Vulgar Statistics: Home Ice Advantage III: Special Teams
This is the third in a multi-part series that takes a look at home ice advantage from the lockout to the present. I will track a variety of statistics for each team in the NHL, compare their home and away totals and then make snap judgments about them.
Since there has proven to be no pattern whatsoever in which teams perform better at home, I’m going to go in a different direction; commenting on all the weird stuff I find, and making fun of teams at my leisure.
Okay, let’s talk bizarre for a moment here. The Carolina Hurricanes are leading the league in penalties drawn (power play opportunities) since the lockout and it isn’t even close. In those six years they’ve finished 2nd, 1st, 1st, tied for 1st, 1st, and 1st. That’s just ridiculous. Makes you give a bit more weight to all those post Canes game pressers where Lindy complained about the Canes’ diving. And that time he sent Eric Staal full snorkeling gear for his birthday .
At the other end of the spectrum the Sabres have the biggest differential in home versus away penalties committed at -202. So on average they’ve give their opponents 34 less power play opportunities a year at home than on the road. Hooray discipline. These are the sort of things I figure out while putting together data that you never see because they tend not to be relevant to the topic at hand. But lucky for you there is no relevance to this topic because it’s a catastrophe!
That having been said, even though there haven’t been any genius conclusions to draw from this data, this has been one of my favorite topics to research here. I love teams that bring the pain at home. It comes from years of being a Bills fan snickering at the Dolphins and Jaguars and Falcons and 49ers and Raiders when they fly into three feet of snow and 30 MPH winds to play the Bills. I love when teams have that little extra kick that says, “not in our house.”
In a way, I kind of like that there hasn’t been any correlation between anything when doing this topic. There is a certain mysticism to home field advantage that perhaps shouldn’t (and maybe even can’t) be dissected. There are some nights you can walk into HSBC Arena, and because of the atmosphere, and the noise, and the people around you, just know that the Sabres are going to come out on top.
As much as we’ve criticized the Sabres power play over the years, it has shown up emphatically at home. It’s the third best home powerplay since the lockout at 21.3% trailing only Anaheim (22.7%) and Detroit (21.5%). That’s pretty impressive. They also showed the third biggest differential between home and away powerplay percentages suggesting that despite our occasional gripes to the contrary, the guys do show up for their fans. And while it isn’t as apparent, the penalty kill also improves at home.
Which brings me to my next topic, the penalty kill. Specifically I noticed Calgary because if you’ll remember they had the highest differential in both winning percentage and goals allowed. So if you’re going up to Calgary don’t plan on winning…or scoring. Which is weird because if you travel a little to the north…
Nothing makes me feel worse for a team’s fans than knowing they pay good money to watch their team reenact the Benny Hill theme on home ice.
Even though I said there was no real correlation to be found between atmosphere and performance, we are seeing some of the same faces at the top of the charts each week. In addition to Calgary, Nashville (3rd pts, 10th GF, 6th GA), Minnesota (2nd, 2nd, 10th), Washington (9th, 9th, 9th) and Vancouver (12th, 3rd, 11th) are nightmares to play against in their respective buildings. When this series is finished, I will compile a ranking of the easiest and hardest arenas to play in based on their respective teams’ boosts in play at home. And then we can make fun of the bottom dwellers.