Visualising team scoring across the NHL after the Tampa Bay Lightning clinched

The Tampa Bay Lightning are the first team in the NHL to clinch a berth in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. In their journey so far, they have put together one of the most impressive seasons of recent memory. They clinched with 106 standing points, a whopping 15 points ahead of the second place Boston Bruins at the time.

For context, the next biggest gap between any two teams is four points. The Anaheim Ducks had a four point lead over the New Jersey Devils and the Los Angeles Kings bested the Ottawa Senators by four points as well on the same night the Lightning clinched.

Earlier this season during the All-Star break, I made a data visualisation to see how team scoring depth varied throughout the NHL. With the Lightning officially in the playoffs, I thought it’d be a good time to revisit the chart.

The Lightning have only widened the gap between them and any other team since the break. They are certainly a force to reckon with; are they even capable of losing four games in seven come the playoffs?

NHL Point Share Shells

Without further ado, here’s the updated NHL Point Share Shells, up to and including games played on March 8, 2019.

A circular barplot data visualisation depicting team scoring in the NHL during the 2018-19 season up March 8, 2019.

The big leagues

Among the top four scoring teams in the NHL, each team has a unique story accompanying them. Of course, the Lightning are enjoying the show from Nikita Kucherov, who’s the favourite to win the Art Ross Trophy this year. Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos round out their top scorers, but they have an additional 17 players with double digit scoring, making a total of 20 players. Twenty! That’s more than a full regular dressing roster’s worth.

The San Jose Sharks are close behind, being one of the deepest teams in the league, with eight players with 40 points or more, led by Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski. It’s not reflected on the chart, but Joe Thornton made it nine players when he earned his 40th point against the St. Louis Blues a day after the Lightning clinched.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have 12 players with 20 or more points. Mitch Marner leads the way, followed by John Tavares, Morgan Rielly , and Auston Matthews. The Leafs are still waiting for William Nylander to find his scoring touch, who’s lagging behind at just 16 points on the season.

One of the Calgary Flames’ best storylines this season has been their Fantastic Five. They are the only team in the league with five players with at least 60 points: Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, Sean Monahan, Matthew Tkachuk, and Norris Trophy front-runner Mark Giordano.

Leading the way to an early exit

There are three teams with players in the top ten in scoring: the Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers, and Colorado Avalanche. Despite being offensive leaders in the NHL, Patrick Kane is not going to the playoffs this year, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are not going to the playoffs this year, and Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon have their work cut out for them to make it to the post season.

The Blackhawks are scoring often, but they’re not getting the goaltending they’ve enjoyed in previous years from Corey Crawford. Colorado is the most likely team to squeeze into a wild card spot, but with Gabriel Landeskog‘s injury, they’re losing a key player during a key stretch.

These two Central teams are seeing depth scoring, both being in the top half of the league in terms of total team points. Their Pacific division counterpart; however, has struggled to see any depth scoring at all. The Oilers are left scratching their heads as they’re near the bottom of the league in team scoring, despite having two of the league’s best offensive players.

Pacific woes

If Edmonton’s struggles weren’t bad enough, of the seven clubs with less team points than the Oilers, four of them are Pacific division teams. The Vancouver Canucks, Arizona Coyotes, Anaheim Ducks, and Los Angeles Kings have all had difficulty scoring all season long.

The Canucks are in the middle of a rebuild, with team scoring led by rookie-phenom Elias Pettersson‘s 57 points, as well as Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser, who have 48 and 46 points, respectively. Those are the only three players with more than 30 points on their roster.

The injury-ravaged Coyotes are right there in the wild card race, and are finding scoring depth in unexpected places. Despite not putting up many goals for, they’re also not giving up many either. Clayton Keller leads to team with 42 points, but they have ten other players with at least 20 points.

This season has been largely disappointing for the Anaheim Ducks. They have yet to have any player reach 40 points. Of course, some of that can be put on injuries to their top players, but even then, they’re severely underperforming. Ryan Getzlaf has a total of 39 points for the team lead.

In last place in terms of team scoring, Los Angeles has had little to look forward to other than the draft. Anze Kopitar leads his team with 48 points. As the oldest team in the league, their players are only going to get older and slower. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle their aging veterans in long-term contracts in the coming years.

The Great Trade Deadline Selloff

It was fairly obvious that Ottawa was going to be a big-time seller at the 2019 Trade Deadline. The writing was on the wall, they were going to trade their top scorers. Ultimately, they traded their present for their future, moving the trio of Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, and Ryan Dzingel for young players, prospects, and draft picks.

That trio greatly helped the Senators be in the top half of the league in team scoring, but with them gone, Ottawa’s roster was barren and looking like a pile of scraps.

Throwing in a bonus chart to show the impact on the three teams involved in these big trades, each traded player’s point total on their previous team is superimposed onto their point totals with their new teams. This is just to get a sense of the types of players these teams added or subtracted with the trade deadline.

In adding Stone, the Golden Knights got a player that would have led the team in scoring by a mile. The Blue Jackets added players who significantly upgrade their top-six forward group. The Senators on the other hand, got players who have struggled for much of the season.

Of course, Ottawa also sought out prospects and picks to help in the future; however, looking at just the effect their trades have on the 2018-19 season, they’re now a team that would be lucky to finish anywhere but last place.

Worse yet, they don’t have their first round selection at the upcoming draft. Since they selected Brady Tkachuk in the 2018 draft, Colorado owns Ottawa’s 2019 first round pick. If that turns out to be first overall pick come the draft lottery, sour notes will be ringing through the Canadian Tire Centre for the foreseeable future.

Shelling out for the playoffs

The playoff race is as heated as ever, with close finishes expected across the league. Other than the Atlantic, the top spot in the other three divisions are still contested. The wild card race has tightened up as well; any team with a hot streak could find themselves sneaking in and any team with a cold streak could lose their spot in a blink of an eye.

Scoring depth is a major factor in success at the team level. The best teams in the league all tout it, and it’ll be all the more important during the playoffs.

The point share shells show which teams have scoring depth and which teams don’t. Do any of the teams stand out for reasons not listed above? What observations do you see? Let me know in the comments below or at @wincolumnblog.


All data courtesy of Hockey Reference. Charts made with R using “ggplot2“. Original code modified from R Graph Gallery.

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