Thursday, February 8, 2024

When was the last time each unique score happened in the NHL?

I’m not an especially jealous person, but one of my great regrets as a sportswriter is that I’ve never been able to come up with an idea as cool as scorigami, the Jon Bois concept of a completely unique NFL score. It’s brilliant.

It also doesn’t work all that well in hockey, a sport that just generates the same handful of scores over and over. Or does it? That’s the question that more than a few of you have sent in over the years, most recently from reader Jaromir M: Are there any scores in NHL history that have never happened? That have happened only once? That haven’t happened in a long time?

Huh. That sounds like a column.`

Let’s start with some math. The most goals ever scored by one team in a regulation NHL game is 16. If we set that as our ceiling, that leaves us with 153 possible final scores. Of those, my dive into the games database tells me that 42 have happened during this current season, while 59 have never happened at all. (More on those in a minute.) That leaves us with 52 scores that have happened at least once, but not this year.

(By the way, a quick note on shootouts: They suck. A slightly longer note: The database doesn’t count shootout winners, meaning it considers a 2-1 shootout win to be a 1-1 final. The NHL does too, kind of, since they don’t give anyone credit for that shootout goals, although they do reflect them in the results. For our purposes, this doesn’t end up mattering all that much in terms of unique scores, but just know that shootouts are going into the books as ties. The way the hockey gods intended.)

Let’s dig through those and see if we can find any cool stories. We’ll work our way backwards through history, starting just a few months ago.

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