Monday, April 16, 2012

NHL By the Numbers: Playoff Fighting

Hello playoff fans,

I would assume that most of you have noticed that quite a few games in this years' playoffs have been very intense battles, to say the least.

People have been asking me if we really are seeing more fights than usual? Are penalty minutes on the rise? Or is this just your usual playoff "intensity"?

Think of it: when previously concussed superstars Sidney Crosby and Claude Giroux end up throwing blows at each other, there must some serious hatred going on.

"There's always more fighting in the playoffs."

Well, not quite. If you look at the below chart, which covers the last seven years of both regular season and playoff stats (all brought down to an 82 game average) you will notice that, on average, there are more than twice as many fights in the regular season (42 fighting majors per 82 games) as there are in playoffs (19 fighting majors per 82 games).

But what about this year?

Well, this year is a little different, indeed. Fighting majors are on the rise by 280% against the seven year average. This is only after 34 games (roughly 20% of usual 170-175 post season games), so things could change.

But game misconducts are also on the rise, by a whopping 450% over the same seven season average.

That's a clear indication that there have been quite a few more brawls than usual.

The 2011-12 regular season saw a decrease in minor penalties and total penalty minutes awarded for the seventh straight season. In fact, penalty minutes per game have been going down every year since the lockout.

The playoff numbers were pretty much following the same trend – until this year.

Is this the year the numbers go off the charts?

Frank Dumais is a freelance writer, currently contributing to “Habs By the numbers” weekly column. He writes on current Habs topics, but with a “numbers twist”.

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(Photo by:Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE)


Great stuff, Francois!

I always find it amazing to see the numbers behind broad sweep statements like, "there is more fighting in the playoffs this year".

I find too often, perception is not aligned with what the numbers tell us. But, in this case, man are they ever aligned!

On pace for 27 game misconducts this year? Wow. I really think all of this stems from the blown call on Shea Weber. Since then, it seems like vigilante justice is prevailing and the league is letting it go.

Great stuff indeed!


The vigilante-ism does seem to stem from the Weber non-call, which happened very early in Round 1. Ever since, it's been a very slippery slope.

In fact, one even gets the impression that it created an atmosphere where teams felt they have to goon it up to succeed. Pittsburgh and, to a lesser extent, Vancouver have fallen into the trap of focusing too much on physical play, which is not necessarily their forte.

On another note, with teams beating the crap out of each other left and right, perhaps this gives an advantage to the winner of NJ-FLA.

After all, that has arguably been one of the physically tamer series thus far and, as the post-season progresses, health is at a premium.

The lack of discipline on the weber/zetterberg incident definitely played a huge part in what's going on this year.

Another factor could be last years champions. The bruins played tough and knocked aroun their opponents and started plenty of scrums after whistles and so many teams could be attempting to mirror that.

The problem lies in what Louis pointed out, some teams -Pittsburgh, Vancouver- are not teams built to play that style. If Pittsburgh concentrated more on hockey the series would be much different, although a little but of goaltending wouldn't hurt either.

@Louis: You know, I don't necessarily mind the vigilante-ism, especially with the league failing to get the job done.

Also, good point on Jersey/FLA.

@sean: Agreed on both counts. I remember, a few years ago, the Habs playing the Bs in the first round, under Carbonneau.

The Habs focused SO much on the rough stuff (which wasn't their fortee) that the Bs were able to beat them. You have to focus on what you strength is and play to that strength, not the strength of your opposition.

I always find it amazing to see the numbers behind broad sweep statements like, "there is more fighting in the playoffs this year".


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