When the whistles go away
An embarrassing look at NHL officiating
Those that frequent this site know that, in general, I don't focus all that much on officiating. For the most part, that old axiom about hockey being difficult to referee holds true, and I think the league's latest attempt at a crackdown the past few years has been a generally positive thing.
As the following stats will show (and I owe another thank you to Gabe Desjardins for some help on this), the calls in this year's playoffs simply do not cut it. Too often referees are disappearing late in games, so much so that it's affecting the integrity of games.
So far in these playoffs, there have been 68 games played. In those games, there have been by my count a total of 766 penalties called, or 11.3 per game, a figure that includes everything: fights, misconducts, majors, etc.
Here's the minute totals, by period:
Period 1 = 580 PIM (8.53 per game)
Period 2 = 576 PIM (8.47 per game)
Period 3 = 571 PIM (8.40 per game)
Let's throw out fights and misconducts, the bulk of which occur in the third:
With 68 games played, 20 minutes a period, there have been 1,360 minutes each of first, second and third periods. That's .40 PIM per minute in the first period, .41 in the second and .28 in the third. (And I'm including coincidental penalties for now.)
Anyone want to guess what overtime looks like?
Fifteen games have gone to overtime these playoffs, nearly a quarter of them, and more than 164 minutes of extra time played.
There have been exactly four penalties, all minors, called in overtime this year, which is 0.049 PIM per minute. Three minutes in penalties over 60 minutes of action, in other words.
Now, playoff overtime's obviously an extreme, but the fact is, penalties have been disappearing as games go along. I've broken down all 68 games into 12 five-minute intervals, eliminated coincidentals, which gives us a look at the man advantages dealt at different points in games in these playoffs:
The first five minutes of a period are very penalty free, in general, but have a look at the third five-minute interval (10-15 in the first, 30-35 in the second and 50-55 in the third): Players are half as likely to receive a penalty in the final period as in the first two in this portion of games.
(And the small spike at the very end is attributable to some of the end of game shenanigans that always seem to take place.)
Minus misconducts, majors and coincidentals, games average about 8.5 penalties per game, roughly four power plays a side. First and second periods average between 9.2 and 9.5 penalties per 60 minutes, a figure that declines about 30 per cent in the third, and 35 per cent over the final 10 minutes of games.
From the rate in the first two periods, overtime penalty calling drops 85 per cent to 1.46 per 60 minutes.
Types of penalties by period (coincidentals included):
|Puck over glass||3||8||5||16|
There's no question that's a problem. The question is, how big of one is it and how do you fix it?
UPDATE Danny Tolensky had more on this topic last week.