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Numbers Game

In this week’s Numbers Game, I looked at team goal scoring. Obviously, in a team game where you win by scoring more goals than the other team, the more goals your team scores the better chance you have to win. It should come as no surprise that teams that scored more goals in each of the last 5 seasons enjoyed greater team success. Only 4 teams that qualified for the playoffs last season (Dallas, Minnesota, New Jersey and the New York Rangers) did not finish in the top half of the league in goals scored.

Some people would suggest that teams that score more 5-on-5 goals would likely rank higher in conference standings. In most games, teams play the majority of the game at even-strength. Conversely, power-play opportunities are not guaranteed and are determined by the subjectivity of the referees. Logic would therefore dictate that teams that are able to score more goals on even-strength instead of relying on power-play opportunities would be more likely to win.

The numbers, however, would suggest otherwise. With the exception of last season, over the last 5 seasons, a higher ratio of even-strength goals to power-play goals was not a strong predictor of overall team success. While teams that scored more even-strength goals and more power-play goals were more likely to qualify for the playoffs, it did not matter whether they had better success in either category.

As a result of these findings, it becomes apparent that success at even strength is no more telling than success on the powerplay. Therefore, teams are probably better off stressing the equal importance of these on-ice situations instead of stressing the importance of one over the other.

For Illegal Curve, I’m Adam Gutkin.