Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Matt Niskanen

Who had the best special teams overall in 2013-14?

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Earlier today, PHT took a look at who draws and avoids penalties better than anyone else. Now let’s ponder which teams are the best once the whistles are blown.

While there’s nothing wrong with judging power plays and penalty kill units based on percentages, it leaves certain factors like shorthanded goals out of the picture. Perhaps there are other ways to think about special teams, then?

It’s been a while since we rolled out “special teams plus/minus,” so why not do so on a sleepy offseason Sunday?

An explanation if you need it (scroll if you do not)

In case you need a refresher, this stat is as simple as it gets: you simply factor power play goals for and against along with shorthanded goals for and against to get a “net” of special teams.

For instance: The Washington Capitals might seem like they had the best PP in the NHL during the 2013-14 season because they scored the most goals at 68. Unfortunately, they also allowed 10 shorthanded goals, so their power play “net” would be 58. They allowed 51 power play goals while scoring five shorties of their own, leaving them -46 (so to speak) on the penalty kill. To get special teams plus/minus (or net), you simply combine the two.

The Washington Capitals end up +12, so they created 12 more goals on special teams than they allowed. That’s very good, but not the best.

Make sense? Good.

2013-14 special teams net

With the explanation out of the way, here’s how the 30 NHL teams fared last season:

Team ST net PP net PK net
PIT 25 59 -34
SJS 19 44 -25
NYR 17 41 -24
NJD 16 43 -27
STL 14 50 -36
WSH 12 58 -46
BOS 10 44 -34
CHI 7 44 -37
PHI 7 47 -40
CBJ 5 46 -41
COL 4 49 -45
MTL 3 40 -37
CGY 1 32 -31
NSH 1 46 -45
CAR 0 33 -33
DAL 0 41 -41
TBL 0 42 -42
ANA -2 36 -38
DET -2 45 -47
PHX -3 51 -54
VAN -5 35 -40
LAK -8 37 -45
NYI -8 42 -50
WPG -10 34 -44
MIN -12 37 -49
EDM -13 33 -46
TOR -13 38 -51
BUF -15 31 -46
OTT -16 40 -56
FLA -34 21 -55

A few takeaways:

  • The Pittsburgh Penguins came out on top in large part because of how productive their power play was (that net was +59).
  • The then-Phoenix Coyotes enjoyed a very productive power play, yet they weren’t very successful on the PK last season. This was an odd year for the now-Arizona ‘Yotes.
  • The San Jose Sharks get a huge advantage in power-play opportunities over shorthanded work, yet they didn’t quite enjoy the best special teams by this metric. They’re close enough for it to be a big asset, though.

Since the lockout

Want a slightly bigger sample size? Let’s check out how every team did since the lockout, adding 48 regular season games to the mix:

Team LOCKOUT NET 13-14 ST NET 12-13 ST NET 12-13 PP NET 12-13 PK NET
PIT 32 25 7 39 -32
SJS 30 19 11 30 -19
WSH 19 12 7 40 -33
STL 18 14 4 24 -20
NJD 17 16 1 22 -21
PHI 17 7 10 34 -24
CHI 14 7 7 20 -13
NYR 14 17 -3 20 -23
BOS 10 10 0 16 -16
CGY 8 1 7 29 -22
MTL 8 3 5 40 -35
CBJ 3 5 -2 20 -22
DET 0 -2 2 29 -27
LAK -1 -8 7 32 -25
ANA -3 -2 -1 24 -25
NYI -3 -8 5 31 -26
TBL -3 0 -3 27 -30
TOR -4 -13 9 27 -18
EDM -5 -13 8 33 -25
DAL -6 0 -6 26 -32
VAN -7 -5 -2 23 -25
MIN -10 -12 2 27 -25
OTT -10 -16 6 24 -18
COL -11 4 -15 18 -33
NSH -12 1 -13 20 -33
PHX -12 -3 -9 23 -32
CAR -13 0 -13 20 -33
WPG -20 -10 -10 17 -27
BUF -29 -15 -14 16 -30
FLA -41 -34 -7 28 -35

Not a whole lot of change at the top, which isn’t too shocking.

2013-14 playoffs

And, just for the sake of fun (keep in mind sample sizes are small and vary wildly here), here are the playoff numbers:

Team PLAYOFF ST NET PP net PP% PK net PK%
ANA 4 11 24 -7 84.9
CHI 3 12 21 -9 84.6
PHI 3 6 28.6 -3 89.7
CBJ 2 5 25.9 -3 79.3
MTL 2 10 19.7 -8 80.4
NYR 2 11 12.6 -9 85.4
COL 1 2 12 -1 85.7
LAK 0 17 23.5 -17 83.3
TBL 0 1 28.6 -1 84.6
BOS -1 9 26.5 -10 77.8
STL -1 2 6.9 -3 85
MIN -2 3 13.2 -5 84.2
SJS -2 4 12.5 -6 75
PIT -3 4 14.3 -7 81.1
DAL -4 2 10.3 -6 73.1
DET -4 2 10 -6 62.5

Doesn’t tell you a ton, but it’s interesting that the two “worst” teams were bounced in the first round …

Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

(Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

Letang told his side of the story:

The Capitals disagree:

While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

(Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

(You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

There are a few things we do know already.

For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.

Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.

***

As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.

Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.

Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.

Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:

Things could get ugly in Game 3:

One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:

Also, lateness of the check:

The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.

Update: The Penguins won the game 3-2.

Read reactions to the check here.