Less Than ZeroPosted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
With 19 games remaining on their 2011-12 regular season schedule, the Florida Panthers are in the top spot in the Southeast Division standings. This is the latest stage of the season in which the Cats have occupied the catbird’s seat in the Southeast in a dozen years. Back in 1999-00, the Panthers were last knocked from the top perch on March 10, 2000. That’s also the last time the Panthers made the playoffs. Their current 11-year postseason drought is the longest in NHL history. Although the Panthers lead the Southeast, they’re also sporting a rather unsightly goal differential of minus-18 at the moment. You can’t look at official NHL standings for an accurate read on goal differential. For some reason, the league opted to award a goal in the “goals for” column to teams that win games in the shootout and a goal against in the “goals against” column to teams that lose games in the same fashion. This ridiculous practice started with the advent of the shootout in 2005-06. The next five weeks will determine whether the Cats can cling their claws to the top spot in the division and earn their first ever division title. But if they do, one thing to watch for along the way is goal differential. The Cats could end up with one of the worst goal differentials of any NHL division-winner ever. Through its first 63 games, Florida has scored 154 goals while surrendering 172 for a minus-18 goal differential. That’s legit, by the way, we subtracted the NHL’s door prize “goals” and “goals against” where appropriate. Here’s a quick look at how some other clubs fared in that regard in NHL history. The last team without a positive goal differential to win a division title was the 2001-02 Carolina Hurricanes (217 goals for, 217 goals against). That 35-26-16-5 Hurricanes team made an improbable run to the Stanley Cup final before being exposed in a five-game set by the Cup champion Detroit Red Wings. Prior to that, you’ve got to go back to 1988-89 when the Red Wings won the Norris Division with a 34-34-12 record and a minus-3 goal differential (313/316). The Wings were bounced in the first round of the playoffs that season. The 1986-87 St. Louis Blues won the Norris crown with a 32-33-15 record and a minus-12 goal differential (281/293). The Blues went out of the playoffs in the first round that season. The 1979-80 Smythe Division champion Chicago Blackhawks were 34-27-19 during the regular season with a minus-9 goal differential (241/250). That Hawks team went out in the first round. A year earlier, the Hawks won the sorry Smythe Division with a miserable 29-36-15 record and a minus-33 goal differential (244/277). They took a first-round vacation. The 1976-77 St. Louis Blues claimed the Smythe crown (detecting a pattern here?) with a 32-39-9 mark and a minus-27 goal differential (239/276). The 1975-76 Blackhawks won the Smythe with a 32-30-18 record and a minus-7 goal differential (254/261). The Hawks were jettisoned in the first round, naturally. Finally, the 1967-68 Philadelphia Flyers won the very first West Division title in the first season of the NHL’s Original 12, going 31-32-11 with a goal differential of minus-6 (173/179). The Flyers exited in the first round that season as well. The Panthers have easily the worst goal differential of any NHL division leader this season, but both of its pursuers in the Southeast Division chase also currently feature sub-zero goal differentials. Winnipeg is minus-13 (169/182) and Washington is minus-9 (171/180). It’s certainly possible that whichever team prevails in the Southeast will have the league’s worst goal differential for a division leader in a decade and the circuit’s only sub-zero number in that category in the last 23 years. Stick tap to a tweet from @MatthewLStewart for the inspiration for this post.
In an 11-game stretch that started on Dec. 20, the Capitals scored nine power-play goals in 27 tries for a lusty 33.3% extra-man success rate. They also posted a 7-3-1 record during that run. In their last 22 games, the Caps have gone 6-for-69 (8.7%) with the extra man and they’ve been outscored by