New York Islanders: Why Clutch John Tavares Is the NHL MVP

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New York Islanders: Why Clutch John Tavares Is the NHL MVP
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Clutch performance measures abound in baseball, as statistics for both hitters and pitchers are available in "runners in scoring position" situations, late-inning one-run game situations, etc.

But football, basketball and especially hockey have not evolved as much with assessment of meaningful, clutch play.

Hockey player appraisals in particular hone in on points scored and perhaps "game-winning goals" but the emphasis is clearly on quantity of scoring, and not the "quality."

John Tavares does have eight game-winning goals, tied with fellow MVP candidate Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin. Those two trail a third MVP candidate, Tampa's Steven Stamkos who has 10 game-winners, as does Detroit's Johan Franzen and Phoenix' Radim Vrbata.

I have examined the top 33 NHL scorers and then eliminated three who have produced negative +/-s.

 

What distinguishes Tavares' season from the other 29 remaining top scorers is the following:

1. Every single one of his 70 points has been a significant score in a tight game. Most of the top players have padded their numbers by five-six "garbage-time" points.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Malkin has 84.7 percent clutch points, 72 of his 85.

Stamkos has 89.3 percent, 75 of his 84.

The Boston Bruins' Tyler Seguin  is lowest at 77.2 percent, 44 of 57 points being meaningful.

December 17th, 2011 he participated in scoring the fourth and sixth goals in a 6-0 win vs Philadelphia,

December 23rd, 2011 he tallied assists on goals seven and eight in an 8-0 shellacking of Florida,

January 12th , 2012 he was involved in scoring the fourth and eighth goals in a 9-0 slaughter of Calgary.

I am not being critical of Seguin for players just do not quit playing in a rout; moreover he has scored 44 meaningful points including six game-winners.

I'm citing Seguin simply to make the observation that not all NHL points are equally important.

For me, points scored late in the game of one that has a four-goal or more differential were deemed insignificant.

Tavares' 100 percent meaningful point-scoring is an impressive achievement.

 

2. Tavares has participated in 26 "first scores of the game" for the Islanders. Only Stamkos' 28 exceeds that.

Ottawa's Jason Spezza has 25 as does Dallas' Loui Eriksson, Vancouver's Daniel Sedin has 23, San Jose's Joe Thornton has 22, Montreal's David Desharnais  has 21, New York Rangers' Marian Gaborik has 20 as does Toronto's Joffrey Lupul, Philadelphia's Claude Giroux, Detroit's Henirk Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.

Phoenix' Ray Whitney has 18, Winnipeg's Blake Wheeler has 17, Boston's Patrice Bergeron has 16 as does Chicago's Patrick Sharp, Malkin has 15 and Nashville's Martin Erat has 12.

This "first score of the game" is a critical statistic because the first score in an NHL game has such an overwhelming impact on the outcome of the game.

 

The Rangers have a 67.9 percent winning record overall; it is 83.8 percent when they score first.

Nashville has a 64.3 percent winning record overall; it is 80.6 percent when they score first.

Boston has a 59.3 percent winning record overall; it is 82.8 percent when they score first.

Dallas has a 58.0 percent winning record overall; it is 73.0 percent when they score first.

Florida has a 57.9 percent winning record overall; it is 68.8 percent when they score first.

San Jose has a 57.1 percent winning record overall; it is 74.2 percent when they score first.

Phoenix has a 56.3 percent winning record overall; it is 75.0 percent when they score first.

Washington has a 55.7 percent winning record overall; it is 69.7 percent when they score first.

Los Angeles has a 55.7 percent winning record overall; it is 70.3 percent when they score first.  

Colorado has a 55.5 percent  winning record overall; it is 68.8 percent when they score first. 

Winnipeg has a 52.9 percent winning record overall; it is 63.9 percent when they score first.  

Tampa Bay has a 50.7 percent winning record overall; it is 62.9 percent when they score first.

Anaheim has a 50.0 percent winning record overall; it is 60.0 percent when they score first.

Edmonton has a 43.6 percent winning record overall; it is 55.9 percent when they score first.

Columbus has a 36.4 percent winning record overall; it is 51.6 percent when they score first. 

That's 15 NHL teams that boost their probability of winning by 10 percent or more by scoring the first goal of the game.

Another seven teams boost that probability by 8.4 to 9.9 percent (Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Toronto, Vancouver, St Louis and New York Islanders)

And four more teams boost that probability by 5.5 to 7.9 percent (New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Calgary and Buffalo

Now back to Tavares' 26 first scores.

Seventeen of those provided the Islanders 1-0 leads and they went onto go 12-3-2, 76.5 percent in those games. The dates for verification purposes include

October       13, 15, 22

December    3, 17, 20, 31

January        3, 14, 17, 19, 24, 31

February       24, 26

March           10, 11       

Six of them provided the Islanders 1-1 ties and they went 4-1-1 in those six games.

So in these 23 games the Islanders have played 16-4-3, 76.1 percent winning hockey.

In their other 48 games the Islanders have played 12-28-8, 33.3 percent winning hockey.

No other team's fortunes are so dependent upon one non-goalie player's performance .

Tavares' other three first scores came in attempted comebacks from 2-0 and 3-0 deficits.

Chicago is 7-0 when Patrick Sharp participates in a 1-0 score, Nashville is 9-0 when Martin Erat participates in a 1-0 score, Philadelphia is 9-1 when Claude Giroux is involved in a 1-0 score, NY Rangers are 10-1-1 when Marian Gaborik is involved in a 1-0 score and Ottawa is 11-3-2 when Jason Spezza participates in a 1-0 score.

Vancouver is 14-3-1 when Daniel Sedin scores for a 1-0 lead, Pittsburgh is 11-2-2 when Malkin participates in 1-0 score, San Jose is 5-0-2 when Joe Thornton involved in 1-0 score, Phoenix is 7-1 when Ray Whitney involved in 1-0 score and Detroit is 10-2-1 when Zetterberg scores for 1-0 lead.

Frustratingly for Tampa Bay fans, the Lightning are only 8-5 in the 13 games Stamkos has been involved in, providing them a 1-0 lead.

In conclusion John Tavares carries the heaviest scoring burden in the NHL and he has carried it well, providing hope that in the 2012/13 season the long downtrodden franchise can return to the playoffs and perhaps secure a new stadium.

In recognition of that burden and his success handling it, he deserves Most Valuable Player recognition.

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