I’m working on a little project at the moment and came across something interesting: of the nine largest year over year 5v4 SF/60 increases since 2007-08, six of them happened in 2008-09. In fact, the NHL’s 5v4 shot rate went up substantially in 2008-09. It’s so substantial that, when I first noticed this, I wondered if there was something wrong with the data.
As you can see there’s a big bump in 2008-09 across the board. Anaheim, Washington, San Jose, Boston, New Jersey and Chicago all experienced huge bumps in their SF/60 and GF/60 from 2007-08 to 2008-09. They went from an average of 46.2 SF/60 to 57.4 SF/60 and 5.5 GF/60 to 8.0 GF/60. I threw this out on Twitter and Tim Bonnar was able to come up with a solution.
The NHL changed the rules for 2008-09 in order to have basically all faceoffs after a penalty was called take place in the offensive zone. As a result, there was a huge spike in faceoffs in the offensive zone. Logically, you’d expect this to lead to an increase in PP shots – the league has tilted the ice against the defending team by removing a bunch of the occasions on which a team has to gain the offensive zone after winning a faceoff.
And so it did.
If you look at the percentage of faceoffs in the offensive zone, all of the sudden the big spike makes more sense. Three of the teams with the biggest jumps are in the top four increases in offensive zone faceoff percentage. Four are in the top six. Washington and Chicago, who didn’t enjoy such large increases in offensive zone faceoff percentage but did enjoy a large increase in their SF/60 rate, were young teams that were loaded with offensive talent and likely on the rise anyway.
Intriguingly, this jump in shots and goals has now almost washed out of the game. We’re still seeing about the same percentage of offensive zone faceoffs as we saw in 2008-09 when this rule change was introduced but the offensive boost has basically disappeared. Coaches are relentless in sucking the fun out of hockey, I guess.Email Tyler Dellow at firstname.lastname@example.org