Monday, April 9, 2012

Power Plays In The First Round Of The Playoffs

In 2009-2010, the Devils were fourth from last in the NHL in power play opportunities, receiving 3.32 power plays per game. However, in the playoffs, the Devils drew 6.4 power plays in their 5 games. As a Devils fan I should have been over the moon, right? What a turnaround! Except, of course, their opponent the Flyers also drew 5.6 penalties per game in those 5 contests and scored 4 more power play goals than New Jersey, drumming them out of the playoffs. I wondered - if power plays go up in the playoffs, are officials more apt to call penalties with more eyes on them, knowing that being a 'good' referee will get them promoted to the next round? Are players being more reckless with more at stake?

It turns out, they do go up - every year post-lockout, there are more power plays per game per team in the first round than in the regular season:

YearPP/G RegPP/G PlyffDifference

The difference hasn't been enormous, but it's there. I suspect it's a combination of the factors I mentioned above - players going at full speed every play, every board battle becoming incredibly important, and referees feeling the pressure of more eyes on them. One hopes that the referees do not decide to call the interference penalties they've been not calling for months now - not that I enjoy the slower game, but I don't like it when players don't seem to have any idea what is or is not a penalty.


  1. Would it be best to pro-rate this to 60 minutes, perhaps compare only the first three periods? I would suspect that very few if any calls are made in OT, let alone double- or triple-OT.

  2. I figured penalties in regular season OT and playoff OT would be rather negligible. There aren't many power plays in the regular season, either.

    But I imagine even so that removing OT penalties would make the contrast slightly more stark.

  3. I tried to answer the same question here:

    My slant was different in that many feared in Vancouver that the great reduction in PP's this year would naturally lead to less calls in the playoffs. The argument during reg. season was that refs didn't want to 'decide' games with so many trying to get in playoffs. Using this line of thinking then wouldn't they call less in the playoffs with the stakes higher?Obviously, they don't.
    So we still have no reasonable reason why the calls have fallen this year?

    "but I don't like it when players don't seem to have any idea what is or is not a penalty."
    great comment. This has always frustrated me. Refs do decide the game when they are so inconsistent!
    I would like the NHL to critique select calls throughout the season (like they do with Shanny videos) Then we can hold them accountable in the playoffs (of course it will never happen

    1. Good article, and yeah, it's definitely surprising that the calls stay up.

      I think the calls have fallen because there's been some sort of inertia built up in the referees to not call penalties, and when you don't call one penalty, you end up not calling the next one when it's on the other team, and it snowballs.

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