Monday, January 19, 2009

How costly is a cruddy power play?

I've been assuming for most of this season that the Habs power play has likely cost them a few wins. But it dawned on me that with a 27-11-6 record, just how many more wins would a properly functioning power play actually get them? More importantly, how do you figure something like that out?

I don't think you really can, but I thought I'd try anyway.

I started by looking at last season and checking how many games the Canadiens had without a power play goal. There were only 25 out of 82, and the Habs record in those games was 8-14-3. This season the Canadiens have already had 21 out of 44 games where they failed to click on the power play, yet their record in those contests is a healthy 12-6-3.

So what does that prove? Not a whole lot.

But let's say the Canadiens had a decent power play this season, would their record be a whole lot better than it is now? Well, if you consider a power play that scores one in five times to be pretty good, then I'm not so sure. In order for the Montreal power play to be at 20 per cent this season, they would have needed to score only nine more goals than the 33 they have in 210 chances so far.

Of the Habs nine losses this season when they failed to score a power play goal, three were in overtime or the shootout and another three were by a single goal. It could be argued that in those six games the power play's ineptitude cost the Canadiens one or two points, even though that argument would be somewhat faulty because there's nothing guaranteeing that those extra power play goals would come when they were needed most.

In any case, the discussion is kind of silly because there's little doubt the Habs would be a better team with a better record if the power play was at least above average, let alone the best in the league. But I found it interesting to see to what extent the Habs relied on the power play for wins last year, and to what extent they don't this season.

Considering the Habs mighty power play dropped from 24.1 per cent in the regular season to 14.6 per cent in last year's playoffs, that is an encouraging sign.


Anonymous said...

Teams probably play differently when they know they're up against the league's best PP. They're probably more careful when it comes to discipline, which could provide more room for skilled players, even in 5-on-5 play.

Unfortunately, this side-effect is probably even more difficult to quantify.

Arpon Basu said...

It may be difficult to quantify, but one way to get an idea of what you're talking about is to look at how many power play opportunities you receive. Last year, the league's top-ranked PP had the fifth-most opportunities with 4.6 per game. This year, the league's 25th-ranked PP has the third most chances at 4.8 per game. So yes, it could be argued teams are being less disciplined against them, but it's a pretty marginal difference. I'm of the opinion the Habs speed forces opponents into penalties more than a conscious decision to rough it up on the Habs.

pmk said...

I agree with your speed theory. Personally, as frustration as watching our powerplay is at times, I think the lack of a potent powerplay has made us a better team overall. We can't rely on it and thus have to find a way to score 5 on 5 - which, I think, will be better come playoff time.

Habitant d'Ecosse said...

an interesting analysis. However one should not overlook the negative impact a failed powerplay has on team morale. The numbers alone won't show this

Arjun said...

The math hurt my head. I just figure a great power play would give us 10% more wins. Meaning, what, 2.5? That's 5 points closer to the Bruins. My head hurts even more...