NHL Central Division Misery Index: How a Farmington Hills native is outscoring Gordie Howe

Detroit Free Press

Ryan Ford | Detroit Free Press

It was a big week for milestones in the NHL’s Central Division.

On Sunday, Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle played in his 1,000th game, the 116th defenseman with that many games, and the 19th American D-man to hit the mark. (It was also the 890th consecutive game for Yandle, third all-time. He’s 25 games from passing former Detroit Red Wing Garry Unger for No. 2 and 75 from passing Doug Jarvis for No. 1.)

Also on Sunday, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Pat Maroon picked up his 100th career goal (in his 536th game); only five of those have come against the Wings, in case you thought he was getting a late-career boost from playing in the same division.

But the big mark was set Friday night, by Alex DeBrincat in the Chicago Blackhawks’ win over the Lightning. The Farmington Hills native, playing in his 256th career NHL game, scored his 100th goal midway through the first period (and then No. 101 about 14 minutes later).

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That 256-game mark might not seem that fast — Wayne Gretzky did it in 145, after all, and Mike Bossy was No. 1 with 129 games — but it puts DeBrincat in decent company.

It took Mike Modano 258 games for his 100th goal, Gordie Howe 269 and Bobby Hull 275.

Of course, Mr. Hockey picked up his next 100 in just 153 games, so DeBrincat, taken in the second round (39th overall) in the 2016 draft, might want to pick up the pace.

But while we count the goals scored by who the Wings took well ahead of DeBrincat in that 2016 draft, let’s run through — oh, that went quick — the Central Division’s Misery Index in Week 8, from the least miserable to the most.

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8. Hurricanes

This week’s record, goal differential: 3-0-0, +7.

Last week’s ranking: 4.

The ‘Canes joined the list of teams allowing fans into their building with a 15% capacity crowd of about 3,000 in attendance to watch them thump the Wings on Tuesday. After the win, the team brought back its “Storm Surge” celebration for the first time this season. Nothing fancy like the dodgeball fights, dunk contests and duck hunts of the 2018-19 season, just some synchronized clapping with the fans at center ice. Then again, maybe this was the most impressive of all: NHL fans aren’t exactly known for their rhythm.

7. Lightning

This week’s record, goal differential: 3-0-1, +5.

Last week’s ranking: 8.

The Lightning, too, will be allowing 3,800 fans to attend games beginning Saturday, which means the moment we’ve all been waiting for is nigh: The SECOND unveiling of their Stanley Cup banner. The defending champs showed off their new fabric back in January, but held off raising it to the rafters until they could get fans in the seats. Of course, this means the Lightning, despite winning their title Sept. 28 will be the second team in town to celebrate a title: The Bucs won theirs in early February. We don’t even have a joke here; we’re just not used to seeing anyone in Florida show restraint.

6. Panthers

This week’s record, goal differential: 2-1-0, +3.

Last week’s ranking: 3.

Noel Acciari turned into a nice goal scorer last season, with 20 scores in 66 games in his first stint with the Panthers. At least until this season, when he was blanked in his first 14 games. (He also went without an assist, but considering he had just 20 assists in 260 career NHL games, that wasn’t necessarily out of character). That all changed Saturday night, as Acciari scored three times on five shots against the Predators. “It’s a great feeling,” Acciari said. “I was just hoping to get one … just to get my first of the season. But to get the other two was definitely exciting, and a lot of guys are putting pressure on me about tomorrow.” Mostly because the last time Acciari had a hat trick, against the Senators in December 2019, he picked up another one the next game, against the Stars. No such luck this week, though: Acciari was held to an assist in Sunday’s loss to the Hurricanes.

Still, the hat trick made the 29-year-old a member of two exclusive clubs: He’s the fourth Panther with at least three hat tricks — joining Pavel Bure (10), Ray Sheppard (5) and Olli Jokinen (4) — and the second Rhode Island native with three hat tricks (former Shark and Senator Rob Gaudreau is the other). We’ll let you decide which is more impressive.

5. Blue Jackets

This week’s record, goal differential: 2-1-0, -1.

Last week’s ranking: 1.

The two wins staved off panic for now, but the 5-0 dusting in Dallas on Saturday wasn’t the way they wanted to end the week, especially with pulling starting goalie Joonas Korpisalo about 49 minutes in. His replacement: Finnish rookie Veini Vehvilainen, who joins Tua Tagovailoa and Eetu Luostarinen atop our Misery Index vowel leaderboard at eight apiece. (That’s pronounced “VAY-nee veh-vih-LIGH-nehn,” though considering he let in a fairly soft goal in his 10:43 of work, you may not need to remember that for too long.)

MISERY INDEX FLASHBACK

WEEK 7: Red Wings’ new jerseys are for the bleach, boys

WEEK 6: Red Wings, Predators are perfectly, miserably matched

WEEK 5: Roses are Red (Wings), Jackets are Blue

WEEK 4: Red Wings goalies stop, collaborate and listen

WEEK 3: Wings far from alone in ‘Heartbreak Hotel’

WEEK 2: It’s not a rivalry until you start talking cat urine

WEEK 1: What if the Big Ten and SEC had a hockey-playing baby?

4. Blackhawks

This week’s record, goal differential: 1-1-1, -3.

Last week’s ranking: 7.

DeBrincat’s big game was also a big night for longtime ’Hawks defenseman Brent Seabrook, who announced his retirement earlier Friday. Seabrook lasted 1,114 games, good for 55th all-time among NHL defensemen, all with Chicago. His 103 goals and 361 assists weren’t eye-popping totals, and he never finished higher than 13th in Norris Trophy voting, but he also topped 20 points in 14 of his 15 seasons (missing out in an injury-shortened 2019-20). And he certainly had a flare for the dramatic goal — Wings fans might remember him from his goal ending the 2013 Western Conference finals. In days past, he’d have gone out in a funeral pyre — or at least a beer shower — but instead, he’ll keep contributing to the Blackhawks: His “retirement” is officially a permanent shift to Long Term Injured Reserve that frees up more than $20 million in salary cap space through the 2023-24 season.

3. Predators

This week’s record, goal differential: 1-3-0, -6.

Last week’s ranking: 5.

It has been a rough March for the 38-year-old Pekka Rinne with Sunday’s victory in Dallas snapping a four-game personal losing streak that saw him post a .864 save percentage and a 4.43 goals-against average. Still, Rinne showed a few flashes of his Vezina-winning past, especially in making a ridiculous stop on Joe Pavelski in the shootout.

And here we thought all the Preds had forgotten how to use their sticks.

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2. Stars

This week’s record, goal differential: 1-2-1, +1.

Last week’s ranking: 2.

Looking for a pickup line for your next time on Tinder/Grindr/Bumble/POF/Freep’s comments section? Try this: “Hey, are your legs tired? Because Miro Heiskanen spent nearly 33 minutes on the ice Sunday against Nashville.” OK, maybe it loses something in the translation from Heiskanen’s native Finnish, but seriously, the 21-year-old defenseman logged 32:30 on the ice against the Preds — the second most in a game this season — skated more than 4.7 miles and, assisted on the Stars’ final two goals in a comeback from a 3-0 third-period deficit.

1. Red Wings

This week’s record, goal differential: 0-2-0, -6.

Last week’s ranking: 6.

This week’s “Depressing Red Wings Stat Of The Week”™: The Wings are 0-4-2 this season when tied entering the third period – which makes sense since they’ve allowed 38 third-period goals in 26 games, six more than any other team (They’re a somehow-not-as-depressing 0-12-1 when trailing entering the third period.) Every other team in the NHL has at least one win when tied after two, and 27 of the 30 have at least two in that situation.

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Oh, and of the three that entered Monday with only one win when tied after two periods, two — the Canadiens and Flames — had already fired their coach, and the other — the Stars — is coming off a Stanley Cup Final appearance. Ouch.)

Contact Ryan Ford at rford@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @theford.

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