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Hold on to your Hats

Monday, 17.12.2007 / 6:00 PM / Features
By Jeff Paterson
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Hold on to your Hats
Watch the highlights, check the box scores, the hat trick seems to be making a comeback in the National Hockey League. In the 10 nights between December 6th and 15th there were been eight three-goal games registered and, on the season now, the feat has been accomplished 27 times.

In the past two weeks alone, teammates have scored hat tricks in the same game twice (Flyers Joffrey Lupul and RJ Umberger did it on December 11th and a night later Flames Jarome Iginla and Kristian Huselius matched the accomplishment) and Lupul had so much fun scoring three against the Penguins he followed that up four nights later by doing it again against Carolina.

So it seems that big offensive outbursts are en vogue these days. But it’s hardly going out on a limb to make the not-so-bold prediction that no one player will score three goals on Tuesday night at GM Place when the Canucks host the New Jersey Devils.

INSIDE THE BOX
Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight.

E-mail him at jeff.paterson@team1040.ca


FAST FIVE
Obviously, the all-world goaltending of Roberto Luongo and Martin Brodeur will have a big say in that as will the defensive styles both teams employ. But the main reason no one will score a hat trick in that game is that these teams just don’t surrender three goal games. And there’s statistical evidence to back that up.

In the two and a half seasons since the resumption of play in the NHL following the lockout, there have been 177 hat tricks recorded (79 in 2005-06, 71 last season and the 27 so far this year). Since the work stoppage, the Devils are the only team in the league that hasn’t been torched by an opponent’s three goal game. The Canucks have been burned just once -- by Milan Hejduk who had all three Colorado goals in a 3-1 Avalanche win in Vancouver on April 5, 2007.

 So combined, these two teams have surrendered just one hat trick since the lockout. No other team in the NHL has given up fewer than three hat tricks in that time. At the other end of the spectrum, the Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings and Toronto Maple Leafs have all been lit up 10 times since the work stoppage.

While those teams have all been victimized 10 times in two-plus seasons, the Canucks have been remarkably stingy for a while now when it comes to allowing one opponent to dominate them. Since the start of the new millennium, Vancouver has only given up eight three-goal games (while recording 19 of their own in those same seven and a half seasons including Markus Naslund’s franchise-tying 10th last month in Minnesota).

It hasn’t always been that way. There was a 16-game span in January and February of 1987 when the Canucks gave up hat tricks to Mario Lemieux, Mike Gartner and Rick Vaive. But that’s the last time a Penguin, Capital or Maple Leaf scored three in a game against Vancouver. Wayne Gretzky was the last New York Ranger to accomplish the feat in October of 1997, Dino Cicarelli the last Red Wing in April 1994 and Brett Hull was the last St. Louis Blue to beat the Canucks for three in a game and that was back in March of 1992.

What’s even more interesting is that for all the hockey the Canucks have played in recent years against Edmonton and Calgary and all the terrific talent those teams have possessed, Mike Grier was the last Oiler to net three against the Canucks and he did that in March of 1999 and Marty McInnis was the last Flame to fire things up against Vancouver scoring three times in a game in January 1998.

Milan Hejduk twice, Joe Sakic and Tyler Arnason (then with Chicago, but now a teammate of Hejduk and Sakic in Colorado) are the only guys to record hat tricks against the Canucks in the past five years.

Minnesota’s Marian Gaborik scored one against the Canucks on December 7, 2002. And Gaborik just happens to be the last guy to get one against New Jersey scoring three in a game on February 17, 2004.

So the Canucks and Devils have been pretty consistent when it comes to preventing any one player from single-handedly beating them on a given night. That’s why you can feel pretty confident about wearing your best hat to the hockey game Tuesday and have no fear that you’ll have to toss it on the ice.

SINCE THE LOCKOUT

Number of hat tricks in the NHL: 177
Most hat tricks by one team: 11 (Carolina, Atlanta, San Jose)
Most hat tricks by one player: Jonathan Cheechoo 8, Ilya Kovalchuk 6
Hat tricks by the Canuck: 5 (Bertuzzi 2, Burrows, D. Sedin, Naslund)

2007-08

Number of hat tricks in the NHL: 27
Most hat tricks by one team: 4 (Philadelphia)
Most hat tricks by one player: 2 (Joffrey Lupul and Ilya Kovalchuk)
Hat tricks by the Canucks: Markus Naslund November 21 @ Minnesota