Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman David Savard has scored a goal! Granted, he’s best known as a tough player whose calling card is his defensive prowess. But it has been a long time since he’s scored a goal. Far longer than any other Blue Jackets regular. He scored just 10 days short of the two-year anniversary of his last goal. He had played in 122 straight games without putting the puck in the net. In fact, during the 2019-20 season, Savard led the entire NHL in minutes played without scoring a goal. His 1,407 minutes were 69th in the entire NHL last season.
Savard was third on the Blue Jackets in minutes on ice in 2019-20, trailing only fellow defensemen Seth Jones by nine minutes (and six goals), and 104 minutes behind Zach Werenski (not to mention Werenski’s 20 goals). Savard was the only Blue Jacket to play in more than 10 games and not score a goal in 2019-20, regular season and postseason.
Savard also played 35 games and 607 minutes (and 19 seconds) in 2020-21 prior to this game. That’s over 10 hours of ice time. But the lack of scoring is not for lack of trying – he’s been credited with 170 shots on goal since his last score. And that doesn’t include shots that were blocked or attempts that missed the goal.
Savard Twists the Twine
Savard’s goal came on a delayed penalty to the Tampa Bay Lightning, with Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins on the bench for an extra attacker. He cruised into the low slot and one-timed a beautiful pass from Alexandre Texier under the blocker of Lightning goalie Curtis McElhinney.
His last goal was also against the Lightning – details below.
Watching the Clock
Savard averaged 20:41 time on ice (TOI) during the 2019-20 regular season and played in 68 games. Here’s the math: 20:41 = 1241 seconds per game. 1241 x 68 games = 84,388 total seconds on ice. 84,388 ÷ 60 (seconds per minute) = just about the 1,407 minutes of ice time with which he was credited last season. Let’s add in another 254 or so postseason minutes. That’s a total of just about 1,661 minutes without a goal in 2019-20 for Savard.
But, wait, there’s more! Savard scored his last regular-season goal, back in the 2018-19 season, on Mar. 30, 2019 (two years and one day prior). It was his eighth goal of the season. Ah, but let’s give him credit for his most recent NHL goal – that would be his unassisted third-period score against Tampa Bay in Game 1 of the Blue Jackets’ sweep of the Lightning, Apr. 10, 2019. Let’s add 220 minutes for the remainder of the 2018-19 postseason to Savard’s goalless streak.
Savard entered the 2020-21 season on a streak of 1,881 minutes of ice time without scoring a goal. Nine postseason games in 2018-19, 68 regular season and 10 postseason games in 2019-20 adds up to 87 games of the regular season and postseason play without a goal.
In 2020-21, Savard played 35 games and over 670 minutes prior to his goal. That brings the total to 122 games and over 2,488 minutes between goals. That’s a long, long time. But his ability to play defense makes any offensive output a bonus.
Digging Into TOI
Now let’s look a bit closer at Savard’s TOI. Over the past four seasons (2016-17 through 2019-20), he’s averaged over two minutes per game in shorthanded TOI. Twice in that span, he led the team in shorthanded TOI, and in the others trailed Jones and the now-departed Ryan Murray. In contrast, Savard’s powerplay TOI in that period ranged from a low of four seconds per game to a high of 12 seconds per game.
Yeah, those ain’t no typos – David doesn’t play on the PP anymore! But he was a power play regular from 2013-14 through 2015-16, with 5 goals and 14 assists on the man advantage. Now, with the rise of Jones and Werenski, he’s a defenseman who is expected to shut down the other team’s power play rather than contribute to his own team’s PP. As such, he’s not one you would expect to pile up the points.
More to Savard’s Game Than Scoring
Savard and his regular defensive partner, Vladislav Gavrikov, are sometimes called “Savy and Gavy.” They form the Blue Jackets’ premiere shutdown pair, playing big minutes against opposing teams’ top lines. Savard is a shot-blocking machine, regularly ranking at or near the top of the Blue Jackets in that stat:
- 2019-20 Regular Season: Savard was credited with 163 blocked shots, 40 more than runner-up Jones.
- 2028-19 Regular Season: Savard had 123 blocked shots, 10 fewer than Jones.
- 2017-18 Regular Season: Savard had 143 blocked shots, seven more than runner-up Jack Johnson.
- 2016-17 Regular Season: Savard had 126 blocked shots, eight fewer than Johnson in eight fewer games.
In fact, last season Savard’s 163 blocked shots were second in the entire league, trailing only the now-injured Oscar Klefbom of the Edmonton Oilers. Coming into last night’s game, Savard had 78 blocked shots this season. He ranked fourth in the league, behind Alec Martinez of the Vegas Golden Knights (106 blocked shots), Adam Larsson of the Edmonton Oilers (98), and Derek Forbort of the Winnipeg Jets (85).
Savard also racks up a lot of hits. Last season, he finished second on the team behind Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno. This season, coming into last night’s game, he was third on the team with 80 hits, trailing only captain Nick Foligno (92) and defenseman Michael Del Zotto (83).
And he’s pretty durable. Since the eight missed games in 2016-17, he’s been off the ice for a total of three games.
Savard’s Offensive Contributions (Even Without Goals)
While his goalless streak was impressive, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been helping out offensively. During that goalless streak, he racked up a rather decent number of assists for a defensive defenseman. He added a pair of assists in the 2018-19 postseason after scoring a goal, then 14 more during the 2019-20 regular and postseason. For comparison, Vladislav Gavrikov had 14 assists during that same period – two fewer than Savard. But while Savy had zero goals, Gavy has netted seven* since Savard’s previous score. In total points, the score is David 16 and Vlad 21. Following last night’s game, both Savard and Gavrikov have one goal and five assists in 2020-21.
* – 1 goal in 2020-21 on 1/23/21
Savard’s stretch between goals is impressive, but hardly record setting:
(Ken) Daneyko played defense for the New Jersey Devils for a very long time and was very much a stay at home type of defenseman. At one point, he went 255 games without scoring a goal.“NHL Records: The 13 Oddest Records in NHL History,” Kevin Goff, BleachReport.com, May 30, 2011
Since that stretch did not include any season truncated by pandemic, lockout, or strike, Daneyko went more than three full seasons without scoring a goal. And yet he kept his job. His job wasn’t to score, he was a defensive defenseman. (Apparently even more so than Savard.)
Dan Hamhuis, who retired last August, went out on a long goalless streak. The former Nashville Predator, Dallas Star, and Vancouver Canuck appeared in 149 regular season and playoff games without scoring to end his career. His personal dry spell dated from Feb. 9, 2018 (while playing for the Dallas Stars) through the end of the 2019-20 season and into retirement.
Coming into this season Nick Jensen of the Washington Capitals and Matt Tennyson of the New Jersey Devils were also on substantial goalless streaks. Jensen has scored twice this season, and Tennyson has only 10 games with the NHL Devils (as well as 20 games with the AHL Binghamton Devils). Arizona Coyotes defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin has yet to score in his NHL career, which now spans 113 games.
When Can We Expect Another Savard Goal?
Yeah, well, okay then. Let’s see, um, hmmm. I dunno. Maybe he’ll get on a streak and score another one or two this season. Or maybe next. Or the one after that. Savard is in his 10th year in the NHL. Coming into this season, he had 41 goals spread over 594 regular season and postseason games. That’s 0.069 goals per game. Theoretically, that’s a goal every, say, 14-and-a-half games. But that’s also an average of about 4.44 goals per regular season. He’s actually been below that average five of the past nine years. (His “breakout” season of 2014-15, 11 goals, was the only season in which he scored more than eight goals.)
I’m pretty sure Savard will net a couple more before he retires (whether he remains with the Blue Jackets or moves to another club before this season’s trade deadline or over the summer). After all, he’s only 30-years-old. Sure, he has plenty of time to score some more goals. But don’t hold me to it, eh?
Statistics courtesy of the NHL, Hockey-Reference.com, and ESPN.
Pete Bauer is both a hockey fan and player. As a columnist for The Hockey Writers, he covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, NCAA hockey, and NHL trends, statistics, and history. He is also the author of over a dozen books on photography, digital imaging, and graphics, including “Photoshop CC for Dummies.”