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

Jun 29, 2014, 10:20 PM EDT

Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Matt Niskanen AP

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 …

  1. c9castine - Jun 30, 2014 at 12:17 AM

    no denying the link between teams like san jose, pit, boston, and st. louis being ranked high in the regular season, low in the playoffs and out by the end of the second round.

  2. pj608 - Jun 30, 2014 at 1:02 AM

    Wow… Awesome job dude; Thats more like it…. I knew the NJ Devils would flip flop on this if you made it. Good work!

  3. bobc74 - Jun 30, 2014 at 6:27 AM

    Now let’s hope the new “analytics” guy in Pittsburgh can figure out the “why” behind the stat. And the new coach can implement the fix.

  4. rsl22 - Jun 30, 2014 at 8:02 AM

    As was discussed on here the other day, PP in playoffs isn’t usually the deciding factor. 5-on-5 play is what matters.

    So having a solid special teams in regular season will probably get you a higher seed and likely keep you healthier, but unless you can play even strength, you’re not going far.

    • pj608 - Jun 30, 2014 at 2:29 PM

      This is true… you cannot give the opposing team a PP because they pull out all the tricks in the playoffs. 5 on 5 is the best way and no odd man rushes. Even if you are on the PP you are susceptible to a short handed goal because your team feels secure with the extra man and get caught pinching. All it takes is one tip of the stick with a little speed and you have a break away.

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