Playing the Clock

In Hockey on November 9, 2009 at 3:11 am

When I first begin contemplating statistical analysis in hockey, I was immediately struck by the outdated nature of a number of common stats. Whether it was the nebulous nature of the multiple assist, the deception of the +/- or even in the way we look at team-wide success on the power play and on the penalty kill, it seemed to me that we can, and maybe should, be doing better.

Last year, I developed a rudimentary method for tracking these last figures by opportunity cost in time (slaves to the clock, as we are) instead of raw opportunity, due to the variations in opportunity sizes. At the time, I held myself to tracking the Maple Leafs only. In isolation, it was pretty clear that the Buds had a solid power play, but were rather hopeless when disadvantaged. While interesting in isolation, the Leafs do not play themselves. I understood that to truly measure this stat, I would have to track the entire league. So I did.

As this season proceeded, I undertook to track the special teams activities of all 30 NHL teams. If you have not read the linked article, or my last article, what I am looking at is the average time each team needs on its power play before scoring and the average time between power play goals allowed. This requires measuring, to the second, how long each team spends on their special teams during games. To account for 2-man advantage situations, I have decided to double count the time. Also, while I am noting shorthanded goals, the numbers I am about to publish do not include them.

Let’s start with the power play. It stands to reason that the stronger power plays would require less time, on average, to score. In power play goals per opportunity, as measured in seconds, the leader board is as follows:

1)    Van    337.882
2)    Cal    346.000
3)     Atl    347.600
4)    Phi    349.714
5)    Tor    349.929
6)    NYR    350.929
7)    SJ    372.000
8)    Pho    399.692
9)    Ana    408.800
10)    LA    415.133
11)    Det    448.167
12)    Clm    451.818
13)    Col    460.833
14)    Edm    465.250
15)    Was    479.769
16)    NYI    480.500
17)    Min    514.583
18)    Pit    552.364
19)    Chi    552.667
20)    Dal    579.818
21)    TB    588.778
22)    Buf    612.556
23)    Car    632.555
24)    Mon    668.875
25)    NJ    684.714
26)    Bos     722.667
27)    Ott    740.000
28)    StL    749.667
29)    Fla    767.429
30)    Nas    817.500

The most prolific teams, the Canucks, Flames, Thrashers, Flyers, Maple Leafs (this is pre-Kessel!) and Rangers, need just over 5.5 minutes to score – that means scoring power play goals more than once every three full minor penalties.

The weakest power plays, such as those belonging to forward-starved Bruins, the Senators, Blues, Panthers and Predators, have so-far required more than double the opportunity, needing over 12 minutes each between power play goals.

For every power play, there is an equal and opposite penalty kill. The following chart lists NHL teams in how long they were able to kill penalties before succumbing to the opposition’s power play.

1)    Min    886.167
2)    Ott    808.571
3)    Col    804.500
4)    Chi    773.142
5)    Phi    739.143
6)    NYR    691.333
7)    SJ    613.000
8)    NYI    598.556
9)    Atl    586.750
10)    Pit    563.727
11)    StL    529.800
12)    NJ    526.250
13)    TB    525.222
14)    Car    524.667
15)    Was    515.455
16)    Edm    514.500
17)    Cal    478.000
18)    Clm    468.727
19)    Buf    464.250
20)    Pho    460.333
21)    Van    420.538
22)    Bos     405.900
23)    Nas    402.818
24)    LA    381.429
25)    Dal    379.750
26)    Mon    367.800
27)    Fla    337.154
28)    Det    328.833
29)    Ana    326.056
30)    Tor    284.059

Interesting to note that the worst penalty killing team (Toronto) surrenders power play goals faster than the best team (Vancouver) is at scoring them – 337-284 – while the best penalty killers (Minnesota) take more time between the allowing of power play goals by the opposition than the worst power play (Nashville) requires to score their own – 886-817.

We’ll end this column with one final long table, wherein I’ll list the aggregate special teams. From best to worst. Considering that we would all want our team to score more frequently when up a man than we would be surrending goals when down one, I have simply taken the power play efficiency number and subtracted the penalty killing number. Great special teams units will have negative numbers, and poorly, or poorly balanced teams will have positive numbers, the higher, the more poorly balanced.

1    Phi    -389.429
2    Min    -371.584
3    Col    -343.667
4    NYR    -340.404
5    SJ    -241.000
6    Atl    -239.150
7    Chi    -220.475
8    Cal    -132.000
9    NYI    -118.056
10    Van    -82.656
11    Ott    -68.571
12    Pho    -60.641
13    Edm    -49.250
14    Was    -35.686
15    Clm    -16.909
16    Pit    -11.363
17    LA    33.704
18    TB    63.556
19    Tor    65.870
20    Ana    82.744
21    Car    107.888
22    Det    119.334
23    Buf    148.306
24    NJ    158.464
25    Dal    200.068
26    StL    219.867
27    Mon    301.075
28    Bos    316.767
29    Nas    414.682
30    Fla    430.275

I’ll be back in the next few days to offer some analysis to go along with these numbers, and look at a few trends we should follow as the season builds.

  1. How much are Toronto’s numbers on the power play affected by the 3 two-man advantage goals vs. the Ducks on Oct. 7, in addition to a 4-on-3 goal?

  2. I won’t be able to get to the numbers until Tuesday or Wednesday, but it wasn’t that much. In that game, Anaheim gave the Leafs plenty of opportunity on the power play, and as a measurement of opportunity, that game’s effects on the total monthly numbers is mitigated. Also – remember that I measure both penalties in the 5-3 scenarios. The two penalties have the potential worth of 240 seconds. One goal will cut short the earlier of the two penalties, while the second one will continue to play out.
    For argument’s sake, let’s say the two penalties occured simultaneously. After one minute, the Leafs scored. They did not score on the remainder of the power play. The total effeciency then is one goal per 180 seconds. I’ll run the numbers without that game when I can and post the results here.

  3. Dillon – when I took away the Leafs PP from that one game against Anaheim, their PPG rate dropped from 349.929 to 423.222. In other words, from 5th to 11th. But if you look at most teams and took away their top game, especially within only their first 15 or so, their rate would drop a similar percentage.

  4. […] Some of you may be wondering why I didn’t post the Special Teams for January’s end. I figured that the short month of games in February would provide a better take on the state of the game. These will be the last numbers posted before the end of the season. For a recap of my methods, click here. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: