Fun with Numbers: Evaluating the Panthers' Season with Statistics
Over the summer, we'll be running a number of different types of reviews of the Panthers' season and the players and management. One of these is this statistics series in which we'll use various statistics to attempt to figure out why the Panthers ended up where they did this season, how they compare to other teams in the league in different areas and to suggest areas for improvement. This first post will address the team's performance as a whole, while later posts will cover the defense, goaltending and forwards.
We'll be using a combination of the normal statistics covered by the media and available at NHL.com, along with a number of advanced statistics that are not universally used, but are becoming more popular. Many of those are compiled at Behind the Net. For those unfamiliar with these statistics, Matchsticks and Gasoline has compiled a good multi-part overview called Understanding Advanced Stats.
The stats, and our analysis, after the jump.
A lot was made of the Panthers' dismal -24 goal differential this season. The Panthers were the only playoff team to have a negative goal differential, and theirs was the worst showing for a playoff team since the 1996-1997 Montreal Canadiens posted a -27 en route to an eighth place finish in the Eastern Conference. This is a terrible number, but is mitigated by the fact that the Panthers were on the receiving end of four blowout games this season:
3/8 PHI 5 – FLA 0
3/1 WPG 7 – FLA 0
12/23 BOS 8 – FLA 0
12/11 NYR 6 – FLA 1
These four games combined contributed a massive -25 to the Panthers' differential this season. They were on the giving end of one blowout game as well:
(11/15) FLA 6 – DAL 0
If you remove the effect of these five games, the goal differential for the Panthers' remaining 77 games is -5. Still not good, but not quite as ridiculous as -24.
Incidentally, if one removes the goals from the six blowout games the Bruins were involved in this season, their massive +67 goal differential becomes a more human +35, and the Penguins' +61 becomes a a still excellent +44. (For these purposes, I am defining a blowout as any game where one team outscores the other by five or more goals).
Even Strength Stats
5-on-5 Goals For: 138 (28th)
5-on-5 Goals Against: 149 (23rd)
5-on-5 Goals For/60 Min: 2.1 (T-26th)
5-on-5 Goals Against/60 Min: 2.2 (T-7th)
5-on-5 Goal Differential/60 Min: -0.1 (17th)
5-on-5 Goal Differential/82 Games: -8.2 (17th)
5-on-5 Save Percentage: .925 (7th)
5-on-5 Shots Against/60 Min: 29.8 (T-12th)
Most of these stats are from Behind the Net and are explained in the above tutorial. I have added the two goal differential stats because I wanted to see where the Panthers ranked as compared to their overall differential. The second of the two, 5-on-5 Goal Differential/82 Games, is the number scaled to the 82 game season, an idea suggested by Cam Charron at Backhand Shelf. It's not only a more meaningful number than something like -0.1, but it's also a useful comparison to the overall differential. In the Panthers case, if you discount the blowout games, it's very similar to their overall differential, which could indicate that their problems are more at even strength than special teams.
The Panthers were one of only two playoff teams with a negative goal differential at even strength. The other was the New Jersey Devils (-0.2, T=18th). Every team in the league with a positive even strength goal differential made the playoffs. Goaltending and defense aren't the problem. The Panthers improved on last season's 30.8 SA/60 by one shot, which took them from 21st place in the league to twelfth. The Panthers' even strength save percentage went up from .915 (T-18th) to .925, good enough for a top ten finish. This resulted in an improvement from 2.6 goals against/60 to 2.2, enough to move them from a tie for twentieth place to seventh place.
However, they placed in the bottom five teams in the league for even strength goals for. Only four teams in the bottom half of the league in even strength goals for made the playoffs. Two of them were seventeenth place San Jose (2.4) and nineteenth place New Jersey (2.2). The Los Angeles Kings managed to finish one place worse than the Panthers and still make the playoffs, based largely on the performance of goaltender Jonathan Quick. The Kings' GA/60 at even strength was second in the league, behind St. Louis.
Clearly the Panthers have some problems scoring at even strength, and as we'll see, this is costing them points in the standings.
Penalty Kill Stats
4-on-5 Goals Against: 44 (T-18th)
4-on-5 Goals For: 3 (T-24th)
4-on-5 Goals Against/60: 7.1 (25th)
4-on-5 Shots Against/60: 54.3 (26th)
4-on-5 Save Percentage: .869 (T-20th)
Penalty Kill Conversion: 79.5% (25th)
The Panthers' penalty kill was noticeably worse this year than last. Last year the team had a conversion rate of 84.6% (6th) and was in the top ten. This year they were in the barely out of the bottom ten. The Panthers allowed more shots per season this year than last (52.2/12th) and got worse goaltending on the penalty kill (.915 SV%/1st). They escaped with a better than bottom five goals against by virtue of the fact that they were the second least penalized team, behind the San Jose Sharks.
Power Play Stats
5-on-4 Goals For: 48 (7th)
5-on-4 Goals Against: 6 (T-16)
5-on-4 Goals For/60: 6.2 (T-10)
Power Play Conversion Percentage: 18.5% (T-7)
The Panthers improved on last season's league worst power play for a top ten finish. Four teams in the top ten didn't make the playoffs: the Oilers, Islanders, Avalanche and Maple Leafs. All of those teams were in the bottom nine in even strength goal differential and three of them had similar penalty kill numbers to the Panthers.
The Panthers had a dramatic, but quiet improvement on the power play that basically put them into the playoffs this season and took them to a seventh game against New Jersey. The penalty kill took a few steps backwards, but the biggest improvement the Panthers need to make in the future is bringing in players who can score goals at even strength.
(Season goal differential, power play and penalty kill conversion rates from NHL.com, 5-on-5 goal differential compiled by the author, all other stats from behindthenet.ca.)