An elite contribution: Drawing penalties
It's no secret that penalties can have a pretty big impact on a game.
Two years ago, stats man Gabe Desjardins put together some pretty nifty data on scoring rates at various situations, info that may have shifted slightly this season but that generally rings true:
5-on-5: 2.51 goals per 60 mins
4-on-4: 2.73 goals per 60 mins
3-on-3: 6.44 goals per 60 mins
5-on-4: 5.61 goals per 60 mins
5-on-3: 16.1 goals per 60 mins
4-on-3: 6.92 goals per 60 mins
In other words, if the average team played an entire game at 5-on-4 in 2005-06, they'd score roughly 2.25 times more goals than at 5-on-5.
It stands to reason, then, that teams that spend more time with the man advantage score more.
One great stat that Desjardins provides on Behind The Net is penalties drawn, both for individual players and for players' teams when individuals are on and off the ice. From that data, we can determine that the average forward draws 1.17 penalties per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play, and the average defenceman draws just 0.43.
In general, blueliners take penalties, forwards draw them.
And especially so for the good ones.
Here's a look at which forwards have the highest rate of penalties drawn this season:
Some of these fellows are a huge pain in the ass, and get marks for goading the opposition into taking penalties, but for the most part, this is a talented bunch. What do they have in common? Speed, stickhandling ability, and — in a lot of cases — they're really not all that big.
And Sidney Crosby, an ace in a lot of ways, leads the pack by a considerable margin this season.
Just for interest's sake, here's a look at the defencemen leaders:
More speed. Phaneuf obviously brings both grit and finesse, but a water bug like Cumiskey shows up here because he's hard to stop any other way.
Pretty interesting stuff.
Now, Crosby's not the norm, obviously. He draws penalties at a rate almost triple of the average, and way, way higher than the fellows on the low end.
By way of comparison, a few other "elite" forwards who play similar 5-on-5 minutes are Henrik Zetterberg, Ilya Kovalchuk, Daniel Alfredsson and Nathan Horton. Compare how they draw penalties, and how their teams draw penalties with them on the ice:
- Crosby 3.1/60 and 8.1/60
- Zetterberg 1.5 and 6.4
- Kovalchuk 1.3 and 6.2
- Alfredsson 0.9 and 4.7
- Horton 0.7 and 4.5
Let's say, for argument's sake, all five will play 82 games at these rates this season. That would then mean that Crosby was responsible for drawing about 64 penalties over the course of a season. If the Penguins' power play fires at about 20 per cent, that's potentially 13 goals scored.
Zetterberg, meanwhile, would draw about 31 penalties over the course of a season, good for about half that. And Horton, way down the ranks at just 0.7 penalties drawn per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time, well he'd only offer up a paltry 14 over the course of a full season.
Or a little less than three goals.
The range in the stat is actually quite striking, with some players drawing as little as one penalty so far this season. Horton is far from the lowest in terms of penalties drawn, with forwards like Petr Sykora and Alex Frolov sitting at just 0.4 per 60 minutes.
The thing I wonder is if it's possible for players to become better at drawing penalties, other than diving more often.
It's certainly one way to create more goals for your team.