power play plus/minus

Tampa Bay Lightning v Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers reaped referees’ rewards the most this season

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Along with celebrating goals, making fun of opposing and “bandwagon” fans and eating greasy, overpriced food, there’s one activity that tends to bond fans of all 30 NHL teams: mercilessly booing officials. Chances are, every fan base has cursed a ref for (what’s usually) a human mistake while fastening a tin foil hat of suspicion.

It brings up an interesting question, though: which fans are most justified in their (assumed) metaphorical fashion statements? Following in last year’s footsteps, I decided to use NHL.com’s team stats to find out which squads have benefited and lost the most from the referees’ whistle.

(Key: “PP Opp” = power-play opportunities, “TS” = times shorthanded and net chances represents the difference between the two.)

Team PP Opp TS Net chances
FLA 286 239 47
SJS 270 225 45
CHI 277 233 44
CBJ 317 274 43
CAR 294 252 42
TOR 267 242 25
DET 298 274 24
NYR 280 260 20
PIT 289 270 19
PHI 335 319 16
NJD 267 259 8
NYI 243 236 7
NSH 250 244 6
PHX 251 249 2
VAN 288 286 2
BUF 258 257 1
LAK 289 293 -4
CGY 260 268 -8
BOS 250 260 -10
ANA 271 283 -12
STL 270 282 -12
MTL 301 315 -14
TBL 269 284 -15
WSH 245 266 -21
MIN 258 285 -27
EDM 262 296 -34
OTT 270 310 -40
WPG 251 292 -41
COL 223 277 -54
DAL 244 303 -59

Some observations

As you can see, the Florida Panthers didn’t just have charity points on their side this season – they also drew 47 more power plays than penalties received. Meanwhile, Dallas Stars fans will nod their heads sadly when they notice that their team went on the PK 59 more times than they had man advantages. That’s essentially an extra penalty to kill in two out of every three games.

You only need to reach down to the fourth-ranked Columbus Blue Jackets to see the first team that couldn’t take advantage of such a disparity. One cannot help but wonder if the Blue Jackets could make a huge turnaround next season if they receive the same advantages (317 power play opportunities!), which is obviously no guarantee. Yet with a potentially luckier James Wisniewski and a full season of Jack Johnson in tow, you never know if they did generate a lot of 5-on-4’s in 2012-13. The Carolina Hurricanes also failed to take advantage of penalty perks by missing the postseason. (Toronto rounds out that group, but they didn’t have quite as much of a dramatic advantage.)

Meanwhile, the five teams that received the worst “treatment” missed the playoffs, while sixth-worst Washington (-21) barely squeaked in as the seventh seed.

Coming soon: A look at which teams benefited or suffered the most from officiating since the lockout.

Official benefits: How NHL teams have been drawing and taking penalties since the lockout

Tuomo Ruutu, Joe Corvo, Bryan Rodney, Ray Whitney, Niklas Backstrom
6 Comments

Last night’s foray into the land of non-traditional stats focused on special teams, power play and penalty kill plus minus totals for the 2010-11 season, but perhaps to little surprise, it sparked a deeper journey down the numerical rabbit hole.

The Special Teams Plus/Minus post featured a bonus stat that I called “Special Teams Opportunity Plus/Minus.” Much like the others, this stat is resoundingly simple: you just subtract the power play opportunities a team receives minus the times that team goes shorthanded.

It seems like an interesting stat for the 2010-11 season, but even an 82-game campaign can bring about some anomalies. One could imagine that at least a small set of fans for all 30 NHL teams feel like officials are “out to get them” so I felt the need to take the experiment a little further.

With that in mind, I decided to see which teams have benefited the most (or suffered the greatest) from officials’ calls by combining the opportunity plus/minus totals from every post-lockout season. Naturally, it’s important to note that this list doesn’t necessarily prove that a team has a preferential relationship (especially considering how NHL teams’ schemes vary in aggressiveness). It’s just interesting food for thought – and yes – maybe a little fuel for the fire.

Special Teams Opportunities +/- since the lockout

Team Total 2010-11 2009-10 2008-09 2007-08 2006-07 2005-06
CAR 362 74 12 73 65 52 86
SJS 296 15 -18 54 64 80 101
NJD 206 -4 34 -17 6 96 91
LAK 158 16 3 -2 58 31 52
DAL 137 29 40 24 0 50 -6
BUF 122 -21 29 22 33 21 38
TBL 110 34 -10 -62 -16 69 95
DET 91 1 40 26 34 -10 0
MIN 87 -16 3 37 8 38 17
TOR 79 51 27 22 -9 -17 5
PHX 51 -7 -3 51 7 -25 28
COL 39 -49 7 0 34 21 26
NSH 28 -3 28 -20 23 21 -21
PIT 26 -13 -1 13 21 44 -38
NYR 20 33 -17 17 27 6 -46
ATL 6 4 -4 -9 -38 16 37
EDM -29 -17 -4 16 -22 -9 7
VAN -39 -16 5 -14 1 -29 14
STL -48 0 -35 -6 -25 -33 51
CGY -72 36 -37 9 -37 -13 -30
OTT -101 -37 -28 -7 -52 9 14
BOS -104 0 -7 7 -13 -30 -61
MTL -110 -37 -50 4 32 -41 -18
CHI -145 22 29 33 -20 -79 -130
WSH -158 -36 -3 -50 -3 -6 -60
CBJ -172 -13 -26 -24 -22 -15 -72
PHI -181 -18 -18 -77 -3 -44 -21
NYI -199 -8 6 -41 -45 -85 -26
ANA -209 -20 -24 -76 -47 -12 -30
FLA -251 0 22 -3 -61 -106 -103

***

source: Getty ImagesAs it turns out, the Hurricanes’ 2010-11 lead in this category was far from a fluke. Now, before you hatch too many conspiracy theories, it’s important to note that Carolina is a team that is known for pushing the pace of play. That being said, two playoff berths since the lockout seems like an underachievement when you consider their steady stream of advantages.

Update: The Panthers had the worst relationship, but the most interesting/disturbing part is that most of the damage was done in the first two seasons (-209 disparity between 05-06 and 06-07).

The Maple Leafs have their own drought to worry about, but they came in at No. 10 with 79 more calls going their way. Sidney Crosby haters might be disappointed to see that the Penguins are almost exactly in the middle of the pack at 14th with +26.

Want to see the sheer number of power plays and penalty kills for all 30 NHL teams? Here it is. (This list is sorted by most power play opportunities received.)

Team Total PP Total PK
CAR 2450 2088
PIT 2333 2307
LAK 2309 2151
VAN 2280 2319
DAL 2264 2127
SJS 2242 1946
PHX 2227 2176
TOR 2216 2137
ATL 2213 2207
DET 2211 2120
BUF 2200 2078
CBJ 2176 2348
CGY 2175 2247
STL 2164 2212
EDM 2161 2190
TBL 2160 2050
WSH 2157 2315
NYR 2153 2133
NSH 2151 2123
MTL 2140 2250
PHI 2133 2314
ANA 2133 2342
OTT 2107 2208
MIN 2100 2013
CHI 2080 2225
COL 2075 2036
NYI 2056 2255
BOS 1992 2096
FLA 1945 2196
NJD 1943 1737

***

In case you’re wondering, the Blue Jackets took the most penalties (2,348) followed by the Ducks (2,342). Meanwhile, the Devils were whistled the least (1,737) by quite a margin; the Sharks were a distant second with 1,946. There probably weren’t many people out there holding onto this thought anyway, but those numbers should show that New Jersey could adapt/maintain their reputation as a responsible defensive team despite the post-lockout rule changes.

(Want even more specifics? Click here for a spreadsheet that includes all the yearly numbers.)

***

Again, I want to emphasize that this post isn’t meant to “prove” that some teams get preferential treatment while others get the short end of the stick. Feel free to argue for or against such possibilities in the comments, though. (Something tells me Red Wings fans might be a little bummed out to see that Detroit came in at +91, even if this post won’t stop their loudest factions from concocting elaborate conspiracy theories anyway.)

The NHL’s best and worst special teams units during the 2010-11 season

Henrik Sedin,Daniel Sedin,Christian Ehrhoff,Alexander Edler,Ryan Kesler
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The Boston Bruins’ Stanley Cup run was impressive in many ways. One of the things that made it truly remarkable was that they raised the silver chalice even while dealing with some serious special teams issues, especially on their power play (at least in the first three rounds of the postseason). It seemed like quite a few teams struggled in that area in the 2011 playoffs, but over the long haul, strong special teams units usually lead to success.

At least, it would seem that way, but the only route to test that theory is to actually look at the numbers. So far on this stat-heavy Saturday, we took a look at Power Play Plus/Minus and Penalty Kill Plus/Minus for all 30 NHL teams in the 2010-11 season.

In order to put it all together, it might be best to look at Special Teams Plus/Minus. The formula is quite simple: take Power Play Plus/Minus (PP goals scored minus shorthanded goals allowed) and then subtract it by Penalty Kill Plus/Minus (PP goals allowed minus shorthanded goals scored). Let’s take a look at which teams had the best and worst overall special teams units, according to “ST +/-.”

Stat categories: special teams plus/minus, power play plus/minus, PP opportunities, PP goals, shorthanded goals allowed, penalty kill plus/minus, times shorthanded, PP goals allowed and SH goals scored.

Team ST +/- PP+/- PP Opp PPG SHGA PK +/- TS PPGA SHG
VAN 31 70 296 72 2 -39 312 45 6
CHI 13 60 277 64 4 -47 255 53 6
NYR 13 44 290 49 5 -31 257 42 11
DET 12 60 301 67 7 -48 300 53 5
PIT 11 43 311 49 6 -32 324 45 13
SJS 11 61 289 68 7 -50 274 56 6
ANA 10 60 285 67 7 -50 305 57 7
NYI 8 45 302 52 7 -37 310 52 15
CGY 7 53 318 62 9 -46 282 53 7
STL 7 51 279 52 1 -44 279 51 7
CAR 5 49 346 55 6 -44 272 51 7
LAK 5 41 292 47 6 -36 276 40 4
MTL 5 51 290 57 6 -46 327 51 5
TBL 5 53 336 69 16 -48 302 49 1
WSH 5 41 263 46 5 -36 299 43 7
BOS 3 38 265 43 5 -35 265 46 11
NSH 3 39 269 41 2 -36 272 41 5
PHI 3 44 295 49 5 -41 313 54 13
MIN 0 46 292 53 7 -46 308 53 7
OTT -1 41 257 45 4 -42 294 48 6
DAL -5 40 306 55 15 -45 277 55 10
FLA -7 30 267 35 5 -37 267 41 4
BUF -8 41 279 54 13 -49 300 51 2
NJD -11 26 237 34 8 -37 241 40 3
TOR -13 44 326 52 8 -57 275 62 5
ATL -15 43 289 53 10 -58 285 64 6
PHX -19 40 289 46 6 -59 296 64 5
EDM -24 42 304 44 2 -66 321 74 8
CBJ -25 31 301 42 11 -56 314 62 6
COL -29 38 265 49 11 -67 314 75 8

***

The Canucks enjoyed by far the best overall special teams play in 2010-11, which follows reasonable logic since they dominated the regular season. The only area where you can truly beat up the Canucks is in the amount of penalties they took, which some pointed out when GM Mike Gillis complained about the disparity in whistles during the team’s first round series against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The eighth-ranked Islanders were the best non-playoff team (+8) while the Coyotes made the playoffs despite the fourth worst special teams (-19). Seven teams had a +10 rating or higher while seven teams rounded out the bottom of the pack with a -10 rating or lower.

Tin foil hat time

As a bonus, I thought I’d court the conspiracy theory-loving crowd by looking at the teams who enjoyed the greatest (or suffered from the worst) disparity between the power play opportunities they received and the penalties they took. For the sake of simplicity, those amounts are listed as “ST opp +/-” or special teams opportunity plus/minus.

Stat categories: special teams opportunity plus/minus, power play opportunities and time shorthanded.

Team ST Opp +/- PP Opp TS
CAR 74 346 272
TOR 51 326 275
CGY 36 318 282
TBL 34 336 302
NYR 33 290 257
DAL 29 306 277
CHI 22 277 255
LAK 16 292 276
SJS 15 289 274
ATL 4 289 285
DET 1 301 300
BOS 0 265 265
FLA 0 267 267
STL 0 279 279
NSH -3 269 272
NJD -4 237 241
PHX -7 289 296
NYI -8 302 310
CBJ -13 301 314
PIT -13 311 324
MIN -16 292 308
VAN -16 296 312
EDM -17 304 321
PHI -18 295 313
ANA -20 285 305
BUF -21 279 300
WSH -36 263 299
MTL -37 290 327
OTT -37 257 294
COL -49 265 314

***

Here are a few throwaway thoughts (feel free to share your favorite conspiracy theories in the comments).

  • As if the Hurricanes didn’t need more reasons to kick themselves for missing the playoffs … they received a staggering 74 more power play opportunities than penalties in 2010-11.
  • Interestingly enough, the top three teams (Canes, Maple Leafs and Flames) didn’t make the postseason. Their special teams coaches probably won’t link to this post on an online resume.
  • The Lightning might want to rank “special teams” right behind “defense” on their list of needed improvements for next season.
  • The Capitals suffered from the third-worst disparity, but the team’s transition can be seen in the fact that both categories are under 300.
  • The Bruins, Panthers and Blues were the only teams to have exactly the same amount of penalties and power plays in 10-11.

***

OK, so those two tables provide some interesting special teams bits to chew on. If you’d like us to delve into previous seasons a bit, feel free to let us know in the comments. (We’ll probably take a deeper look at that special teams opportunities bit, if nothing else.)

Click here for Power Play Plus/Minus.

Click here for Penalty Kill Plus/Minus.

Which teams really had the best and worst power plays last season? (Power play +/- in 2010-11)

Derek Mackenzie
6 Comments

Thanks to a mixture of nostalgia, laziness and stubbornness, many professional sports teams and writers are unwilling to consider “new” statistics. Just look at baseball; Major League Baseball’s statistical schism over the use of such “groundbreaking” stats as On Base Percentage was so strong that it inspired the fantastic Michael Lewis book “Moneyball” (which has been developed into a Brad Pitt vehicle that may or may not be fantastic).

It’s quite possible that it might take decades (if ever) until people can put everything that happens on an ice hockey rink into neat little statistical categories. That being said, various stat-heavy sites are providing new ways of thinking for those unsatisfied with the traditional methods.

Much of the work usually focuses on the defensive side of the game, as many (myself included) consider widely-used defensive stats to be rather lacking. Yet there’s two special teams stats that stick in my craw: power play and penalty kill percentages.

What Power Play Plus/Minus is (and why it’s better than PP %)

For that reason, I shared my* own power play stats a few times already on Pro Hockey Talk. This post will reveal the 2010-11 totals for Power Play Plus/Minus, which follows the simple (but effective) formula: power play goals scored minus shorthanded goals allowed. If you ask me, it provides a more accurate depiction of a team’s power play than the percentage model for two major reasons.

1. Some teams draw more penalties than others, so they might convert less often but score more PP goals overall. Really, isn’t all about how many goals you score, not how “efficient” your power play is?

2. Power play percentage doesn’t factor shorthanded goals allowed, so reckless units are rewarded. Let’s not forget how devastating it can be to allow a goal when you’re on the PP.

For a frame of reference, here are the NHL’s top teams according to the industry standard power play percentage. This table includes power play opportunities, power play goals and shorthanded goals allowed. Note: both of these stats use 2010-11 regular season totals only.

Team PP Opp PPG PP% SHGA
VAN 296 72 24.3 2
SJS 289 68 23.5 7
ANA 285 67 23.5 7
CHI 277 64 23.1 4
DET 301 67 22.3 7
TBL 336 69 20.5 16
MTL 290 57 19.7 6
CGY 318 62 19.5 9
BUF 279 54 19.4 13
STL 279 52 18.6 1
COL 265 49 18.5 11
ATL 289 53 18.3 10
MIN 292 53 18.2 7
DAL 306 55 18 15
OTT 257 45 17.5 4
WSH 263 46 17.5 5
NYI 302 52 17.2 7
NYR 290 49 16.9 5
PHI 295 49 16.6 5
BOS 265 43 16.2 5
LAK 292 47 16.1 6
TOR 326 52 16 8
PHX 289 46 15.9 6
CAR 346 55 15.9 6
PIT 311 49 15.8 6
NSH 269 41 15.2 2
EDM 304 44 14.5 2
NJD 237 34 14.4 8
CBJ 301 42 14 11
FLA 267 35 13.1 5

***

Now, let’s look at how the 30 teams fared in Power Play Plus/Minus.

Team PP Opp PPG SHGA PP +/-
VAN 296 72 2 70
SJS 289 68 7 61
ANA 285 67 7 60
CHI 277 64 4 60
DET 301 67 7 60
TBL 336 69 16 53
CGY 318 62 9 53
MTL 290 57 6 51
STL 279 52 1 51
CAR 346 55 6 49
MIN 292 53 7 46
NYI 302 52 7 45
NYR 290 49 5 44
PHI 295 49 5 44
TOR 326 52 8 44
ATL 289 53 10 43
PIT 311 49 6 43
EDM 304 44 2 42
BUF 279 54 13 41
OTT 257 45 4 41
WSH 263 46 5 41
LAK 292 47 6 41
DAL 306 55 15 40
PHX 289 46 6 40
NSH 269 41 2 39
COL 265 49 11 38
BOS 265 43 5 38
CBJ 301 42 11 31
FLA 267 35 5 30
NJD 237 34 8 26

***

When it comes to the elite PPs, the top six stayed the same and the top 10 was very similar overall. That being said, there were other squads who made big jumps or dropped far when you looked at the mere quantity of goals their units scored and how many shorties they allowed.

  • The Hurricanes only connected on 15.3 percent of their man advantages, but they drew 346 penalties, the highest total in the NHL. That allowed them to score 55 power play goals, making their unit productive in the big picture.
  • The Penguins and Oilers made big jumps (Pittsburgh from 25th to tied for 16th; Edmonton 27th to 18th) because they drew more than 300 power plays. The Oilers only scored 44 goals but rarely shot themselves in the foot, only allowing two shorthanded goals.
  • The Sabres (ninth to tied for 19th) and Stars (14th to 23rd) allowed more than 10 shorties, revealing that their PP units were double-edged swords.
  • The Avalanche found the net on 18.5 percent of their opportunities, but they were tied with the Bruins for fourth-worst at drawing them (265 PP’s) and allowed 11 shorthanded goals. Calling their power play a top-10 unit seems laughable when you put it in the proper context.

***

Stay tuned for a look at Penalty Kill Plus/Minus and a big picture wrap-up later on.

* – Well, I think I introduced these very simple stats, because no one else came forward in the many times I published them. They’re so simple that I wouldn’t be shocked if someone else explored them, though.

Special Teams Plus/Minus – Early season results (October 31)

bruinsspecialteams plusminus oct 31

In case you weren’t following PHT in its first month, I introduced some new special teams stats because I’m not satisfied with the common percentage-based rankings for power plays and penalty kill units.

Earlier tonight, I provided the NHL’s best PP units based on Power Play Plus/Minus and then took a look at the PK leaders and losers.

Special Teams Plus/Minus is quite simple: you just add PP plus/minus and PK plus/minus together. (Although since every PK total is negative, it’s essentially subtraction.)

I’m not 100 percent sure this stat is quite as useful as the individual sets, although perhaps fan bases can rail on a coach (or point to a single number) when a team tumbles. Here’s the spreadsheet. The highlighted column is special teams plus/minus.

(click to enlarge)

Now, some observations:

  • You could probably categorize the top five teams as “elite” at this moment: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit and NY Islanders.
  • Conversely, the worst five: Buffalo, Colorado, New Jersey, Edmonton and Dallas.
  • Buffalo (-9) and Colorado (-7) are the anti-cream of the crop.
  • Atlanta is on top because of their high-powered PP (13 goals scored, zero allowed) while Boston did so because of a great PK (only two PP goals allowed).

So, there you have it, the best and worst special teams units in the NHL. Obviously, 8-12 games is a small sample, so we’ll update these once the season is about 25 percent finished. We hope that you enjoyed this dorky numbers exercise.