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

Jul 23, 2011, 10:22 PM EDT

Derek Mackenzie AP

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.

  1. crownedroyal - Jul 23, 2011 at 11:52 PM

    It’s about time we started modifying power play stats. Kudos. My biggest problem with the percentages, however, is still the measurement of ‘opportunities’ in the way that they are qualified- sometimes, power plays are only 10 seconds (due to other penalties expiring) yet this is still counted as ‘one’ opportunity just as a full two minutes would be.

    Percentages should be based on a calculation of time, wherein two min of power play time counts as one opportunity, or simply by expressing it as a ration of PPG/2:00.

    Just a theory.

    • James O'Brien - Jul 24, 2011 at 12:14 AM

      Oh, I like that idea a lot. Might be easier for people who write for individual teams to work out than to go by the full league, but it’s definitely a great point.

      • crownedroyal - Jul 24, 2011 at 12:46 AM

        NHL.com has the stats. For example, the Canucks had 444:27 of 5-4 power play time (which I also like splitting the different man advantages into) and 69 goals. That is 280 actual opportunities, but using it at a percentage of 2:00, that would actually be only (roughly) 222 full two-minute power plays.

        This could be expressed with a modified percentage of 31.1% per full 2 min 5-4 power play and 28.6% per full 2 min 5-3 power play (7:07 time 5-3 and 1 goal scored).

        Guess I’ll be writing a blog post on this…

      • James O'Brien - Jul 24, 2011 at 2:35 AM

        Yup, I saw that NHL.com has those numbers shortly after posting my comments.

  2. eklundssource - Jul 23, 2011 at 11:56 PM

    Isn’t the ability to draw penalties very different than the ability to convert goals on the resulting powerplay? Not that good can’t come from measuring them combined, but imagine a team that spent 60% of each game on the powerplay yet ‘only’ managed 96 goals? They would have likely ‘won’ this analysis despite being pretty poor on the powerplay..

    Alternatively, a team with just 30 powerplay goals would fare poorly here, but if they were awful at drawing penalties and had just 60 attempts, that’s really not the powerplay unit itself that is a problem..

    A more interesting analysis would be, to me, powerplay goals per minute, average time to convert, etc – to my naked eye that seems a different way to evaluate efficiency than chances converted or +/-. May start putting together that data, come to think of it. Thanks for the post!

    • James O'Brien - Jul 24, 2011 at 12:16 AM

      You make some strong points as well. My general feeling is “the more the merrier” when it comes to stats. Power play percentage can have it’s place too, I just feel like this is a better bottom line way of looking at things. Per minute would be an intriguing thing to look at if the information is easy to locate (as I discussed with crownedroyal).

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