Cullen: First Quarter NHL Awards and Stats

Scott Cullen

11/25/2010 1:44:50 PM

A quarter of the way through the NHL season, a look at NHL awards and some goal and shot differential leaders:

Winner: Steven Stamkos, C, Tampa Bay
Runners-up: Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh; Brad Richards, C, Dallas

It's a close race between the league's two top scorers, but the slight edge to Stamkos, who is just off goal-per-game pace.

Winner: John-Michael Liles, Colorado
Runners-up: Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit; Dustin Byfuglien, Atlanta

An unbelievable start for Liles, whose best year so far has been his rookie season (2005-2006: 49 points, plus-5), but is the only D-man with at least 20 points and a plus-10 rating through the first quarter.

Winner: Tomas Plekanec, C, Montreal
Runners-up: Ryan Kesler, C, Vancouver; Martin Hanzal, C, Phoenix

Many contenders, but Plekanec remains a two-way force who scores a point-per-game yet is effective on the penalty kill and 5-on-5.

Winner: Tim Thomas, Boston
Runners-up: Carey Price, Montreal; Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles

Phenomenal starts for all three, but tough to beat Thomas' 1.46 goals against average and .955 save percentage.

Winner: Sergei Bobrovsky, G, Philadelphia
Runners-up: Logan Couture, C, San Jose; Jeff Skinner, RW, Carolina

Bobrovsky has allowed two goals or fewer in 11 of 17 starts and a .925 save percentage gives the Flyers more stability than expected in goal. Couture leads all rookies in goals (8) and shots on goal (70), while Skinner tops the freshman points race (17).

Winner: Guy Boucher, Tampa Bay
Runners-up: Dave Tippett, Phoenix; Craig Ramsey, Atlanta; Scott Arniel, Columbus

Perhaps not surprisingly, first-year coaches are having an immediate effect on their new teams, but had to include Tippett again, as he's guided the Coyotes to top spot in the Pacific Division.

Digging in, just a little for some deeper stats from the always awesome

First, the best goal differentials (5-on-5, per 60 minutes, minimum 12 games played):

1. Mathieu Darche LW Montreal 2.96
2. Scott Hartnell RW Philadelphia 2.60
3. Danny Briere C Philadelphia 2.60
4. Sean O'Donnell D Philadelphia 2.56
5. Kevin Porter C Colorado 2.54
6. Alexandre Picard D Montreal 2.51
7. Milan Lucic LW Boston 2.45
8. Andreas Nodl RW Philadelphia 2.45
9. Steve Montador D Buffalo 2.45
10. Andrej Meszaros D Philadelphia 2.40

Obviously, the Flyers' depth has been outstanding, with their third defensive pairing much more stable than in last year's playoffs and a young forward, Andreas Nodl, is emerging as a contributor. Montreal's doing okay with a couple of guys who would generally be considered spare parts, defenceman Alexandre Picard and veteran winger Mathieu Darche.

On the other hand, the worst goal differentials (5-on-5, per 60 minutes, minimum 12 games played):

517. James Wisniewski D N.Y. Islanders -2.62
518. John Tavares C N.Y. Islanders -2.62
519. Todd Marchant C Anaheim -2.70
520. Andrew Cogliano C Edmonton -2.87
521. Matt Martin LW N.Y. Islanders -2.89
522. Jon Sim LW N.Y. Islanders -2.93
523. Shaone Morrisonn D Buffalo -2.94
524. Kevin Westgarth LW Los Angeles -3.34
525. Krys Barch RW Dallas -3.55
526. Kyle Clifford LW Los Angeles -4.18

Not altogether surprising to have four Islanders in the bottom ten, and tough guys tend to fare either really well or really poorly because of their limited playing time. Perhaps the most troubling then, would be Shaone Morrisonn, who has struggled in Buffalo, or Andrew Cogliano, who isn't developing as hoped in Edmonton.

Going beyond the goals, a look at the best shot differentials (5-on-5, per 60 minutes, minimum 12 games played):

1. Mikael Backlund C Calgary 15.1
2. Mikael Samuelsson RW Vancouver 14.4
3. Nathan Gerbe C Buffalo 14.3
4. Joe Pavelski C San Jose 14.0
5. Adam Hall RW Tampa Bay 14.0
6. Nate Thompson C Tampa Bay 13.8
7. Tim Connolly C Buffalo 13.7
8. Jochen Hecht LW Buffalo 12.6
9. Ryane Clowe LW San Jose 12.6
10. Mason Raymond LW Vancouver 12.3

The Sharks' second line, featuring Pavelski and Clowe, is one of the league's best, so no shock to see that they tend to control play, while the Sabres' second unit hasn't finished as well despite their territorial advantage. Impressive to see Tampa Bay's fourth liners contributing too.

The worst shot differentials (5-on-5, per 60 minutes, minimum 12 games played):

517. Johnny Oduya D Atlanta -12.9
518. Zack Stortini RW Edmonton -13.4
519. Lauri Korpikoski LW Phoenix -13.5
520. Peter Schaefer LW Vancouver -14.2
521. Ryan Jones LW Edmonton -14.5
522. Krys Barch RW Dallas -15.1
523. Magnus Paajarvi LW Edmonton -15.5
524. Erik Christensen C N.Y. Rangers -15.7
525. Colin Fraser C Edmonton -16.7
526. Tanner Glass LW Vancouver -23.6

Lots of grinders, though Christensen has seen time with Marian Gaborik and Alexander Frolov in New York. Tough times for Paajarvi as he's adjusting to the North American game with a young team that is struggling and Oduya -- the only defenceman in the bottom ten -- strangely enough, plays more than 22 minutes per game for the Thrashers.

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