Monday, May 08, 2006


Final Stats Watch, Pt. 1 (the Debriefing)

Tyler has done a final look at scoring rates for the season, and covers all the bases. To sum up in the same metrics as the first time I looked at this:

Even-Strength Scoring: 1 goal every 11:35, last season it was 1 every 13:32 (increase in frequency of 16.8%). (Also, on January 6, it was 1 goal every 11:14; ES scoring slowed down in the 2nd half).

Powerplay Scoring: 1 goal every 7:54, last season it was 1 every 8:42 (increase in frequency of 10.3%). (Also, on January 6, it was 1 goal every 8:01; PP efficiency appears* to have increased in the 2nd half).

5-on-3: The final # of 5-on-3 goals this season was 351, a 127.9% increase over the 154 scored last season. If you simply deduct those "extra" 197 5-on-3 goals from the PP stats above, then PP scoring frequency was 1 goal every 8:29, a mere 2.5% increase. [Disclaimer: even ignoring the absence of data on 5-on-3 opportunities, this might not be the best mathematical way to compare PP efficiencies between the two seasons.]

All this data is important for two reasons. One: as I've mentioned before, and as Tyler and Tom have both discussed in some detail, it's important for assessing the changes to the game in general. I have no problem with the notion of the Eye of the Beholder: some people liked hockey more this year and some didn't, and there is nothing to be argued about here. But if one wishes to speak with authority, it's unwise to stand entirely on perception and intuition.

Second, it should be of some value in assessing which rule changes were wise and unwise; or, which helped scoring and which did not. The fact that the ES scoring rate was up 16.8% while the PP scoring rate was only up 2.5% should offer huge clues here.

The restricted goalie equipment can't have been too big a factor, so if there's safety (or whatever) issues that indicate that the equipment got too small, there's room to slide back without affecting scoring. The obstruction crackdown is a more complicated matter. On special teams play there is certainly less jockeying through the neutral zone (and a lot more stationary play), so to some (small?) extent, less hooking and holding should benefit ES scoring more than PP scoring. But to my eye, most of the "new" penalties are little hooks and holds along the boards and in the corners; a reduction in that type of obstruction should help the PP just as much as ES. Also, why wasn't SH scoring up a lot as well.

Tom Benjamin zeroed in on a conclusion back in January that still seems pretty reasonable: that the increase in ES scoring was caused not by reduced obstruction, but by reduced stoppages. No two-line pass, tag-up offsides, fewer icings. I hope this is the reason, because I personally liked those changes. I was worried that allowing two-line passes would make defensemen play even more conservatively than before, but that's not what I saw, at least.

I also ended up liking the trapezoid. For the first 55 games of the season, I figured it was pretty meaningless, but after watching the Olympics I changed my mind. I no longer have any doubt that allowing goalies to play pucks in the corners reduces the number of offensive "chances" (by which I simply mean the number of times a team gains possession of the puck in the offensive end). Furthermore, there's just nothing interesting or entertaining about goalies playing the puck, and restricting it doesn't eliminate anything that's integral to the game (in my eyes). Is it fair, or unfair? Don't know. I'd be interested to hear any argument, sincere or not, that ditching the trapezoid would make the game better; at this point I don't think there is one.

The last rule I wanted to touch on was the 2 minute minor for "puck over the glass". I don't like it, because I think the penalty is excessive for the crime; I'd like to see the League punish it the same way as Icing (no line change for the offending team, faceoff in their own end). However, not only would this reduce the # of PPs and hence total scoring, it would also result in more guys willing to put it over the glass in a pinch, thus slowing the game down and reducing potential scoring situations. [Footnote here: there was roughly 3 more PPs per game this season than last, up to 11.5 from 8.5. My best guess is that roughly 0.5 of the '3' increase is attributable to the Puck over Glass penalty, i.e. one every two games. Does this jibe with everyone else's perception?]

This is more a discussion for after the Cup has been awarded, but as you are aware, I've been forced by events to amuse myself with non-Playoffs-related material. Your input is welcome.


I'd actually be willing to go with the ref's judgement on the intentional puck over the glass call for another season.

Early in the year--when it was a mandatory penalty--it was ridiculous; but I don't think it is excessive to give a penalty for a player who intentionally flips it over the glass when pressured, just as it isn't excessive when a d-man closes his hand on the puck in an attempt to freeze the action in a goal mouth scramble.

I know it is a tough call for the officials to make, but that's why they get paid the big bucks.

The other one that probably deserves some discussion is the shift of the blue lines and goal lines out. I love the goal line being moved back a bit, and I'm not sure how I feel about the blue lines.

On the one hand, it sure does seem to create a lot more room in the o-zone, especially on powerplays. This doesn't seem to have affected the pp effectiveness, however, and the smaller neutral zone has its own problems (or maybe it doesn't?).

I've had this conversation more than once now, and perhaps I should just shut it since I appear to be confused.

The midseason directive didn't say anything (the way I read it) about giving the refs discretion based on intent, and I personally in 20-30 games never saw a "penalty" waved off because it was accidental.

But everyone else seems to think that it's now the ref's call, so, OK! We'll see what happens in the offseason.

Huh. Wadda ya know. I don't understand that directive either.

In any case, if it isn't "intent-based" now, it should be.

Matt, I completely agree with your assessment of the goalie puckhandling situation. There's no doubt in my mind that it has made for a better game. However, I would get rid of the trapezoid by banning goaltenders from going behind the goalline altogether.

Personally, the only thing I would like to see changed is a crackdown on diving. All the teams have players that do it now - you feel a stick anywhere and you fall down. Tell the refs to call it when there is a question. I know the argument "It was either a penalty OR a dive" but embellishing the hook/hold should be a penalty, too. With so many games looking like the Nutcracker on Ice with guys flying and spinning, I'd love to see anything to convince players to try and fight through a hook again so that the zaboni's will be the only thing polishing the ice.

Good post, thought provoking stuff.

Total second period 5on5 scoring has actually stayed flat or maybe dropped a shade since 03/04 (though not relative to icetime). The gains in 5on5 scoring came in the 1st and 3rd periods (granted I don't have hard numbers, but that's the way it was rolling when I checked earlier in the year. And there is no reason it would have changed).

A lot more mismatches and long shifts now even with the short change. As you've alluded to.

On an anecdotal level, most people I know like this NHL game better, myself included. Whether that's down to the new rules or the fact that a lot of teams are choosing to play more uptempo styles now ... I dunno. Probably more of the former with much of the latter mixed in.

As for the effect of the smaller goalie equipment, to me it is really noticeable in the shootouts, but beyond that ... not so much. To gauge the effect of the equipment you could:

1. Look at the difference in save% during 5on4 PPs from 03/04 to 05/06 (tricky to do though)

2. Look at the relative change in 2nd period save%. It was always the worst period for this, but should have changed the least ... so says common sense.

3. Look at the effect that similar goalie equipment changes had on the AHL last season (04/05). By memory I think the change was about +.005 or so.


All three of those numbers should yield about the same result. Though the first one would be a bitch to dig up, I may have a go on a rainy day in the summer ... hopefully somebody else does it first :-)

Forgot to say:

I think the "staying on the ice if you ice the puck" rule and the "not icing if even if you just damn near touch the puck on a long bomb pass" rule are both inspired.

I love the "shot over the glass rule" too. Though you're starting to convince me that the penalty is a bit harsh and that treating it like an icing would be fairer. Still, I like the arbitrary and random quality that these penalties bring to the game, kinda cool in a strange way.

I think that they would have been better off if they only enforced the obstruction severely on the puck carrier, because it would encourage more teams to play assertively. But no arguing with results; on most nights an NHL game is more fun to watch now IMO.

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