Backchecking: Still in search of Goal No. 1

Scott Cullen
10/22/2010 3:49:51 PM
Decrease Text SizeIncrease Text Size
Text Size

"Scoring a goal is a euphoric feeling and it's not so much the puck going in. It's the reaction from your teammates, the opponents and the fans like, to shut up a crowd or to have your fans go berserk is the greatest feeling. It makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up." - Brett Hull

A couple of weeks into the NHL season, there are still some forwards looking for their first goals of the campaign.  For some, it may be time for owners to cut them loose, while others might deserve a little more patience.

When trying to determine which players deserve more time, remember that goal-scoring requires shots on goal and, for those to come consistently, that requires both a healthy quantity and quality of ice time.

Alexander Steen, LW, St. Louis - He leads all Blues forwards in ice time (21:10) and shots on goal (21) through five games.  Even if he's not a natural finisher, the goals will start to come.

Simon Gagne, LW, Tampa Bay - The reason for this posting, as several have written to me wondering what is wrong with Gagne in Tampa Bay.  He's set to miss Friday's game with a neck injury (which sometimes is a euphemism for a concussion) and it's hard to say everything is fine with a guy who has no points and is minus-8 in six games, but...he's getting first unit power play time, does have 16 shots on goal (2.67 per game, albeit down from 3.16 per game in Philadelphia last year) and until Thursday night, had been playing more than 18 minutes per game.  He should start scoring soon.  Really.

Henrik Sedin, C, Vancouver - Playing even more than he did last season (20:05 to 19:41) and generating nearly as many shots per game (2.0 per game, down from 2.02 per game last season), but has yet to bury one after scoring a career-high 29 last season.  Considering he finished 17.5% last season, a downgrade in Henrik's goal-scoring was somewhat predictable.

Olli Jokinen, C, Calgary - Demoted to the second line now that Matt Stajan is healthy, Jokinen does have 20 shots in six games and his 18-plus minutes of ice time is about where he was with the Flames last season; which, come to think of it, does sound like potential goal-scoring disappointment once again.

Wojtek Wolski, LW, Phoenix - It's hard to figure why the offensively-challenged Coyotes would play Wolski just 14:52 per game (down from the 18:01 he played after coming over from Colorado at the trade deadline last year) but as long as he's getting mediocre ice time, it's not fair to expect anything approaching last year's breakout 23-goal, 65-point season.

Mike Richards, C, Philadelphia - He's still playing nearly 20 minutes per game, but the Flyers' captain was recently bumped from the first power play unit and his 15 shots on goal in six games (2.50 per game) is down from last year's 2.89 per game.  The goals will start to come, but maybe a third straight 30-goal season is going to be more difficult to achieve.

Tomas Holmstrom, RW, Detroit - His game is limited and he's 37-years-old, but Holmstrom also scored 25 goals last year and opened this season on the wing with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.  With only seven shots in six games, though, he's not getting the chances that will allow him to finish on his customarily high percentage (16.8% for his career) of his shots.

Mike Ribeiro, C, Dallas - No disappointment with seven assists in six games, Ribeiro historically scores on a high percentage (15.0%) of his shots, so he shouldn't be goalless for long.

Patrice Bergeron, C, Boston - Playing with rookie Jordan Caron and third-year winger Blake Wheeler, Bergeron got his first two assists Thursday against Washington.  Playing less than 18 minutes per game and getting secnod-unit PP time, he doesn't appear to be a serious offensive threat and if Marc Savard eventually returns, that would only drop him further in offensive priority down the middle.

Derick Brassard, C, Columbus - Looking to bounce back from a sophomore slump, Brassard is getting more shots on goal (2.4 per game compared to 1.58 per game last season), but he's only playing 14:15 per game; Brassard needs more than that if he's going to be a bona fide scoring centre.

Michael Frolik, RW, Florida - One of the few potential game-breakers for the Panthers, Frolik has come up with just one assist in five games despite playing with top pivot Stephen Weiss.  He did have a season-high four shots on goal and his first point in the Panthers' last game, so perhaps he's ready to snap out of his early-season funk.

Rich Peverley, C, Atlanta - The new regime in Atlanta hasn't been inclined to give Peverley significant power play time and if that doesn't change, playing under 17 minutes per game for a low-scoring team isn't a recipe for scoring success.

Jiri Hudler, RW, Detroit - Scored 23 goals in 2008-2009, scoring on 14.8% of his modest 1.89 shots per game.  With 1.67 shots per game this year, while playing his typical 13:32 each night, he's still waiting on goal No. 1. 

Sam Gagner, C, Edmonton - While he has yet to score more than 16 goals in a season, Gagner is getting nearly 19 minutes of ice time per game and, generally, on Edmonton's top line and first power play unit.  With four assists, Gagner is off to a decent start but, with these opportunities, goals should come too.

Mikhail Grabovski, C, Toronto - Four assists and plus-4 in six games is nothing to complain about, but Grabovski did score 20 goals in 2008-2009 and is certainly getting a chance to produce this year with a Maple Leafs lineup that is lacking firepower down the middle.  Which brings us to...

Tyler Bozak, C, Toronto - He wasn't a big finisher as a rookie, with eight goals in 37 games, but Bozak isn't going to score many goals with five shots on net in six games.  Even just picking up the scraps from Phil Kessel and Kris Versteeg, there have to be more chances available to him in 19 minutes per game.

Antoine Vermette, C, Columbus - Playing 19 minutes per game on a line with Rick Nash and Kristian Huselius, the offense should come, even if Vermette is more a high-accuracy (13.4% in his career) rather than high-volume (1.84 shots per game) shooter.

Martin Havlat, RW, Minnesota - While many on this list are disappointments early in the season, Havlat has been productive with six assists in six games.  Just as importantly, he's getting chances, with 17 shots in six games (2.83 per game), up from the 2.32 per game he averaged in an underwhelming 2009-2010 season.

Nik Antropov, C, Atlanta - Coming back from off-season hip surgery, Antropov has been eased into the lineup, playing just 13:27 per game (he averaged 18:14 per game with Atlanta last season).  Until he gets back to full speed and playing big minutes, he can hardly be expected to shoulder the offensive load for the Thrashers.

James van Riemsdyk, LW, Philadelphia - Getting more ice time in his second season (15:57 compared to 12:58 as a rookie) and generating a respectable 2.67 shots per game (up from 2.22 per game as a rookie), but hasn't found the back of the net.  With that many shots, the goals will start going in, but as long as there is such stiff competition for a spot on the Philly power play, JVR's upside will remain limited.

Taylor Hall, LW, Edmonton - When you're the first overall pick, expectations come with the territory and while Hall is going to have ups-and-downs and a minus-4 in the last two games doesn't seem to assure his place in the lineup, but he played 20:29 against Minnesota Thursday night and that kind of opportunity usually brings goals, especially for those blessed with that kind of pedigree.

Ville Leino, LW, Philadelphia - Like van Riemsyk, Leino has a hard time getting significant ice time (14:45 per game), but after his breakthrough performance in last year's playoffs, he has contributed four assists in six games.  He's not a volume shooter at the best of times, but until he has more than 1.33 shots per game Leino's not a great goal-scoring option.

Nikita Filatov, LW, Columbus - An offensively-gifted performer, Filatov gets prime power play time in Columbus, but he has to make more of a difference at even strength if he's going to become a legitimate contributor.  With seven shots in five games and 13:47 of ice time per game, he's not yet ready to take on the responsibility of being a goal-scorer.

Alexei Ponikarovsky, LW, Los Angeles - A pretty consistent 20-goal threat since the lockout, Ponikarovky is not being put in the position to score with the Kings.  Averaging 13:14 of ice time per game, with no power play time to speak of, he's managed just five shots on goal in six games, so until his situation changes, any offense from Poni will be a bonus.

David Clarkson, RW, New Jersey - Even if he's not an elite scorer, it doesn't look good for Clarkson to have no points and a minus-6 rating in seven games.  More encouraging for him, however, is that he's put 19 shots on goal (2.71 per game), an increase from 2.00 shots per game last season.

Ryan Callahan, RW, N.Y. Rangers - Playing nearly 21 minutes per game and leading the Rangers with 19 shots in five games, Callahan is due to start scoring.  Even if he's not a high-percentage shooter (9.0% in his career), continuing at more than three shots per game will put him in the red light district soon enough.

Jamie Langenbrunner, RW, New Jersey - At 35, it's fair to expect Langenbrunner's production to dip, especially if he's not on the wing with Zach Parise and Travis Zajac.  He played with Jason Arnott and Rod Pelley in Montreal Thursday night, so it's not fair to expect Langenbrunner to continue matching the career-bests he's been setting in recent seasons.

Troy Brouwer, RW, Chicago - After scoring 22 goals last year, expectations were pretty high for Brouwer this year, considering how many departures the Blackhawks had up front, yet somehow he's barely playing more than 14 minutes per game.  He's getting more shots on goal (1.75 compared to 1.55 in 16:22 per game last year), but the most positive development for Brouwer is that he played with Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp last game.  Those kind of linemates will give him a chance to feast on rebounds and deflections in front of the net.

Alex Kovalev, RW, Ottawa - My biggest red flag on Kovalev's decline last year was that he managed only 2.14 shots on goal per game, his lowest mark since 1993-1994, his second year in the league.  So far this year, he's averaging 1.83 per game, while playing just 15:17 per game. Now he's getting called out by his GM and skating with the fourth line in practice so, without a dramatic turnaround, the end may be near.

Niclas Bergfors, RW, Atlanta - Clearly not a favourite of the new leadership in Atlanta, as he has already been a healthy scratch and is averaging 13:09 per game, putting him behind the likes of 18-year-old rookie Alexander Burmistrov and Chris Thorburn.

Jakub Voracek, RW, Columbus - After a strong finish to his sophomore season last year, 21-year-old Voracek was one of my favourite breakout candidates this year; however, with only seven shots on goal in five games and playing a mediocre 15:06 per game, there's not a lot of reason to be optimistic.  On the pluis side, he was goalless through five games last year, with only five shots on goal, then scored four in the next four games.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen.  For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Tomas Vokoun and Simon Gagne (Photo: Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)


(Photo: Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Share This

Share This

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to FarkAdd to TwitterAdd to Stumble UponAdd to Reddit
Print this Story

2014-15 NHL Preview

From The Hockey Insider

TSN's Bob McKenzie sets up the start of training camp, going one-on-one with the GMs from all seven Canadian teams.

WATCH: Bryan Murray - Ottawa Senators

WATCH: Dave Nonis - Toronto Maple Leafs

WATCH: Kevin Cheveldayoff - Winnipeg Jets

WATCH: Marc Bergevin - Montreal Canadiens

WATCH: Brad Treliving - Calgary Flames

WATCH: Craig MacTavish - Edmonton Oilers

WATCH: Jim Benning - Vancouver Canucks

TSN.ca previews what to expect out of the NHL's 30 teams as we count down to puck drop. Check daily for team previews and updates on each Canadian franchise leading up to Oct. 8.

Latest Preview: Buffalo Sabres

TSN TweetBox
© 2014
All rights reserved.
Bell Media Television