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Playoff Trends

There was a discussion over at Hockey's Future Boards about whether the playoffs had reverted to the old NHL style. My opinion is generally no, although I agree that the pick/interference play has been allowed back in recently.

Everyone always says that scoring drops in the playoffs, which is an empirical fact. But how does scoring drop--and is that drop off consistent from year to year? In the Old NHL referees would regularly swallow their whistles in the 3rd period and overtime under the nostrum that "players should decided the game" which is complete baloney if you ask me. The rules are the rules regardless of the time of the game. If one team is allowed to break those rules they gain an advantage. Referees who choke on their whistle are remaining impartial, they are HELPING OUT the cheating team!

My personal belief is that the 2006 playoffs where called much more like the regular. We saw penalties late in 3rd periods, we saw them called in overtime. Has the NHL reverted back to the bad Old NHL or has the league remained true to the "a penalty is a penalty regardless of when it happens" philosophy? I'll let you decide for yourself.

Anyway on to the numbers. So I calculated the average number of goals scored per game during the regular season and the playoffs for the last couple of years, plus this current playoff season thru Tuesdays games (see list below).

Regular Season/Playoffs/% Difference
2001 5.51 4.88 -11%
2002 5.24 4.77 -09%
2003 5.31 4.71 -11%
2004 5.14 4.38 -15%
2006 6.05 5.64 -07%
2007 5.76 4.90 -15%

In 2002 and 2006 we saw the smallest disparity between the regular season and playoffs in terms of the average combined goals per game. In 2004 and so far in 2007 we see the largest gap between the regular and post season in that group of years. The gap between the regular season and the 2007 playoffs is nearly twice as large as it was in 2006.

Of course these numbers can't tell us if the game is being called differently or teams have learned to play great defense within the rules or is it just a function of a lot of quality goaltenders advancing to the 2nd round. But I thought they were interesting enough to throw out there for your consideration.