NHL's best and worst in special teams plus/minus

At my old blog, I introduced (or at least I think that I introduced) some other ways to look at hockey teams. Much of that focus was on the way the league focuses on percentages to judge a team’s powerplay and penalty kill.

Personally, I think totals matter more than percentages. For one thing, those numbers do not take shorthanded goals into consideration. So, a team that rolls the dice with five forwards on the PP (like Carolina often did in the past) looks better than they should since only the happy goals count. Also, let me ask you: would you rather your team score 2 goals out of 10 opportunities or 1 goal out of four opportunities?

In the next two posts, I’ll throw some of my concoctions at you. The first is my favorite stat of the three: Special Teams Plus/Minus. The formula is so simple I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s been used before (so tell me if you’ve seen it); all I do is take the good special teams goals (PP goals for, SH goals for) and subtract them by the bad special teams goals (PP goals against, SH goals against).

Click on the spreadsheet below to see how all 30 teams shape up. I’ll provide some simple analysis after the jump. (Note: these stats are from before tonight’s games andspecial teams plus minus nbc.PNG


So, the top six teams are the only ones to be in the double digits in ST plus/minus (in order): Detroit, Chicago, San Jose, Buffalo and Vancouver.

You can see a clear Nicklas Lidstrom effect on the Wings’ powerplay: they’ve scored 51 goals with the man advantage and only allowed one shorthanded goal so far this season. Conversely, the Blackhawks are dangerous to another team’s PP with an impressive 10 shorthanded goals.

Want one number to explain why the Toronto Maple Leafs remain in the NHL outhouse? Their league-low minus-30 ST p/m is lower than than the other worst teams (Edmonton and Florida) combined. The Predators are the best team in the ST p/m’s lower ranks, as they need to be great on 5-on-5 to make up the 12 goals they’ve lost in uneven situations.

So what do you think? Does this stat have some legs? I’ll focus on each team’s PP and PK unit as a whole in the next post.

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    Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

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    Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.

    They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.

    Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.

    Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.

    You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:

    Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.

    Read about that blowout here.

    Blues bombard Stars, go up 2-1 in series

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    Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.

    Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”

    It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.

    The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.

    This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.

    Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.

    On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.

    We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.

    Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.

    Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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    After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

    Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

    The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

    Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

    Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

    Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

    Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

    Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

    Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

    Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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    It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

    After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

    Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

    Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

    The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.