Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Ten scary starts to the NHL season

It’s Halloween, which means most of us will want to shut off the lights tonight and settle in with a scary movie or two. There’s just something about Oct. 31 that makes you want to shudder in fear while waiting for some hapless character to get hacked to bits.

Then again, you could save yourself some time and skip the movie. If you want a good scare at this time of year, all you need to do is check out the NHL stats page, where some players are off to truly frightening starts.

So today, let’s take a look at 10 of the scariest starts we’re seeing around the league, and whether there’s any hope of ending of their stories ending happily.

Frederik Andersen, Maple Leafs

Through 11 starts, he’s sporting some ugly numbers, including an .896 save percentage and 3.46 goals against. And it’s not like those stats are being thrown off by one or two bad performances. If anything, it’s the opposite, as Andersen has had only five games with a save percentage over .870. And lately, Leafs fans are getting used to seeing him beaten clean on high shots, often barely moving as the puck blows by him.

For a quasi-Cup contender that doesn’t seem to have much confidence in its backups, that’s worrying. Last night’s strong effort in San Jose was a good sign, but there hasn’t been much consistency yet on the year.

If the season were a horror movie, he’d be: The big guy with the goalie mask who makes you feel really nervous every time he’s on the screen.

Odds of a happy ending: We’ve been down this road before with Andersen, who started slowly last year, too. He eventually got back on track, and was one of the league’s better goalies from November on. That was a good reminder that goaltending is voodoo, and that everyone has a bad stretch or two over the course of a season. There’s a good chance that’s the case here, too.

And as rough as Andersen’s start has been, he still has six wins, so it’s not like he’s sinking his team. Still, Leaf fans wouldn’t mind seeing him string together a few solid starts to ease the tension.

Kris Letang, Penguins

After missing last year’s entire post-season run due to a neck injury that required surgery, Letang’s return to the Penguins’ lineup was supposed to provide a big boost to a team that had lost several depth pieces. He’s put up eight points through 13 games, which isn’t bad. But he’s also a -14 on the year, ranking him dead last in the league. We all know that +/- is a flawed stat that has as much to do with circumstance as actual performance. But an extreme number can still tell you something, and in Letang’s case it’s not anything good.

If the season were a horror movie, he’d be: The good guy who seems to have done something to accidentally trigger an ancient curse.

Odds of a happy ending: In addition to missing a Stanley Cup run due to last year’s neck injury, Letang has also had to battle through multiple concussions, groin problems, various upper- and lower-body injuries, and even a stroke. Now he’s getting pummelled by a stat that’s largely luck-based. Chances are his numbers even out over time, and here’s hoping he can stay healthy this year. But just in case, maybe don’t let him pick your lotto numbers.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

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