After taking a look at the St. Louis Blues 5v5 shooting during the first half of the season, I was asked to take a look at the Blues power play to date. The Blues have one of the best power play percentages in the league at the moment, second only to the team that I will continue to refuse to name even though they are in the Eastern Conference now. High percentages usually beg the question "how sustainable are they?" I also wanted to take a look at the impact that the man advantage or penalty kills have on a team's overall standings in the league. In short, let's break down some numbers around St. Louis Blues penalties.
5v5 Versus the Entire Game
What if there were no power plays, penalty kills, or any other man advantage or short-handed situations? What if all the goals scored were 5 on 5 and that is how we would determine wins, losses, and ties? I recreated the NHL standings just using 5v5 goals. I assigned standing points based on the old formula of 2 points for win, 0 points for a loss, and 1 point for a tie. Based on just 5v5 goals and this method of allocating points, the Blues would not only be the top team in the Western Conference, but they would be first overall in the league (just barely). As it is today, they are fourth overall and third in their conference. This is great for the Blues but it does reinforce the importance of man advantage and short handed situations for the Bluenote.
Penalties For & Against
The Blues have managed to keep a relatively even balance between penalties taken and penalties drawn this season. They are above league average in both of the stats, but their penalty differential is only -2. Amongst teams in the above average quadrant of that chart, they have a good power play percentage. So far, so good in my opinion.
Instead of looking at power play shots and goals at a per 60 minute rate, I decided to look at it from a per 2 minute rate since most power plays are 2 minutes in length. Obviously, most power plays end once a goal is scored which can skew the numbers a bit, but I think situations like 5-3 where a team gets more than 2 minutes of power play time or 5 minute majors can balance this out (hopefully). The Blues power play is looking strong from this perspective. They are above average in both shots for per 2 minutes and goals for per 2 minutes and have roughly the league average in time on ice for power plays. They are definitely above league average in shooting percentage during the power play, but as long as they continue their shot rate I think this could be sustainable over the remainder of the season.
The penalty kill is where the Blues could use some improvement. True to their style of play, they are good at suppressing shots against during the penalty kill. In fact they are one of the best teams in the league in shots against per 2 minutes. But they are also just barely above league average in goals against per 2 minutes and thus barely below league average for the penalty kill. Based on these stats alone, the Blues definitely have some weakness to address when it comes to the penalty kill.
Stick-tap to Game Time's good friend Art Lippo who now writes over at Along the Boards for suggesting this topic. The data was primarily sourced from War On Ice with additional background stats from NHL.com