It was a frequent Islanders fan lament this year: "Man, how many freakin' posts is Tavares gonna hit?!"
Particularly during his mid-winter slump -- when he truly was struggling, and not just the victim of bad luck -- we'd look at John Tavares' demeanor and wonder if he'd be feeling better about things if just a few more of those posts had gone in. In retrospect, I like the idea of the #1 overall pick dealing with a little adversity early on, and getting a taste of how hard NHL life can be. Keep him hungry and driven.
But one lingering question: Is it true that he hit more posts than the average bear, or was it just our biased fan imagination? Thanks to Gabe Desjardins' mining of NHL play-by-play data at Behind the Net, we know the answer:
Tavares was "credited" with hitting 10 posts -- fewer than only four other NHLers in 2009-10. Four others also hit 10 posts, but they all threw at least 60 more shots toward the net than Tavares did. (If you're wondering, Kyle Okposo hit 5, Frans Nielsen 3; I'm pretty sure one of Nielsen's was in the shootout.)
Incredibly, Rocket Richard trophy co-winner Steven Stamkos (51 goals) led the way with 16 posts. Stamkos threw 426 shots toward the net -- 170 more than Tavares -- so if Stamkos had a "luckier" season, he'd be in some seriously historic territory. Note: Gabe's figures exclude empty-net goals and include shootout figures, so his shooting percentages are based on that as well.
Tavares is a true sniper: You can tell that when given more than an instant, he's not just heaving it at the net; he's picking spots. It should be no surprise that non-five-hole "spots" on NHL goalies are most often in that narrow five-inch area just inside the iron. Last year that resulted in a lot of metallic clanging; but with more shots, more experience and a little more luck next year, he should improve on his rookie year goal total.
Asking him to have a Stamkos-level sophomore year is asking a lot, but 30 goals or more? I'm counting on it. The goalie's best friend can't keep #91 down.