Sharks dominated special teams differential in 2013-14

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The San Jose Sharks don’t own a Stanley Cup, but it appears that they’re the best team in the NHL at drawing more penalties than they take. Honestly, the numbers are pretty stunning.

San Jose drew 291 power-plays opportunities and were only shorthanded 219 times during the 2013-14 season, making for a differential of 72 power plays. That’s almost an extra power play per game.

To give you an idea of how much better they’ve been than any other NHL team in that area, consider this: they match the second-best (Carolina Hurricanes, +40 chances) and third-best (New York Rangers +32 chances) combined.

Here’s the full chart of how the 30 NHL teams fared whistle-wise in 2013-14 (TS stands for times shorthanded, hopefully other abbreviations are self-explanatory):

Team Total diff 2013-14 Home PP Opp Road PP Opp 13-14 PP Opp Home diff Road diff 13-14 home TS 13-14 Road TS 13-14 total TS
SJS 72 162 129 291 40 32 122 97 219
CAR 40 154 127 281 41 -1 113 128 241
NYR 32 132 132 264 27 5 105 127 232
DAL 27 158 132 290 33 -6 125 138 263
PIT 24 136 142 278 25 -1 111 143 254
CGY 14 121 128 249 14 0 107 128 235
NYI 11 145 131 276 27 -16 118 147 265
PHX 10 145 137 282 21 -11 124 148 272
CHI 9 143 114 257 32 -23 111 137 248
FLA 7 127 142 269 -2 9 129 133 262
WSH 7 148 143 291 5 2 143 141 284
ANA 5 152 123 275 17 -12 135 135 270
COL 3 131 121 252 13 -10 118 131 249
MIN 2 129 123 252 16 -14 113 137 250
NSH 1 121 118 239 6 -5 115 123 238
CBJ 0 142 138 280 -1 1 143 137 280
TBL 0 140 130 270 6 -6 134 136 270
EDM -9 148 123 271 13 -22 135 145 280
MTL -10 140 139 279 1 -11 139 150 289
STL -10 157 126 283 12 -22 145 148 293
LAK -12 154 130 284 14 -26 140 156 296
DET -13 149 133 282 5 -18 144 151 295
TOR -16 119 133 252 6 -22 113 155 268
VAN -17 131 126 257 8 -25 123 151 274
BUF -18 129 127 256 -3 -15 132 142 274
PHI -22 159 135 294 6 -28 153 163 316
NJD -23 123 118 241 -11 -12 134 130 264
WPG -32 151 108 259 1 -33 150 141 291
BOS -33 112 118 230 -26 -7 138 125 263
OTT -49 135 136 271 -15 -34 150 170 320

A few interesting takeaways from that:

  • The crowd in Carolina clearly steers things in the Hurricanes’ direction. They had the highest home differential at +41, one more than San Jose. The ‘Canes were -1 on the road, so it’s not like it was just a matter of an aggressive style.
  • The Boston Bruins easily had the worst home differential at -26. Odd, huh?
  • Could fewer penalties in the postseason be a big reason why San Jose seems to struggle in the playoffs? It’s at least a theory.

In case you’re wondering if this is just a one-time thing, the Sharks really tower over the pack when you count the last three seasons:

Team diff last 3 seasons Total diff 2013-14 diff 12-13 diff 11-12
SJS 139 72 22 45
CAR 86 40 4 42
CHI 62 9 9 44
NYR 57 32 5 20
CBJ 54 0 11 43
PIT 46 24 3 19
FLA 45 7 -9 47
DET 32 -13 21 24
NYI 32 11 14 7
TOR 18 -16 9 25
PHX 12 10 0 2
CGY 10 14 4 -8
NSH 8 1 1 6
MTL 6 -10 30 -14
TBL -7 0 8 -15
NJD -8 -23 7 8
MIN -9 2 16 -27
LAK -11 -12 5 -4
WSH -13 7 1 -21
PHI -19 -22 -13 16
VAN -19 -17 -4 2
STL -23 -10 -1 -12
BUF -32 -18 -15 1
ANA -34 5 -27 -12
DAL -40 27 -8 -59
EDM -49 -9 -6 -34
WPG -66 -32 7 -41
BOS -84 -33 -41 -10
COL -94 3 -43 -54
OTT -99 -49 -10 -40

Let’s consider a few other points:

  • Just in case you missed it, the Sharks finished at +139 while no other team cracked +90.
  • Again, Carolina seems to get a nice amount of PP chances. If Bill Peters can make a difference in that unit, he could see some huge gains even if the rest of the team stays in neutral.
  • One would be wise to consider the 2011-12 season the least since a 48-game slate can be misleading. Quite a few of the “middle” campaigns above indeed seem to make for breaks in patterns.

It should be interesting to see if teams can break these cycles or keep up these positive advantages going in 2014-15. The Sharks certainly hope so and the Ottawa Senators would absolutely prefer not.

Bill Peters opts out of contract to leave Hurricanes; next stop Calgary?

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Bill Peters had until Friday to exercise the opt-out clause in his contract, freeing him from the final year of his deal with the Carolina Hurricanes. He did just that, and will now hit the open market with the Calgary Flames a heavy favorite for his next landing spot.

“I have a lot of respect for Bill as a person and coach,” said Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon said in a statement. “We thank him for his time with the Hurricanes and wish him success in whatever comes next.”

With $1.6 million guaranteed for next season if he stayed in Carolina, Peters wouldn’t be leaving without having a good idea that he’ll be able to step into another job this off-season. At the moment, there are head coaching openings with the Flames, Dallas Stars and New York Rangers.

Dundon wasn’t against Peters staying for the duration of his contract, as he’s shown he prefers keeping people around who have term left rather than firing them (Hi, Ron Francis!). But with Peters resigning, the Hurricanes are off the hook now for that $1.6 million.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

So where will Peters land? Well, the Flames have been the big favorite for a while, and the rumor mill sped up on Tuesday when Calgary decided to fire Glen Gulutzan after two seasons. General manager Brad Treliving said he wanted someone with NHL experience as a replacement and Peters would come to Alberta with a 137-138-53 record in four seasons with the Hurricanes, which includes zero playoff appearances.

It’s easy to tie Peters to the Calgary job. He’s from the area, worked with Treliving during the 2016 World Championships and got his start coaching in the Western Hockey League. It seems like it’s only a matter of time now.

As for the Hurricanes, they now have openings at GM and head coach. Team president Don Waddell is acting as interim GM during the search process. Rod Brind’Amour, who was one of Peters’ assistants, has seen his name out there as a potential replacement, same for the team’s assistant GM and AHL head coach Mike Vellucci. Both would come cheaper than what Alain Vigneault, Dave Tippett, Dan Bylsma or potentially Barry Trotz would command, so given Dundon’s methods so far, that just might be the direction they go.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Tortorella admits Jackets ‘laid an egg’ in Game 4

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Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella clearly wasn’t happy about the way his team played in Game 4 of their first-round series against the Washington Capitals. He was pretty clear about it after his team’s 4-1 loss.

His post-game press conference shouldn’t be described as “vintage Torts,” it was more like “Torts classic”.

After a few minutes of answering questions, Tortorella got fed up with the line of questioning.

“We weren’t good,” Tortorella said after the game. “We weren’t good! There’s no sense in asking me things about the game. I’m telling you, we laid an egg. So I’m not going to break it down for you. We sucked! We sucked! So let’s move by it and see if we play better on Saturday afternoon.”

The next reporter tried to ask a follow-up question and was given the same treatment.

“We laid an egg. That’s all I have to say guys, I’m sorry. I’m not going to break it down for you. Nothing went well for us. We have to figure it out and we will.”

Torts walked off after the next question.

After winning the first two games of the series on the road, the Blue Jackets managed to drop both contests at home. This best-of-seven series is tied up at two, with Game 5 coming up in Washington on Saturday afternoon.

They’ve got to be better than they were in Game 4. The stats don’t lie:

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

PHT Morning Skate: How Marchand became a pest; What are Rangers looking for in new coach?

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

Sean Couturier, who missed Game 4 against Pittsburgh, could return to the lineup in Game 5. The Flyers could certainly use a boost, especially because elimination is staring them right in the face. (NHL.com)

• Madison Square Garden executive chairman James Dolan admitted that the next coach of the New York Rangers will have to understand how to develop young players. (New York Post)

• All the success the Golden Knights have had in their inaugural season makes absolutely no sense, according to Vice’s Dave Lozo. They’ve used a bunch of cast-offs and they’ve been successful doing so. (Vice)

• Ever wonder how Brad Marchand became a pest? Well, he outlines it for you in this story he wrote for The Players’ Tribune.

• The Hart Trophy doesn’t always go to the player with the best offensive numbers. (Greatest Hockey Legends)

• The Carolina Hurricanes have hired Paul Krepelka to be their Vice President of Hockey Operations. He has NHL experience as a player, attorney, agent and manager. (NHL.com/Hurricanes)

• The Athletic’s Katie Strang wrote an emotional piece about former NHLer David Gove story. Gove was the victim of sexual abuse, and it affected him until the day he died. (The Athletic)

• NHL official Shandor Alphonso didn’t dream of being an official,  but he’s now working in the NHL. Sportsnet wrote an interesting story about how he went from a financial advisor to being an official in the best league in the world. (Sportsnet)

• Devin is an eight-year-old Predators fan that has battled cancer during his young life. Not only have the Preds made an impact on him, but it’s pretty clear that he’s had an impact on some of the players on the roster. (Tennessean)

• After another miserable season in Buffalo, owner Terry Pegula wrote a letter to season ticket holders telling them that the team won’t be raising prices. (Buffalo News)

• Even though he was fired by the Calgary Flames, Glen Gulutzan believes the team’s future is bright. (Calgary Herald)

• The Art Dorrington foundation, which is named after the first black player to sign an NHL contract, is struggling with funding right now. Atlantic City mayor Frank Gilliam is holding back the $25,000 that was supposed to be given to the foundation. (AC Primetime)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

The Buzzer: Ovechkin is clutch

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Two games on Thursday

Bruins 3, Maple Leafs 1 (Bruins lead series 3-1)

The Boston Bruins continue to show that they can survive – if not thrive – with key players out of the lineup. They don’t get much more “key” than Patrice Bergeron, who was unable to suit up for Game 4. Even so, Tuukka Rask made some crucial saves and the Bruins connected on two 2-on-1 rushes to snag a 3-1 series lead. The Maple Leafs must grapple with a lot of uncomfortable questions as they see their season slip to the brink of elimination.

Capitals 4, Blue Jackets 1 (Series tied 2-2)

This game was all about patterns continuing, or breaking.

Continuing: The road team winning. The away team has won all four contests during this series, so this one returns to Washington with the two teams now tied up 2-2. It’s also another instance of Alex Ovechkin being sneaky-clutch, although many people will disagree because of team results. Washington’s starting to pull away in terms of puck possession during the series, and that continued on Thursday, too.

Breaking: For the first time in the series, the game ended in regulation. It wasn’t all that close, either, as the Caps won 4-1 and were safe even considering one empty-netter.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Three Stars

1. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins – There will be talk of Bergeron, Auston Matthews not being able to score, Mike Babcock’s decisions, and other factors from Game 4. Rask helped to push those discussions to the forefront – rather than talk about which team has the edge if they ended up tied – as he was sharp on Thursday. Rask stopped 31 out of 32 shots, factoring heavily in Boston building a 3-1 series lead against Toronto.

2. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals – After scoring two goals in Game 1, Kuznetsov had been held silent by the Bruins in Games 2 and 3. The Russian center made up for lost time in Game 4, scoring an empty-netter and two assists in that 4-1 win. Both of his assists were primary helpers, while he checked many other boxes by winning more than half of his draws (10 of 18), generating a +3 rating, and firing four shots on goal.

3. Alex Ovechkin, Capitals – Ovechkin fired a shot on Sergei Bobrovsky, which created a rebound opportunity for T.J. Oshie during a Washington power play, a goal that ended up being the game-winner. Ovechkin also scored from the right face-off circle for an important insurance goal. Ovechkin fired five SOG and was a +1 in Game 4.

Factoids

There’s plenty of focus on Bergeron being out and Marchand scoring/agitating, but don’t forget about David Pastrnak‘s brilliance.

Again, Alex Ovechkin is more clutch than people realize. By scoring the 49th playoff goal of his career, Ovechkin tied Henri Richard for 60th in NHL history. You may remember Henri as a) Maurice Richard’s brother and b) the guy who won the Stanley Cup 11 times.

Friday’s games

Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins, 7 p.m. ET, NBCSN
Minnesota Wild at Winnipeg Jets, 7:30 p.m. ET, USA Network
Colorado Avalanche at Nashville Predators, 9:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.