Skip to content

Workhorse goalies, forwards from last season

Sep 1, 2014, 6:05 PM EST

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. Rangers take the positives out of OT loss to Red Wings

    Mar 5, 2015, 1:04 AM EST

    Cam Talbot AP

    Fighting for tops in the Metropolitan Division.

  2. Video: Hammond, Senators win again

    Mar 5, 2015, 12:19 AM EST

    Ottawa Senators v Winnipeg Jets Getty Images

    What a roll he and the Sens are on.

  3. Video: Iginla reaches 20-goal mark for 16th time in NHL career

    Mar 4, 2015, 11:36 PM EST

    Ottawa Senators v Colorado Avalanche Ottawa Senators v Colorado Avalanche

    He’s been consistently putting the puck in the net at the NHL level since 1996.

  4. Video: Zidlicky’s first goal with Detroit gives Red Wings OT win over Rangers

    Mar 4, 2015, 11:06 PM EST

    Marek Zidlicky, Jesper Fast AP

    What better way to make an impression on new teammates.

  5. Video: Byfuglien leaves game with upper-body injury

    Mar 4, 2015, 9:49 PM EST

    Dustin Byfuglien Getty

    Big Buff out could be a Big Loss for Winnipeg.

  6. Isles’ Martin suspended one game for ‘reckless’ knee on Daley

    Mar 4, 2015, 8:26 PM EST

    MartinDaley

    Also, for causing “significant injury.”

  7. NHL GMs to address emergency goalie rule following Florida incident

    Mar 4, 2015, 6:50 PM EST

    Roberto Luongo, Al Montoya Getty Images

    “It’s definitely an issue that needs a collective focus from our managers and the league in terms of how to deal with it.”

  8. Julien talks up Bergeron as next Bruins captain

    Mar 4, 2015, 6:18 PM EST

    patricebergerongetty Getty Images

    “It’s probably undeniable that down the road when [Chara] is done with his career, if Bergeron is here it would be pretty hard to not make him the next captain.”

  9. Get your game notes: Rangers at Wings, Rivalry Night

    Mar 4, 2015, 5:30 PM EST

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptyzogi1mdrmnjbmndc0odgwmzmyyzm5mmi3zdzjodlj AP

    An Original Six matchup at the Joe.

  10. Season over? Clarkson out 4-6 weeks with torn oblique muscle

    Mar 4, 2015, 4:43 PM EST

    New Jersey Devils v Columbus Blue Jackets Getty Images

    Has appeared in just three games for the Blue Jackets since being traded from Toronto.

  11. TVR to play this weekend for Rockford (AHL)

    Mar 4, 2015, 4:13 PM EST

    Trevor van Riemsdyk Getty Images

    ‘Hawks are hoping he can “recapture” his early-season form.

Featured video

Reactions from NHL trade deadline
Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. K. Okposo (2823)
  2. H. Lundqvist (2785)
  3. M. Giordano (2736)
  4. F. Andersen (2681)
  5. T. Seguin (2455)
  1. H. Zetterberg (2378)
  2. N. Horton (2338)
  3. T. Hall (2078)
  4. P. Sharp (1902)
  5. D. Clarkson (1887)