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NHL BY THE NUMBERS REVEALS A VAST AMOUNT OF STATISTICAL ODDITIES

A look at statistics from the 1996-97 season that you won't find any place but here:

The players

An odd stat of the Buffalo Sabres' season: None of the team's first 14 scorers was a first-round draft choice. No. 15 was Mike Wilson, who had 11 points.

Dan Bylsma of the Los Angeles Kings had the lowest shooting percentage in the league among forwards: 3.5 percent. At the other end, the Sabres' Miroslav Satan led the NHL at 21.0 percent.

Keith Tkachuk of the Phoenix Coyotes had 21.7 percent of his team's goals, tops in the league. The rugged winger, by the way, also led the league with 41 goals at even strength. Teemu Selanne of Anaheim was involved (goal or assist) on 44.5 percent of the Mighty Ducks' scores.

Rob Zamuner of the Tampa Bay Lightning had 17 goals, and none of them came on the power play. That was the largest such number in the league.

Buffalo's Matthew Barnaby lost his penalty-minute title to Gino Odjick of the Vancouver Canucks (371). Barnaby was sixth with 249; teammate Rob Ray was fourth at 286.

Todd Gill of the San Jose Sharks had 21 assists but didn't score a goal. The record for assists without a goal is 29 by Jimmy Thomson of the 1947-48 Toronto Maple Leafs.

Felix Potvin of the Toronto Maple Leafs allowed 224 goals, the highest number in the league. Greg Millen of the 1982-83 Hartford Whalers has the all-time record of 282. Potvin faced 2,438 shots last season. Not only was that the largest number in the league (Buffalo's Dominik Hasek was second at 2,177), it was the largest number in the past 15 seasons.

Dave Andreychuk of the New Jersey Devils has scored at least 20 goals in the last 14 seasons, the longest active streak in hockey.

Wayne Gretzky was the league's top scorer by far in the 1980s, and he is in the lead in the 1990s. The Rangers' center has scored 726 points since the start of the 1990-91 season. Adam Oates of the Washington Capitals is second at 695. Patrick Roy of the Colorado Avalanche leads goaltenders in wins in the 1990s with 216. He is followed by Ed Belfour of the Dallas Stars and Curtis Joseph of the Edmonton Oilers. Hasek is not in the top 10.

A good trivia question: Who has the most career points among players who have never won a scoring title? The answer is Mark Messier at 1,552, followed by Paul Coffey and ex-Sabre Dale Hawerchuk.

The Sabres made an odd bit of history in that their scoring leader, Derek Plante, only had 53 points. No scoring leader on a team with a winning record has had fewer points in the past 20 years.

Dale Hunter's appearance in the All-Star Game last winter means that ex-Jet Thomas Steen now has the most career points (817) without an All-Star appearance.

The teams

The Dallas Stars were the most improved team in the league last season, jumping 38 points from 66 to 104. By percentage, that's tied for the 10th-best jump in league history. A big reason might have been that the Stars improved their goals allowed by 82, best in the league. Ottawa was right behind the Stars with 36 more points, while Buffalo was a plus-19. Detroit, oddly enough, dropped 37 points in the standings . . . and went on to win the Stanley Cup.

Anaheim was 15 points better in the second half of last season than the first half; the Boston Bruins, meanwhile, went 15 points in the other direction.

The Sabres and New York Islanders were the youngest teams in the league, averaging 25.0 years of age. The Rangers were the oldest at 29.4.

The Sabres went into the final month of the season playing .610 hockey but finished at .561. That .049 drop was the largest in the league. Ottawa's record went .050 in the other direction. So much for momentum -- Buffalo beat the Senators in the first round of the playoffs.

If you count up which team drafted the most players in the NHL , the Rangers come up ahead with 38. The Devils are right behind at 36, while the Sabres are fifth at 31.

Despite relying on goaltending, Buffalo wasn't particularly good at winning one-goal games. The Sabres were 13-10 in such contests, while the Philadelphia Flyers led the league at 18-9. The Hartford Whalers finished ahead of the Calgary Flames for the first time in history. The two longest such streaks in the league now are the Canadiens over the Islanders and Red Wings over the Canucks, both of which date to 1986-87.

The Sabres used 31 different players, one more than the league-low of 30 by Dallas. In contrast, Toronto trotted out 45 players in 1996-97.

The Senators had 71 more power plays than short-handed situations. The Chicago Blackhawks, at minus-70, had the worst differential in the league.

The Coyotes' rookie class only played in three man games. Compare that to Calgary, whose rookies participated in 465 man games.

While the Sabres dominated the annual NHL awards in June with four winners, the Stars again sat and watched. They haven't had a winner since Al MacAdam took home the Masterton in 1980.

How will winning the Stanley Cup affect the Red Wings this season? History isn't kind to defending champs: Eight of the last 10 Cup defenders declined in winning percentage the following season.

The Blackhawks outscored their opponents by 13 goals, yet still had a losing record. Only the 1934-35 Red Wings had ever done that.

The Red Wings had waited since 1955 to win their Stanley Cup. Now the longest wait belongs to the Blackhawks, who last sipped from the Cup in 1961. By the way, the two longest such waits in professional sports are also from Chicago: the White Sox (1906) and the Cubs (1908).

The playoffs

Buffalo's seventh-game win over Ottawa in the first round of the playoffs was its first ever. Only Carolina, Phoenix, Tampa Bay and Ottawa haven't won a seventh game.

The Hurricanes have gone since 1986 without winning a playoff series -- the longest wait in hockey.

The Blackhawks can tie the Bruins' NHL record by qualifying for the playoffs for the 29th straight time.

A couple of ex-Sabres have reached the list of most regular-season games without appearing in the Stanley Cup Finals. Dave Andreychuk (1,083) and Phil Housley (1,067) are ninth and 10th respectively. Harry Howell is the all-time leader at 1,411, while current Coyote Mike Gartner is second at 1,372.

Brian Propp has the most career playoff points without winning a Cup (148), but Ray Bourque is right behind at 146.

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