Monday, April 28, 2008

The goals keep coming

Normally, at this time of year, what you see is hockey's great disappearing act. Super-human goaltenders, tight checking and terrific defence, all conspiring against those trying to put the puck in the net.

Often the goals are ugly in the postseason, knuckle-pucks that deflect off a shin pad and through a maze of legs and somehow find a way in. And it doesn't happen with regularity.

This year's been a bit different.

Fifty-seven games into the 2008 playoffs, and goal-scoring hasn't dried up at all. In fact, it's right where we left it in the regular season, a 5.44 goals per game pace that, by playoff standards, is pretty darn high.

I've only put together figures for the past seven years, but those alone are telling:

Season Playoffs Diff Pct
2000-01 5.510 4.802 -0.708 -12.85%
2001-02 5.240 4.767 -0.473 -9.03%
2002-03 5.310 4.708 -0.602 -11.34%
2003-04 5.137 4.404 -0.733 -14.26%
2005-06 6.051 5.651 -0.400 -6.62%
2006-07 5.760 4.951 -0.809 -14.05%
2007-08 5.440 5.439 -0.001 -0.02%

In the six seasons leading up to this year, the playoffs averaged 0.62 goals per game less than the regular season, a dip of about 11.5 per cent. These playoffs, at least so far (and we're at about the two-thirds mark in terms of games played), little's changed.

After a pretty low-scoring season, it's been an abnormally high-scoring postseason.

Now, why is that?



At 1:24 a.m., April 29, 2008, Blogger Nick said...

I don't think there's anything that magically different about the playoff hockey, I think the real differential has to do with the teams that don't make the playoffs. When the playoffs start, a lot of teams that let in a lot of goals during the regular season are no longer playing... So what's different this year? I think there's more offensive skill in the playoffs this year whereas defense has really dominated in the past few years.

I don't know if it's an anomaly, but I certainly hope it isn't. Teams like Pittsburgh this year are certainly more fun to watch than teams like Vancouver last year.

At 1:29 a.m., April 29, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe it's Brodeur, Nabokov, Thomas, Price etc. Pretty ugly stuff in many games.

At 2:50 a.m., April 29, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As someone who usually watches Western Conference hockey most of the year, I've really enjoyed watching the Eastern Conference playoffs because of the generally bad defensive play makes for much more exciting hockey. A Team like Montreal would get crushed in the WC if it had to play there all year, but I love watching them trade chances with the EC back markers.

At 7:25 a.m., April 29, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My first guess was that it was because offensive teams, especially in the West, were doing a better job of making the playoffs and winning in the playoffs. Playoff teams, especially in the East, were better offensively last year and defensively this year, but that's pretty much in line with the overall drop in scoring between years.

From playing around with the numbers a little bit, about two thirds of the increase in goals/game comes from a decrease in save% (.9188 last year, .9131 this year), and over a fifth comes from an increase in empty net goals (10 in 81 games last year, 13 in 57 this year). Together, those things make up almost 90% of the increase.

Shots per game have risen, but not much (59.5 last year, 60 this year). I'm not set up to look at shot quality data, and don't know if those numbers are easily available somewhere, so I can't say whether goalies or defence are responsible, but from the shots per game data and anecdotal evidence, I'd guess it's mostly poor goaltending.

At 10:02 a.m., April 29, 2008, Blogger Adam C said...

My first thought was that it was a reflection of the teams that qualified and didn't - and Vancouver versus Washington would back that up - but I don't know that it works. New Jersey, Boston and the Rangers all qualified in the East, while Buffalo and Carolina did not (and Ottawa sucked). Anaheim, Dallas and Calgary were all in the mix in the West.

Have the powerplays simply been more effective this year?

At 10:56 a.m., April 29, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Quite a few of the higher scoring teams this season missed the playoffs:

4. Carolina
5. Buffalo
10. Chicago
11. Toronto
14. Los Angeles
16. Tampa Bay

Ottawa was the only team in the bottom 11 in goals against to make the playoffs.

At 3:51 p.m., April 29, 2008, Blogger Unknown said...

XM shoutout to James Mirtle!

heard this entry referenced on the Around the Rinks segment...



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