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Tuesday's Numbers: Penalties, powerplays and playoffs

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Well, the game on Saturday was certainly something, eh?

There was also a tremendous amount of chatter about how the game was called, that the Vancouver Canucks may have a chance against the Boston Bruins if there is a Stanley Cup rematch if the officials call the playoffs as tightly as the regular season.

Vancouver was a definite beneficiary of the officials on Saturday, with two top-six forwards being taken out of the game for Boston's side. Boston, however, beat the Canucks at even strength. As of this morning, Boston are a 54.6% possession team at home and the Canucks are 52.4% on the road, so the Canucks should expect to get beat in a rematch at evens in the Gardens.

The powerplay needs to come through, and if the powerplay gets its opportunities, it will come through. Going by official boxscores, I pegged the Canucks powerplay at being 2/33 in the Stanley Cup Finals, so the team was obviously getting its chances. Maybe not 11 in a game, but consider that had the Canucks PP connected like it did in the regular season (24.3%) the Canucks would have had 8 powerplay goals in the series. They got 2. Six goals equals a win in hockey. Do the math.


Either way, the question I wanted to posit was "do the Canucks get their powerplay opportunities in the playoffs?" I went through the box scores for every playoff game and sifted out all the penalties that were called after the five-minute mark of overtime. Generally, the conventional belief is that games are called a little tighter in the regular season, but I didn't quite find that when I looked through the numbers.

PP/Game PK/Game Total
Regular Season 3.6 3.8 7.4
Playoffs 3.7 3.9 7.6

The Canucks got pretty much the same amount of powerplays and penalty kills in the regular season as they did in the playoffs. There really isn't any excuse for the Canucks PP to not be clicking. They will get the opportunities if they don't respond to Boston's physical brand of hockey (in the totally hypothetical situation they meet in the finals again. It's a fact that I'm taking for granted I guess).

I broke it up further, by round:

PP/Game PK/Game Total
Round 1 2.6 4.1 6.7
Round 2 2.8 3.2 6.0
Round 3 4.8 4.4 9.2
Round 4 4.7 3.9 8.6

The totally tame Nashville series was balanced out instantly by the rough San Jose series, where all notions about Ben Eager being able to rough up the Sedins was put to bed because the Canucks powerplay was clicking.

Also, the referees were clearly against Vancouver in the Chicago series* but generally, the amount of penalties called is pretty similar. I'm not a huge fan NHL referees being predictable. You just know that a team that's had 4 penalties in a row will probably get the next powerplay, regardless of which team is committing the most infractions.

So, all the Canucks need to do is keep biting, whining and diving their way to the top. It's a method that will help them out in the playoffs as much as it does in the regular season.

*note to visiting Second City Hockey readers: I don't actually buy this