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Behind The Numbers

First-period scoring down, other anomalies

Washington Capitals' special teams, Florida Panthers' shooters stepping up

by Rob Vollman / Correspondent

The Stanley Cup Playoffs can be more than a little unpredictable, but some statistical anomalies in the Eastern Conference First Round have been particularly unexpected.

Here are five interesting statistics from the first week of action in the East:

1. Opening slight: Even in the regular season, scoring is a little lower in the first period than the second. This is caused by a number of different factors, including skaters and goaltenders being fresh, playing tighter defensively at the start of the game and switching ends for a long line change in the second period. Whatever the reasons, the effect has been magnified in the postseason this year.

Eastern Conference teams have combined for 15 goals in the first period, 33 in the second period, 28 in the third period and one in overtime. That means less than 20 percent of all scoring has occurred in the first period, compared to 27 percent in the Western Conference and 28 percent in the regular season.

2. Capitals are something special: The Washington Capitals have scored eight power-play goals in 19 opportunities, twice as many as any other team. This is in stark contrast to their opponents, the Philadelphia Flyers, who were the last team to score with the man-advantage, on their 14th opportunity.

Despite being outscored 5-3 in such situations, Philadelphia has been slightly stronger at even strength; of the 356 shot attempts in the series, 182 have been taken by the Flyers, which is 51 percent.

The Flyers have controlled the play, but the difference-maker has been in team shooting percentage, where the Capitals have been nearly three times more likely to score with a 5-on-5 shooting percentage of 6.9. Philadelphia is at 2.3 percent, the lowest of the 16 playoff teams.

3. Rangers won't give it up: The Pittsburgh Penguins were expected to have the edge in puck possession over the New York Rangers, having ended the regular season with a shot attempt percentage (SAT) of 52.7 percent, which was second in the NHL to the Los Angeles Kings (56.4). The Rangers were last among playoff teams with an SAT of 47.4 percent.

Instead, the series has been surprisingly even, with the Rangers taking the majority of the combined 250 even-strength shot attempts (131), and the majority of the 83 faceoffs taken outside the neutral zone having occurred in Pittsburgh's zone (42).

Video: NYR@PIT, Gm2: Kreider pads Rangers' lead early in 3rd

This series holds another surprise, and it involves Eric Staal, acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes on Feb. 28. The Rangers have been outscored 7-0 when Staal has been on the ice, but are outscoring the Penguins 7-3 when he is not. 

4. Lightning, Red Wings get physical: There has been an average of 11.5 minor penalties per game in the Eastern Conference and 8.7 in the Western Conference, and a big part of that gap is being driven by the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning, who have combined for 61 minor penalties in four games, 15 more than in any other series.

In the regular season, Detroit finished fourth with 319 minor penalties and Tampa Bay was 13th with 304.

At an individual level, Justin Abdelkader of the Red Wings leads the League with five minor penalties, and of the 31 players with at least three minor penalties this postseason, 10 are in this series.

All the extra time with the man-advantage has raised the value of a surprisingly important role player, Detroit's Luke Glendening. He leads the League with 17:50 minutes of total penalty killing time, and his 59.5 faceoff winning percentage ranks third behind John Tavares of the New York Islanders (62.5 percent) and Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks (61.5 percent), among those who have taken at least 40 draws.

Video: TBL@DET, Gm4: Callahan lays a big hit on Datsyuk 

5. Panthers taking aim: In the regular season, the Florida Panthers ranked No. 24 with 28.8 shots per game, but they have averaged 36.3 shots per game in the postseason, second to the Chicago Blackhawks at 38.0.

Individually, Aaron Ekblad led the Panthers with 182 shots in the regular season, the fewest for a team leader. In the postseason, four of the 10 players with at least 17 shots play for the Panthers; Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov are first and second overall with 23 and 20 shots, respectively. However, they have scored one goal in those 43 combined shots.

Another interesting surprise is Brian Campbell, who led all defensemen with a plus-31 in the regular season, but his minus-4 in the playoffs is better than only Trevor van Riemsdyk of the Blackhawks and Eric Staal of the Rangers, who are tied with minus-5.

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