Henrik Lundqvist is angry. After the Pens-Rangers game Nov. 15th in which the Pens had six power plays and the Rangers zero, Lundqvist said, "I'd like to see the penalty record the last five years in Pittsburgh. We're shorthanded so many times and it's definitely not our fault." Of course one of those ("not our fault") penalties occurred when Lundqvist threw his goal stick across the ice in disgust because his team was being penalized too much.
Lundqvist brings up an interesting question: what does the penalty record look like in Pittsburgh during the last five years? Conveniently, there have been five full seasons since the lockout. The Pens and Rangers have played each other 41 times, including playoffs, during that span. For games in Pittsburgh, the record shows (all data from espn.com) that the Pens had 121 power plays, and the Rangers had 98.
Boom! Yep, that must be it. Gary Bettman's league requirement that the Pens receive extra special treatment is proven, right? Wrong. During that same span, the record at Madison Square Garden shows a power play advantage of 112-83 for the Rangers. That makes the total five year comparison 210 power plays for the Rangers and 204 for the Pens. And guess what: when you throw in the 6-0 from a couple weeks ago, the total becomes 210-210. Fascinating!
How can this be? Wasn't Sidney Crosby anointed King of Hockey when he entered the league? Aren't the Pens supposed to get every call? Don't they get eight power plays per game while the opposition gets one or two? Lundqvist is right; his team is often shorthanded in Pittsburgh. But no more often than the Pens are at MSG, unless he's trying to claim that the Rangers were shorthanded any time Wade Redden stepped onto the ice.
What if Crosby, after a particularly rough night at The Garden, lodged a similar complaint? People would be all over him, calling him a crybaby, a whiner, and worse, even though the Pens fare just as poorly at MSG as the Rangers do in Pittsburgh. I don't know if this home/away spread is typical, but it makes sense. Teams tend to play much better at home, which may lead to a positive power play differential. If Henrik Lundqvist wants to throw a fit, that's fine. I don't think we'll see any temper tantrums from Marc-Andre Fleury Monday night at MSG.
UPDATE: An examination of the data for the five full regular seasons post-lockout shows that home teams received 52% of power plays. Looking at the Pens-Rangers regular season games during this time, the Pens got 55% of the power plays at Mellon Arena while the Rangers got 57% of the power plays at MSG.
We can set up a quick hypothesis test to see if either team is getting an undue home advantage. For the Pens, we want to see if 0.55 is significantly different from 0.52 with n=189 power plays. As you can probably guess, the answer is no (p=.40).
We can do the same with the Rangers: let's test if 0.57 is significantly different from 0.52 with n=176 power plays. Again, the answer is no (p=.18). Further evidence that Mr. Lundqvist should keep his mouth shut and focus on stopping pucks.