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Behind The Numbers

Penguins' puck possession gives edge against Rangers

Numbers, enhanced stats tilt in favor of Pittsburgh

by Rob Vollman / NHL.com Correspondent

For those who believe in the importance of puck possession in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Eastern Conference First Round series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers will be the one to watch.

The Penguins are the second-best puck-possession team in the playoffs; the Rangers are the worst.

Starting with that, here are five interesting statistics about this series:

1. Shot attempts percentage

Are the shot-based puck-possession metrics useful in providing insight into the outcome of a playoff series? This series should be an excellent test case.

The Penguins have a 52.7 shot attempts percentage, which was second in the NHL behind the Los Angeles Kings (56.4). The gap between the Penguins and Kings is sharply reduced when considering only games after Pittsburgh hired coach Mike Sullivan on Dec. 12; in those 54 games, the Penguins trailed the Kings 55.9 to 54.9.

In sharp contrast, the New York Rangers had an SAT% of 47.4, which was last among playoff teams and 26th overall.

On an individual level, Dan Girardi had the worst relative puck-possession numbers among defensemen. The Rangers SAT% was 41.7 percent when he was on the ice and 50.1 percent when he wasn't.
Video: PIT@WSH: Cullen gives the Penguins an early lead

2. Taking shots

One of the reasons Pittsburgh's puck-possession metrics are so strong is because they put a lot of shots on net. The Penguins led the NHL with an average of 33.2 shots on goal per game. When including those shot attempts that were blocked or missed the net, their 3,775 total was third in the NHL behind the Kings (4,081) and Dallas Stars (4,031).

In contrast, the Rangers averaged 28.5 shots on goal per game, which was 26th in the NHL and last among playoff teams.

To make their situation even worse, the Rangers allowed 3,810 total shot attempts, which was exceeded by only the Colorado Avalanche (4,031) and Ottawa Senators (3,835).

3. Game of percentages

How can a team like the Rangers be successful when they allow so many more scoring opportunities than they create? By converting on a higher percentage of them.

At even strength, the Rangers led the NHL with a 9.0 shooting percentage and a .934 save percentage. When added together, New York had a League-leading SPSV% of 1025. Pittsburgh had a more typical SPSV% of 1006.

The key ingredient to a high SPSV% is great goaltending. Henrik Lundqvist's importance to New York is best revealed by the fact he was named one of three stars after 28 games, including 14 times as First Star. Each number led the NHL.
Video: NYI@NYR: Lundqvist denies Tavares, Boychuk

4. Special teams

The Rangers may be vulnerable on special teams. They drew 226 power-play opportunities, the fewest in the NHL, and their penalty-killing percentage of 78.2 percent was the lowest among playoff teams and 26th overall.

In contrast, the Penguins were fifth in the League with an 84.4 penalty-killing percentage, and their 11 shorthanded goals were second behind the Ottawa Senators (17).

5. Finishing games

The Penguins had a perfect 39-0-0 record when leading entering the third period, so the Rangers better score early and often if they hope to advance to the second round.

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