Sidney Crosby scores more points at 5v5 than Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Last year, Sid put up 2.54 PTS/60 at 5v5. RNH put up 1.5 PTS/60 at 5v5. This was Sid’s worst 5v5 season in terms of his scoring rate for as long as we have this information: from 2007-13, he scored 3.48 PTS/60. It’s weird to say this about a year in which he won the Art Ross and the Hart but Sid didn’t have his usual levels of puck luck at 5v5, which is terrifying.
That’s neither here nor there though. I’m more interested in why Sid puts up more points than RNH. Part of the answer to this is obvious: the Pens are better at scoring goals at 5v5 with Crosby on the ice than the Oilers are with RNH on the ice. The Pens scored 3.2 goals per 60 minutes of 5v5 play with Crosby on the ice while the Oilers scored 2.5 goals per 60 minutes of play with RNH on the ice.
There’s more to it than that though. RNH got a point on about three out of every five goals that the Oilers scored when he was on the ice. Crosby got a point on about four out of every five goals that the Penguins scored when he was on the ice. Crosby was 35th out of 346 forwards who played at least 500 5v5 minutes in IPP (a measure of the percentage of goals on which a player gets points gets points) while RNH was 275th.
IPP is a funny little stat. It’s subject to a lot of randomness – if a guy has a good or bad year, the smart bet is that he’ll be around league average next year unless he has a track record. That said, this trend has basically held for three years: Crosby gets points on four goals in five, RNH gets points on three goals in five.
As I’ve said repeatedly, I don’t think that points are the measure of a player’s offensive contribution. I’m more comfortable making that assumption with forwards than with defencemen, for reasons that I explained yesterday, but I kind of view whatever you draw from points about a forward as being a rebuttable presumption.
I wanted to poke into this a little further to see if I could shake loose some more information about this trend. I watched all of the Oilers and Pens 5v5 goals with RNH and Crosby on the ice respectively over the past season and added some additional information to the points for each goal: where the Oilers/Pens got possession of the puck and how long they were in the offensive zone before the goal was scored.
The first thing that was interesting to me as I dug into this was that both Crosby and RNH saw about the same share of points go to forwards on goals scored when they were on the ice. For Sid, 77.7% of the points handed out when he was on the ice went to forwards. For RNH, that number was 75.5%. We can infer from that that Crosby takes a few points off the table that would usually go to other forwards; RNH leaves a few points on the table to be gobbled up by the other forwards.
Crosby was on the ice for 69 5v5 goals this year. RNH was on the ice for 50. Two of the goals that Crosby was on for arose out of offensive zone possessions that started after a power play expired. For RNH, it was one. I left those out of the analysis, which leaves me with 67 and 49.
Going into this, I had a theory that this might be tied up in the Oilers being a rush team and Pittsburgh being more a team that can sustain possession. I had a loose idea that centres might be less likely to get points off of rush goals because they’re starting from behind the play. The idea, as I had it, was that a centre is less likely to get points on rush goals and that Edmonton might score more of those.
Turns out that that doesn’t really hold up. I put together a graph showing the percentage of the goals scored with Crosby or RNH on the ice that were scored within X seconds of entry into the offensive zone. As you can see, they look pretty similar.
A large part of the difference this year seems to have been in RNH being less likely to get a point than Crosby was when a goal was scored within ten seconds of the puck entering the offensive zone. If the Oilers scored in less than ten seconds after entering the offensive zone with RNH on the ice, there was a 53% chance that he got a point. If they took ten seconds or more to score, there was a 76% chance that he got a point.
If the Penguins scored in less than ten seconds after entering the offensive zone, there was a 79% chance that Crosby got a point. If they scored in more than ten seconds after entering the offensive zone, there was a 75% chance that Crosby got a point. For whatever reason, Crosby was vastly more likely than RNH to get points on goals scored relatively quickly after a zone entry.
The question, of course, is what all of this means. Watching the video, I thought I had a sense of two things. First, Pittsburgh seemed more likely to take some time to establish control of the puck before attacking, as opposed to Edmonton being much more likely to try and get the puck going north more quickly. Second, and this is related to the first point, Crosby seemed more likely to somehow end up involved in the rush. I wonder if Pittsburgh handled the puck in the defensive zone a little more, giving Crosby a little more time to transition from a centre’s defensive role to his offensive role. Or maybe they’re just more liberal in terms of Crosby’s defensive role.
One other point: Crosby was on the ice for 12 Penguins goals scored off of offensive zone possessions that began with a faceoff in the offensive zone. RNH was on the ice for two such goals. I’ve written previously about the Oilers problems in generating shots following OZ faceoffs last year and my theory that they were doing something to try and help RNH and Gagner win draws that neutered their subsequent offensive efforts. Call this another point in support of that theory.
As I’ve mentioned a few times of late, points aren’t necessarily an indicator of offensive play or just an indicator of offensive play. When you go through Crosby and RNH this way, you see that, aside from the fact that the Penguins score more goals when Crosby’s on the ice, a lot of the difference between the two of them is that Sid gets points off the rush and RNH doesn’t.
The bigger question is whether there’s something in this about how teams should play. One wonders if the Penguins tend to be better at getting three men into the rush than the Oilers and whether that tends to produce better results than what the Oilers do. I don’t really have an opinion on that but it might be interesting to expand this little project and look into that.Email Tyler Dellow at email@example.com