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