Skip to content

Workhorse goalies, forwards from last season

Sep 1, 2014, 6:05 PM EDT

2014 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five Getty Images

It’s Labor Day, so this seems like an appropriate time to consider hard work in hockey.

Sure, these players are all well-compensated for their efforts, but perhaps this will provide a little thematic entertainment. We took a look at the “hardest working” defensemen in this post, but now let’s consider goalies and forwards.

A few ground rules before you get too angry on your day off:

1. This is based on 2013-14 stats.

2. Quantity generally beats out quality in many cases, so players who logged 70+ games have a much better chance than someone who was injured but faced tough assignments when healthy.

3. By no means is this a comprehensive list and this isn’t meant to judge subjective things like “effort.” It’s mainly based on how a player was deployed. In other words, team styles and coaching in general made a big impact.

Got it? Let’s roll:

Anze Kopitar

At this point, leaving the Los Angeles Kings’ center off any “best forward in hockey” discussion is foolish. SB Nation’s Adam Gretz does a great job summarizing his all-around brilliance:

Since the start of the 2011-12 season with Kopitar on the ice at even-strength, the Kings have attempted 60 percent of the shot attempts (the third best mark in the NHL, behind only Kopitar’s teammate Justin Williams and Bergeron) and scored more than 61 percent of the goals. He’s also averaged more than two minutes of shorthanded ice-time per game over that stretch (tops among Kings forwards) and has 53 power play points.

Sean Couturier

Much like overall shorthanded time leader Braydon Coburn, playing for the league’s most penalized team probably inflates Philadelphia Flyers center Sean Couturier’s PK numbers … but they still tower above other forwards expected to chip in at least some offense (sorry Manny Malhotra). Couturier’s only competition in total penalty killing time among forwards was Jay McClement, but Couturier logged more than four minutes of total ice time per game than the former Toronto Maple Leafs defensive specialist, giving him more all-around duties.

(Flyers fans are justified in smiling at the fact that his cap hit will only be $1.75 million for the next two seasons.)

Tomas Plekanec

It’s tempting to place Patrice Bergeron here being that he’s arguably the best two-way forward in the NHL (with a handful of others making a strong argument). Just look at this chart, which is one way of showing much opposing shooters struggle to score when Bergeron’s on the ice:

So consider that a mention of sorts, but the Boston Bruins probably share the defensive burden better than most (Bergeron averaged just under two minutes of shorthanded time per game, a healthy but not outrageous average). One might look to Boston’s hated rivals in Montreal for a guy who carries a remarkable workload for a quality scorer.

Tomas Plekanec wasn’t all that great at draws, yet he won the most shorthanded faceoffs in the league for a good reason: he was on PK duty a lot. Plekanec averaged 2:57 shorthanded time per game, not all that short of Couturier’s daunting 3:25 average. On top of that, Plekanec began only 38 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, which essentially places him alongside “defensive specialists.”

His offensive output of 20 goals and 43 points looks pretty solid considering all of that heavy lifting.

Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux, Ryan Getzlaf and other scorers under pressure

While Erik Karlsson carries a staggering amount of offensive responsibilities in Ottawa, there are plenty of forwards who are expected to score on a nightly basis. Sidney Crosby was involved in 42.9 percent of the Pittsburgh Penguins 242 goals while Claude Giroux (36.9 of Philadelphia’s tallies) and Ryan Getzlaf (33 percent of Anaheim Ducks’ 263 goals) weren’t far behind. Getzlaf boasted one of the better alternate Hart arguments when you consider his 2:07 shorthanded time per game combined with his second-best scoring output.

Semyon Varlamov

It’s easy to see why the Colorado Avalanche’s No. 1 goalie pushed Tuukka Rask in the Vezina voting, as Varlamov was crucial to his team’s surprising season.

Varlamov easily topped all goalies in save attempts (2,013) and saves (1,867) as Kari Lehtonen came in distant second with 1,888 attempts and 1,735 saves. Varlamov’s 63 games played wasn’t short of the largest workload, finishing just two contests behind Lehtonen. All things considered, it’s really impressive that Varlamov topped all goalies with 41 wins while generating an impressive .927 save percentage.

(In case you’re wondering, Rask made 1,568 saves with an outstanding .930 save percentage.)

With a nod to Ryan Miller absorbing buckets of shots in Buffalo, it’s hard to make an argument for any goalie’s job being tougher than Varlamov’s last season. Should the Avs be worried about the goaltending equivalent of the NFL running back “Curse of 370,” then?

***

Maybe even more than the defensemen list, omissions are likely here in part for space reasons (Ryan Kesler‘s an honorable mention, for one). Feel free to add some names to consider in the comments, then.

Latest Posts
  1. Capitals’ third line stands out in Game 3

    May 4, 2015, 11:19 PM EDT

    New York Rangers v Washington Capitals - Game Three Getty Images

    Washington needs its bottom-six forwards to keep contributing in order to go deep into the playoffs.

  2. Holtby outduels Lundqvist as Caps take series lead

    May 4, 2015, 10:28 PM EDT

    Braden Holtby Getty Images

    It was his first shutout of the 2015 playoffs.

  3. Colorado College, University of Denver will play at Coors Field

    May 4, 2015, 9:40 PM EDT

    Coors Field Getty Images

    It’s part of the leadup to the Detroit vs. Colorado outdoor game.

  4. Video: Capitals strike first on Beagle’s determination goal

    May 4, 2015, 9:04 PM EDT

    Beagle goal

    Andre Burakovsky got his first career playoff point.

  5. Shero aims to bolster Devils offensively

    May 4, 2015, 8:23 PM EDT

    Ray Shero Getty Images

    “Without that, goaltending and team defense can only take you so far.”

  6. WATCH LIVE: Rangers at Capitals

    May 4, 2015, 6:12 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptixndgwywu5y2yynznhztc4ndzloda5ownkmzfjyzyy AP

    The series is tied at 1-1.

  7. Bolts will protect Bishop ‘as we see fit’

    May 4, 2015, 5:42 PM EDT

    Brandon Prust, Ben Bishop Getty Images

    And they’ll gladly keep taking man advantage opportunities, too.

  8. Red Wings’ Devellano calls Mantha ‘very, very, very disappointing’

    May 4, 2015, 4:24 PM EDT

    Val'Dor Foreurs v Guelph Storm - Game Four Getty Images

    “Coming out of junior, we had such high hopes for him.”

  9. Rangers haven’t granted B’s permission to interview assistant GM Gorton

    May 4, 2015, 3:31 PM EDT

    2014 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Practice Sessions Getty Images

    And Glen Sather isn’t sure he’ll ever permit it, either.

  10. Once again, Rick Nash isn’t scoring in the playoffs

    May 4, 2015, 3:10 PM EDT

    Washington Capitals v New York Rangers - Game Two Getty Images

    “I have to get to the inside; that’s the biggest thing.”

  11. Five team stats you may find interesting

    May 4, 2015, 2:28 PM EDT

    Calgary Flames v Anaheim Ducks - Game One Getty Images

    The Ducks have been deadly on the power play, unlike during the regular season.

  12. Armstrong: All Blues signings on hold ’til Tarasenko ‘taken care of’

    May 4, 2015, 1:12 PM EDT

    tarasenkogetty Getty Images

    “If it means allowing players to go to free agency, if it means making players sweat it out on what their deal’s going to be, he’s the priority for us.”

  13. Canucks assign Virtanen, McCann to AHL Utica

    May 4, 2015, 1:07 PM EDT

    2014 NHL Draft - Round 1 Getty Images

    Virtanen was the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft.

  14. Welcome back, Manitoba Moose

    May 4, 2015, 12:49 PM EDT

    Moose

    Jets’ AHL team will play at the MTS Centre next season.

  15. Weiss unsure about his spot in Detroit next season

    May 4, 2015, 12:34 PM EDT

    Toronto Maple Leafs v Detroit Red Wings Getty Images

    He’s hoping to “find a way to get a bigger role.”

  16. ‘You can’t win,’ ex-NHL ref Fraser says of Prust incident

    May 4, 2015, 11:37 AM EDT

    Ottawa Senators v Montreal Canadiens - Game Two Getty Images

    “Prust has engaged himself in something that’s going to take him into an area where he doesn’t want to be part of.”

Featured video

Stanley Cup playoff Round 2 preview
Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. K. Letang (1508)
  2. J. Hudler (1489)
  3. M. Zidlicky (1482)
  4. N. Beaulieu (1437)
  5. C. Perry (1422)