Sporting Charts

Stanley Cup Champions: How Good Are Their Special Teams?

Teams that have championship aspirations place a lot of emphasis on their special teams. So much so that team management is constantly looking for those power play and penalty killing "specialists". Defensemen who can quarterback a power play and have a cannon shot from the point. Players willing block slap shots when their team is on the penalty kill. Faceoff magicians who can win the crucial draw in both the offensive and defensive zone whether they are up or down a player.

The media always speak of a teams' success or struggles in relation to their special teams. How many times have we heard "Team X is winning because of their elite special teams" or "Team Y cannot compete because their power play and penalty kill is below average"? There is no doubt to win the Stanley Cup a team must be able to find success on special teams as well as even-strength. But how good does a team's special teams need to be to win it all?

Here is an overview of the power play and penalty kill efficiency of the two teams competing in the Stanley Cup Finals from 2001 – 2012. Also stated are their power play and penalty kill rankings out of the 30 teams in the NHL. The winning team is bolded and highlighted is bolded.

Regular season

 Team

Power Play %

PP % Ranking

Penalty Kill %

PK % Ranking

2011-12

Los Angeles Kings

17

17

87

4

 

New Jersey Devils

17.2

14

89.6

1

2010-11

Boston Bruins

16.2

20

82.6

16

 

Vancouver Canucks

24.3

1

85.6

3

2009-10

Chicago Blackhawks

17.7

16

85.3

4

 

Philadelphia Flyers

21.4

3

83

11

2008-09

Pittsburgh Penguins

17.2

20

82.7

8

 

Detroit Red Wings

25.5

1

78.3

25

2007-08

Detroit Red Wings

20.7

3

84

8

 

Pittsburgh Penguins

20.4

4

81

23

2006-07

Anaheim Ducks

22.4

3

85.1

5

 

Ottawa Senators

17.9

14

84.5

9

2005-06

Carolina Hurricanes

17.9

17

81.8

19

 

Edmonton Oilers

18.1

14

84.1

8

2004-05

No season due to lockout

2003-04

Tampa Bay Lightning

16.2

16

84.8

10

 

Calgary Flames

15.1

21

84.6

13

2002-03

New Jersey Devils

11.8

30

87.8

1

 

Anaheim Ducks

16

16

87.3

2

2001-02

Detroit Red Wings

20.3

2

86

7

 

Carolina Hurricanes

16.1

12

83.7

20


Power Play Analysis:

  • Three out of the past 10 Stanley Cup champions finished in the top 10 in power play percentage during the regular season.
  • Seven of the past 20 teams in the Stanley Cup Finals finished in the top 10 in power play percentage during the regular season.
  • Six of the past 10 Stanley Cup winners had a lower regular season power play percentage than their opponents.
  • The average power play percentage of the past 10 Stanley Cup winners is 17.7% while the power play percentage of the losing teams is 19.2%.
  • Nine of the past 20 teams in the Stanley Cup Finals had a below-average power play during the regular season (ranked 16 and lower). Seven of those teams went on to win.


Penalty Kill Analysis:

  • Eight of the past 10 Stanley Cup winners finished in the top 10 in penalty kill percentage during the regular season.
  • 12 of the past 20 teams in the Stanley Cup Finals finished in the top 10 in penalty kill percentage during the regular season.
  • Seven of the past 10 Stanley Cup winners had a better regular season penalty kill percentage than their opponents.
  • The average regular season penalty kill percentage of the past 10 Stanley Cup winners is 84.7% while the penalty kill percentage of the losing teams is 84.2%.


Conclusions
: For a team to have a chance to win Lord Stanley's Cup, they must be successful in the three areas of hockey, even-strength, power play and penalty kill. When it comes to special teams, there is a greater need to be good at penalty killing than on the power play. With the exceptions of the 2011-12 Boston Bruins and 2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes, none of the past 10 Stanley Cup winners ranked lower than 10th in regular season penalty kill percentage. On the other hand, several teams with a mediocre regular season power play percentage have been able to overcome the short-coming and have gone on to win it all. The extreme example is the 2002-03 New Jersey Devils whose power play ranked dead-last that season. When picking who will win this year, a team's penalty kill percentage may be one reliable indicator in helping you make your choice. 

 


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