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Rene Bourque's playoff goal scoring

He couldn't score during the season, now he can't stop scoring

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Rene Bourque keeps scoring for the Montreal Canadiens in the playoffs.

Getty Images Sport

If you take a quick look at the NHL's goal-scoring leaders this postseason most of the names at the top of the list should not be much of a surprise to you. You have Marian Gaborik, Jonathan Toews and Jeff Carter all in the top-five.

That is two of the best goal-scorers of their era (Gaborik and Carter) and one of the best players in the league (Toews). 

And then there is Rene Bourque, tied with Carter and Toews, with eight goals this postseason in just 16 games entering Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final on Thursday night.  Probably not one of the names you expected to see mixed in with that group, especially after his disastrous regular season campaign with the Montreal Canadiens that saw him score just nine goals in 63 games. He's nearly matched his regular season total in just a quarter of the games.

Every year there is always at least one player that comes out of nowhere in the playoffs and puts together an unexpected goal-scoring stretch (guys like Fernando Pisani, Joel Ward, Sean Bergenheim and Ville Leino have all done it in recent years. Bryan Bickell is doing it for a second year in a row this postseason for the Chicago Blackhawks), but few have done it after such a brutal regular season performance. 

What we did here is go as far back as the 2006 playoffs and pulled out all of the forwards that scored at least eight goals in a single playoff run, and then looked at how many goals they scored (or for the purposes of this exercise, how many goals they didn't score) during that regular season to see if anybody can compare to Bourque.

It's definitely an interesting list and makes his playoff run, which included a hat trick in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final, seem all the more unlikely.

Player Year Playoff Goals Playoff Sh% Regular Season Goals Regular Season Sh%
Patrick Sharp 2013 10 11% 6.8%
Dave Bolland 2010 8 22.9% 22.9%
Rene Bourque 2014 8 15.7% 7.6%
Patrice Bergeron 2013 9 12.7% 10  8.0%
David Krejci 2013 9 16.1% 10 10.8%
Marian Gaborik 2014 8 18.9% 11 10.7%
Bryan Bickell 2013 9 18.4% 11 11.8%
Maxime Talbot 2009 8 21.6% 12 11.8%
David Krejci 2011 12 21.1% 13 8.3%
R.J. Umberger 2008 10 25.0% 13 7.5%
Sean Bergenheim 2011 9 19.6% 14 7.7%
Dan Cleary 2009 9 15.8% 14 8.6%
Scott Hartnell 2010 8 26.7% 14 8.2%
Claude Giroux 2010 10 21.3% 16 11.0%
Daniel Briere 2012 8 30.8% 16 9.2%
Simon Gagne 2010 9 17.3% 16 9.3%
Ray Whitney 2006 9 22.5% 17 11.6%
Fernando Pisani 2006 14 28.6% 18 13.7%
Michael Ryder 2011 8 18.2% 18 10.9%
Brad Marchand 2011 11 18% 21 14.1%

 

There were 68 players that met the criteria, and their average regular season performance was 25 goals. Only three failed to score at least 10. 

That list includes some really good players and the one common theme with all of their playoff runs is an enormous spike in their shooting percentage (30.8 percent mark for Daniel Briere in 2012!) which probably points to some puck luck and a lot of bounces going their way. The type of things that can be the difference between a hot streak and a cold streak.

But when you look at the names at the top, specifically the first seven names at the top, all of them were limited to fewer than 45 games in  the regular season, which surely impacted their regular season goal totals. Sharp, Bergeron, Krejci and Bickell, for example, made that list while playing during the lockout shortened 2012-13 season, while Bolland (2010) and Gaborik (this year) saw their seasons significantly cut short by injuries. So there was at least a bit of an explanation as to why they didn't have more goals duirng the regular season other than simply having a bad year.

Still, it's a pretty crazy run for Bourque. But is it totally unexpected? Every player in the NHL is streaky to a certain degree and Bourque might be streakier than most. If you break his career down into 16-game segments, he's had several stretches over the years where he's scored eight more goals, including a 10-goal run in 2008 and an 11-goal run in 2010. He's also had several stretches where he's scored two or fewer (and occasionally zero).

The only difference is those streaks happened in October and December instead of the Stanley Cup Playoffs so nobody really noticed them (or cared about them).

And if there's one thing we know about players hitting a hot streak or a cold streak, it's that everybody notices them in the playoffs

Just ask Rick Nash or Sidney Crosby what the cold streak side of that feels like. 

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