides that natural hat trick, he created a hat trick of power plays, and scored on two of them. That's outstanding New NHL™ work on the ice, and on and off the official scoresheet.
And while we're at it, on the subject of stats I'd like to see, how about fouls committed? The NHL has always put penalty minutes together, so majors and misconducts are lumped in with two-minute minors. To me, fouls committed and fouls forced are as important and directly related to those power-play numbers you see being tossed around every night. They're telling numbers, and tailor made for the way the game is being played now.