It’s safe to assume Don Cherry will always say something interesting during his weekly Coach’s Corner segment on Hockey Night In Canada.

Question my sanity if you must, but I normally agree with Cherry’s views. Although last night when Cherry said he believes penalty killing is more important to winning hockey games than power plays, I wasn’t sure I agreed. Something didn’t sound right about that.

Personally, I’ve always prioritized power plays over penalty killing, so I began looking to see if what Cherry was saying had merit or not.

Yeah, me versus Cherry… nice battle to pick Kev…

I have a confession: I’m not big stats guy. In fact, I’m a simple man who tries to keep things as simple as possible. Below is the easiest way I could look into Cherry’s claim.

Team Rankings
By Total Points By Power Play % By Penalty Kill %
Washington, 34 pts Vancouver, 25.3% Pittsburgh, 90.2%
Philadelphia, 34 pts Minnesota, 24.7% Montreal 89.7%
Pittsburgh, 32 pts Atlanta, 24.5% Boston, 87%
Detroit, 30 pts Washington, 24.1% Tampa Bay, 87%
Montreal, 29 pts Tampa Bay, 24% Vancouver, 86.9%
Columbus, 28 pts Colorado, 22.8% Los Angeles, 86,2%
Tampa Bay, 28 pts Detroit, 22.5% Columbus, 84.3%
Phoenix, 27 pts Chicago, 22.4% Washington, 84.3%
St. Louis, 27 pts Anaheim, 22% Philadelphia, 84.3%
Vancouver, 27 pts San Jose, 21.4% St. Louis, 84.2%

In case my column titles aren’t clear, each column represents the top 10 teams in the NHL based on total points (left), power play (middle) and penalty kill percentages (right). Also, these stats don’t include games that started after 7pm last night.

First of all how cool is it to see teams like Montreal, Columbus, Tampa Bay and St. Louis among the top teams in the league? I think it’s great.

For the sake of clarity, when I refer to the top 10 teams in the league, it’s entirely based on total points accumulated so far this season.

It’s interesting that six of the league’s top power play teams (Minnesota, Atlanta, Colorado, Chicago, Anaheim and San Jose) aren’t one of the league’s top 10 teams (by total points).

When you look at the league’s top penalty killing teams, it seems almost all of those teams are the same ones listed as the league’s top teams. The only two non-top 10 teams in the league who are among the best penalty killing teams are Boston and Los Angeles.

The top penalty killing teams seem to be closer aligned to the top teams in the league (by points) than the top power play teams.

From my “doesn’t get simpler analysis” it seems Cherry’s claim is pretty accurate. I don’t know if these stats are at all surprising to you, but the results caught me a little off guard. I always figured strong power plays got teams to the top of the league faster than strong penalty killing.

You might be thinking “Well Kev, defense wins Championships” and you are probably right. My thinking was that the NHL is quickly becoming an offensive game again.

Let’s chalk this one up to me being wrong and now agreeing with Don Cherry! Cherry 1, Burgundy 0.

Comments (3)

  1. I agree with old Donny there a lot too and a lot of people don’t understand it either.

  2. While I like the research, I really do, I think that 1/4 of the season is still too small a sample size. You are looking at the big picture, so why not use the 2009/10 stats for every team? That way the East/West match ups are stabilized and everyone is more or less viewed as a level playing field.

    In fact, if you look at the final 4 teams in the playoffs last year (cause really, we’re not talking about winning the Presidents Trophy, but rather the Stanley Cup), 3 of the 4 were in the top 4 teams in terms of power play percentage: numbers 2-4, Montreal, Philly, SJ in respective order. If you look at the penalty kill percentages, only SJ is still in the top 4, at number 4. Chicago sneaks in at #5 and you’ll find Philly and Montreal at 11 and 12.

    I think once you look at full season samples, your own theory is justified, but I’m not going through years of stats for you :o)

  3. Gentlemen, I apologize about the late responses.

    @ Rob – I think it’s the way (specifically, his choice of words) Cherry delivers his views that many disagree with. In my opinion — and I think you’ll agree with me — no one can argue Cherry’s knowledge of the game. He just get’s it. It’s absolutely incredible.

    @ Jason – I’d prefer if you DID do the research, please. Kidding aside, I think your comment is pretty interesting and I agree about the small sample size. It will be interesting to see if the numbers hold up through the remainder of the season. Although, based on your comment, I’m not overly confident about that.

    Thanks for reading the post, guys!

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