Sunday, November 28, 2010

Fulfilling a request from Henrik Lundqvist

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.

3 comments:

FRANCOfranco said...

Fine, fine. Excellent work as always, statistics. You've shown that WHISTLES WERE BLOWN IN EXACTLY THE SAME FREQUENCY FOR THE RANGERS AS THEY WERE FOR THE PENS IN THE PAST FIVE YEARS IN GAMES BETWEEN THE TWO TEAMS. Fair.

But let's dig a tad deeper.

Is it not possible that penalties were distributed in an unfair dosage per individual game? I'm suggesting that perhaps we should look at game log stats, not just splits for our info. My guess is that a handful of games were stolen for the Pens via the stripes on skates, just as a handful of games were stolen for the New York Hockey Rangers.

That's really where it is.

Not in counting penalty minutes or specific whistles. But in counting how many games were 1) close and decided by penalties; 2) not close at the end, but were at one point close before being swung by a penalty; 3) good hockey games mucked up by penalties.

This takes a lot of research and a second post. Something I don't actually expect of any of us. But if ever there was a Rangers' fan who owned a blog and read this one because we pretended to be friends with him... now is the time to blow off those three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas break, and write us a definitive history of the Penguins v. Rangers over the last five years, game log by game log. This GoreVidallian history would also present a concise 200 word summary, outlining exactly what the numbers and facts have to say. And this reference paragraph may be found at either the beginning or end of the blog post by our theoretical friend who has too much time of his hands to do anything but respond to this scrotum ripping essay by FTC's newest and finest member.

Nilesh said...

I don't think going into that much detail is feasible. First, you'd have to define what it means for a game to be affected by penalties. If a team gets a late PP in a tie game and converts, you'd say that was swung by a PP. What if that team doesn't convert? Then the game isn't determined by a PP, but only because the team didn't convert. They had the same opportunity. Also, what if a team is down one goal and takes two penalties in a row, and kills them. Can we say that penalties impeded their ability to attack for 4 minutes? Then there's all the non-calls, which are nowhere on record. We've have to watch every game and say, "Look, Orpik totally hauled down Matt Cullen on that play and it wasn't called." It's so subjective, and would require actually watching every game. Also, what if we have a very well officiated game that was determined by a just penalty? For example, what if a game was determined by a no-brainer penalty, like a high stick or delay of game for shooting the puck over the glass?

The main intent was responding to Lundqvist's statement, "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."

We can say, no, you're not any more shorthanded in Pittsburgh than you are in other road games, and you're not any more shorthanded in Pittsburgh than the Pens are in NY.

atarnow said...

Goddamn it you guys, I was already working on this.