As obvious it may seem, a key to winning hockey games could be taking less penalties than the other team. Stay out of the box and give fewer opportunities for the opposition to score on the man advantage, you tend to score more goals. Crazy, right?
It seems that the Boston Bruins have already been taught this lesson. As of the end of Game 6, the Bruins are averaging only 6:00 PIM/GP and that puts them at the least among all playoff teams this postseason. The closest team would be the Los Angeles Kings with 6:30 PIM/GP, a sizeable margin in between the two clubs.
Our Toronto Maple Leafs are currently in the middle-of-the-pack in terms of penalty minutes. They average 9:49 PIM/GP, a whole 3:49 PIM less than the Bruins are currently averaging. Basically the Leafs are letting the Bruins have a whole two more powerplay opportunities than they are getting themselves.
Even without including Kadri’s misconduct in Game 1, the Leafs are still averaging 7:30 PIM/GP, a big gap between the two clubs to consider.
The Leafs were extremely lucky to not be eliminated in Game 5. Giving the Bruins a total of eight powerplay opportunities does not give your team a chance to win. To get the win, it took the Bruins missing a lot of their scoring chances and Andersen to give the performance of his life. Making 42 saves on 45 shots was incredible.
The puck was just not going in for the Bruins when they were on the advantage during that game.
Provided by Micah Blake McCurdy of hockeyviz.com, here is the unblocked shot attempt powerplay chart for the Bruins in Game 5.
…and here was the Leafs.
Our team was so damn lucky it’s almost scary.
Keeping the penalties to a minimum is certainly a way to not rely on Andersen to get the win in Game 7.
It also helps knowing the referees for tonight’s game.
Wes McCauley and Kelly Sutherland will be the referees tonight in Boston for G7.#StanleyCup— John Shannon (@JSportsnet) April 25, 2018
Throughout his 72 games that he refereed this season, Wes McCauley called the least amount of minor penalties per game (10 game minimum), with only 2.8. This type of calling gives the impression that McCauley is less likely to give penalties to either teams. Luckily, the Leafs powerplay is one of the best in the entire league and they will be able to take advantage of the lessened opportunities.
As well, McCauley as a very unbiased approach to the home team winning the game. On average, the home team won 54% of the games he officiated this season – that is on the bottom-half of referees, with the highest percentage being Kyle Rehman with 70% in 71 games. Not just with winning, but the home team, but McCauley calls the third-least amount of penalties against the home team, with 46%. So not everything is going the Leafs way tonight when it comes to McCauly.
McCauley is not the only referee for tonight’s game and Kelly Sutherland has been slightly more loose when it comes to calling games this season. In 71 officiated games, Sutherland has an average of 3.4 minor penalties called per game, tied for the fifth-most among referees with a 10-game minimum. As well as a home team winning percentage of 61%.
Unlike McCauley, it seems like Sutherland is less likely to get swayed by what building he officiating in. With 52% of his penalty calls going to the home team throughout this season, it seems like Sutherland knows how to block the crowd out and make an unbiased decision. That 52% is the highest percentage among all referees (min. 10 GP) this season.
This can all be meaningless tonight, but we can all agree that there has been some suspect officiating throughout this series. Hopefully this duo gets the calls right, no matter who wins.
…or we can be given something to yell about and call for justice.
Let’s hope for a win for the best team in the entire universe and for everyone in the Toronto Dominion Garden to be sad with their hometown hockey team.