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

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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.

LA Kings put goaltender Cal Petersen on waivers

Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings put goaltender Cal Petersen on waivers, a surprising move for a player once considered the successor in net to two-time Stanley Cup winner Jonathan Quick.

Petersen, 28, went on waivers the day after allowing four goals on 16 shots in relief of Quick during a 9-8 overtime loss to the Seattle Kraken. Quick was pulled after giving up five goals on 14 shots.

Only one NHL goalie has a save percentage lower than Petersen’s .868 this season, Elvis Merzlikins of the Columbus Blue Jackets with .864. Petersen is 5-3-2 in 10 games with a 3.75 goals-against average in his third full season with the Kings and fifth overall.

L.A. signed Petersen to a three-year, $15 million contract in September 2021, and he figured to take the starting job from Quick, who turns 37 in January and is set to be a free agent after the season. Petersen has two years left on that deal after this one at an annual salary cap hit of $5 million.

Penguins’ Kris Letang out indefinitely after 2nd stroke

Kris Letang Penguins
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PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang plays hockey with a grace and inexhaustible fluidity seemingly impervious to the rigors of spending nearly half his life in the NHL.

For the second time in less than a decade, however, a major health scare has brought Letang’s career to a halt.

The 35-year-old Letang is out indefinitely after suffering a stroke for a second time. Letang reported feeling ill and was taken to the hospital, where tests confirmed the stroke.

While general manager Ron Hextall said Wednesday this stroke doesn’t appear to be as serious as the one Letang sustained in 2014, the Penguins will have to find a way forward at least in the short term without one of their franchise pillars.

“I am fortunate to know my body well enough to recognize when something isn’t right,” Letang said in a release. “While it is difficult to navigate this issue publicly, I am hopeful it can raise awareness. … I am optimistic that I will be back on the ice soon.”

The three-time Stanley Cup champion missed more than two months in 2014 after a stroke, which doctors determined was caused by a small hole in the wall of his heart. He spent Monday feeling off and told team trainers he was dealing with what Hextall described as a migraine headache.

Penguins team physician Dr. Dhamesh Vyas recommended Letang go to the hospital, where tests confirmed the stroke.

“He didn’t know (he had a stroke),” Hextall said. “He just knew something wasn’t right.”

Letang is continuing to undergo tests but felt well enough on Tuesday to be at the arena for Pittsburgh’s 3-2 overtime loss to Carolina. He spent the second period chatting with Hextall then addressed his teammates in the locker room afterward in an effort to help allay their concerns.

“I think it was important for Kris to be there because his teammates got to see him in good spirits and that he’s doing well,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.

Sullivan added initial test results on Letang have been “very encouraging.” Letang will continue to undergo testing throughout the week, though he felt good enough in the aftermath to ask Sullivan and Hextall if he could skate, an activity that is off the table for now.

Hextall said he “couldn’t even guess” how long the Penguins may be without the married father of two, adding hockey is low on the team’s list of concerns about a player who, along with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, has helped the franchise to three Stanley Cups during his 17-year career.

“First and foremost this is about the person and I told Tanger about that last night,” Hextall said. “This is Kris Letang, the father and family guy, the Pittsburgh Penguins, that’s second.”

Letang, a six-time All-Star, has been one of the most durable players in the NHL. His 662 career points (145 goals, 517 assists) are a franchise record for a defenseman. He’s averaged well over 24 minutes of playing time over the course of his career, a number that’s ticked above 25 minutes per game seven times in eight-plus seasons since he returned from the initial stroke.

The Penguins felt so confident in Letang’s durability that they signed him to a six-year contract over the summer rather than let him test free agency for the first time.

“The level of hockey he’s played for as long as he’s played is absolutely incredible,” Hextall said. “The level he’s continued to play at at his age, the type of shape he’s in … he’s a warrior.”

Letang has one goal and 11 assists in 21 games so far this season for Pittsburgh, which hosts Vegas on Thursday night. The Penguins are pretty deep along the blue line, but Sullivan knows he can’t try to replace Letang with any one player.

“It’s not anything we haven’t been faced with in the past and the reality is we have what we have, and we’ll figure it out,” Sullivan said, adding “it’ll be by committee, as it usually is when you replace a player of that stature.”

Ovechkin tops Gretzky for most road goals, Capitals beat Canucks

Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Alex Ovechkin scored twice, passing Wayne Gretzky for the most road goals in NHL history, and the Washington Capitals beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-1 on Tuesday night.

Ovechkin has scored 403 of his 793 career goals away from home. Gretzky holds the overall record with 894.

“It’s always nice when you beat the Great One,” Ovechkin said. “It doesn’t matter what kind of milestone it is. It’s history.”

Anthony Mantha added a goal and an assist for the Capitals (10-11-3). John Carlson and Martin Fehervary also scored, and Darcy Kuemper stopped 31 shots.

Nils Hoglander scored for the Canucks (9-11-3), who had won three in a row. Spencer Martin made 23 saves.

“Spencer’s been great for us. He’s probably a bit like the other players tonight. They weren’t ready to play and it showed on the scoreboard,” Vancouver coach Bruce Boudreau said.

The 37-year-old Ovechkin nearly netted a hat trick when Vancouver pulled Martin for an extra skater with just over six minutes left, but his rocket of a shot skimmed the outside of the post.

“I think he has 13 goals this year and I want to say like eight or nine have been like a new record. So it’s been cool,” Washington center Dylan Strome said. “Any time you pass Wayne Gretzky in anything, it deserves a standing ovation, which he got.”

Fehervary was the one who sealed it, flipping the puck high into the Canucks zone and into the empty net at 15:57 of the third period.

Ovechkin topped Gretzky 11:52 into the first, firing a one-timer from the left circle past Martin to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead with his 13th goal of the season.

“On his second goal, it looks like, `Oh, maybe (Martin) should have had it.’ But I’ve seen (Ovechkin) score 100 goals like that,” said Boudreau, who coached the Capitals from 2007-11. “He’s got a shot that finds its way in.”

The star forward from Russia got his first of the night 5:35 in, taking the puck off the stick of Vancouver defenseman Quinn Hughes near the net and batting in a quick shot.

“It could have been 6-1 after the first period, quite frankly, with the amount of chances (Washington) had,” Boudreau said.

It was Ovechkin’s 135th game-opening goal, tying Jaromir Jagr for the most in NHL history.

“(Ovechkin) was really good in the first and I thought we were really good in the first so it was nice to get out and get a jump like that,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “He certainly led. We knew we needed to have a good first period, have a good game, and you need your best players to do that.”

Carlson scored the lone goal of the second, chipping in a loose puck from the low hash marks at 18:47 to give Washington a 4-1 cushion.

“It’s frustrating. Because when you lose games, it should never be about your compete level and battle level,” Canucks center J.T. Miller said. “It’s frustrating because they didn’t out-skill us today, they didn’t out-system us. They literally just outbattled us and created their own chances.”

NOTES: Washington’s Lars Eller got his 200th career assist. … Miller had an assist, extending his point streak to nine games (four goals, seven assists). … The Capitals swept the two-game season series. … Vancouver assigned winger Vasily Podkolzin and defenseman Jack Rathbone to the Abbotsford Canucks on Monday, then recalled forward Phillip Di Giuseppe from the American Hockey League club on Tuesday.

UP NEXT

Washington: At Seattle on Thursday in the second of a five-game trip.

Vancouver: Host Florida on Thursday in the second of a four-game homestand.

Deal for Coyotes’ proposed arena approved by Tempe council

David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports
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TEMPE, Ariz. — The Tempe City Council has unanimously approved a proposal for a new Arizona Coyotes arena and entertainment district, clearing the way for a public vote on the project next year.

The City Council approved the proposal 7-0 after a lengthy meeting that included NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

The $2.1 billion project would include a 16,000-seat arena, practice rink, 1,600 apartments, two hotels and a theater. Approval of the project was the final step before it goes to referendum on May 16.

The team is currently playing at Arizona State’s 5,000-seat Mullett Arena, by far the NHL’s smallest arena.

The Coyotes have been searching for a permanent home since the city of Glendale pulled out of a multimillion-dollar lease at Gila River Arena. Arizona had been playing on an annual lease until Glendale said it would not be renewed for the 2022-23 season.