The playoffs are right around the corner now and there’s no doubt that special teams are very important to any club with hopes of winning the Stanley Cup. Contrary to the popular belief that refs swallow the whistle during the postseason, there is about the same amount of penalties called during the playoffs than in the regular season. Yet the power plays they create are generally more important, considering every goal counts towards potential elimination.
But like with a lot of other aspects of the game, there is generally limited data available to analyze special teams in the NHL. Over the past few weeks, I’ve collected a lot of data on the Chicago Blackhawks power play and have found some interesting results that give a better analysis on how their power play is performing. While I still plan on collecting data on the Hawks, I introduce to you the Playoff Data Project. Throughout the playoffs I will try to track every team and compile information about their special teams, hopefully shedding more light on how their units are performing and reveal who had the advantages and disadvantages in each series.
But before I start, I thought it would be helpful to have an article explaining everything I plan on tracking (even though I covered most of it in my series on the Blackhawks here and at Second City Hockey).
Game Number, Team, Period, Time Remaining, Score State, Situation (5v4, 4v3), 4 Forwards?, P1-P5
For every attempted zone entry, I will be tracking the time, period, score state, situation, the number of forwards out on the ice, and which players are on during the entry. The score state records how many goals a team is up or down by and is based on the attacking team. For example, if during one of the Blackhawks power plays they were down by two goals, the score state would be -2.
Then I will also be recording how many forwards are on the power play unit (if a team uses three or four). During the regular season, Chicago’s four forward power play unit seemed to have a lot more success than the three forward unit and I’m interested to see if this trend continues throughout the playoffs.
Entry Type, Faceoff Win?, Successful?, Controlled?, # of Passes Before Entry, Carry/Dump/Pass, Entry Assist, Entry Player
For every attempted zone entry, I will be tracking what breakout formation the team used (and if it was a faceoff in the offensive zone, if the team won or lost it), if the entry was successful or controlled, the number of passes before the entry occurred, if the puck was carried, dumped, or passed into the zone, who entered the zone, and who assisted the entry. The entry assist goes to the player who last passed the puck to the guy entering the zone.
For controlled and uncontrolled entries, I’m going to use the definitions Prashanth Iyer used in his analysis of the Detroit Red Wings power play.
Controlled – Any attempted carry or completed pass that tries to gain the offensive zone
Uncontrolled – Any dump-in or passing play that did not connect
As for the breakout formations, I will be using the formations outlined in Hockey Plays and Strategies. The most common ones are the Canuck Center-Lane Option, Dallas Cut, Drop Pass, and Five Back formation.
Offensive Zone Data
Attempt form?, InForm/OutForm/Rush, Form Type, Time to get Into Form, Time to First Shot Attempt, Time in Zone, Shots Attempted, Scoring Chances, Shots On Goal
Besides zone entry data, I will also be tracking what happens in the offensive zone. I will be recording if the attacking team attempted to get into formation, if they were in form, out of form, or on the rush, what formation they used if they were in form, the time it took to register the first shot attempt, total time in the offensive zone, total shots attempted, total scoring chances, and total shots on goal from that entry.
I consider a scoring chance as any shot attempted inside the home plate area, outlined in the picture below.
Penalty Killing Data
Attempt Form, PK Form, Exit Player, Exit Type
While I won’t be tracking nearly as many stats on the penalty kill as I will for the power play, I still found the data I tracked for the penalty kills against the Blackhawks very interesting and insightful. With the Blackhawks data from the regular season, I only tracked what formation the penalty killing unit used. However, I plan on expanding on that a bit throughout the playoffs. Along with whether or not the penalty killing unit attempted to get into formation (and what formation they used), I will be tracking which player got the puck out of the zone and how they did it.
For the penalty killing formations, I’ll mostly be tracking five different types:
The Passive Triangle+1
The Pressure Triangle+1, or Czech Press
And The Rotating Triangle
Hopefully I’ll be able to keep up with the playoffs and be able to track the games as soon as they go on, so the plan is to post updates and some analysis after each round. Some of the articles will probably be in the same format as the Chicago series but now that I’ll be tracking more than one team, ideally I’ll be able to compare different aspects of the power play and penalty kill across all the teams in the playoffs.