The 2020 NHL Playoffs have narrowed down to the final four, and though it’s only been a month and a bit since they started, the Qualifying Round is now certifiably in the distant past. However, that doesn’t stop us from looking back to what once was a chaotic time in the NHL bubbles filled with high-octane drama and upsets.
Last season, I made a couple of data visualisations on the Calgary Flames’ scoring tendencies by comparing the game state of a goal to the player who scored. The premise of the visualisation was to use alluvial diagrams to classify each and every Flames goal.
Well, this time around, the data visualisation generation process is a lot more automated, which means I can look at every team. And what better way to start with than to look at the 2020 Playoffs. Over the next few days, I’ll revisit each playoffs team’s goals by game state and scorer, and we’ll start with the teams who made their only appearances in the qualifying round.
How to read the charts
In the left column, goals are sorted by game state; in the right column goals are sorted by scorer. Both columns are sorted from the greatest to least number of occurrences. Game states are defined based on the number of skaters on ice, and the colours represent skaters relative to the opponent at the time of the goal.
The limitation of this data presentation is that it technically omits information on whether a goal was scored with the goalie pulled for the extra skater or on an empty net. However, in most scenarios the skaters on ice would either be 6v5 or 5v6, respectively.
While that does serve as a proxy, it doesn’t account for situations where a player in the penalty box might cause a goalie pulled situation to be represented as 5v5. Those goals would be missed in the current method of data presentation.
The visualisation may be reworked in the future to contain goaltender and penalty status, but in the mean time, the focus is only on the skaters on ice, which still serves useful information to see how a team gets their goals.
All data from MoneyPuck.com. Visualisations created with R and modified with Adobe Illustrator. The R “tidyverse” and “ggalluvial” packages were used to create the visualisations. Colour palette adapted from Carto.
We’ll start with the Western Conference, with the teams ordered by seed. In the qualifiers, the Edmonton Oilers and Nashville Predators get upset by the Chicago Blackhawks and Arizona Coyotes, respectively. The Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild were also bested by their higher seeded counterparts in the Flames and the Vancouver Canucks, respectively.
The Oilers had the most potent offence among the eliminated teams, scoring 15 times in four games played. Led by Connor McDavid‘s five goals, two of which were at 5v5 and the other three at 5v4.
The Oilers had three other players with multiple goal counts in Leon Draisaitl, James Neal, and Ryan Nugent Hopkins. Their scoring was rounded out with single goals from Alex Chiasson, Josh Archibald, and Tyler Ennis.
Nine of their goals were scored at 5v5, but their power play was potent. With the man-advantage, they tallied five goals, three of which came in Game 1. Nugent Hopkins was able to score with the extra skater in Game 1 as well when Mikko Koskinen was pulled.
The Nashville Predators managed 11 goals over four games. The Predators’ first goal of the postseason came off of Filip Forsberg‘s 4v3 goal. Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson led the Predators in goal scoring, being the only two Nashville players with more than a goal in the bubble.
The Winnipeg Jets were the lowest scoring team in the West, only managing six goals from four players. Andrew Copp and Nikolaj Ehlers both scored one 5v5 goal and one 5v4 goal each, and Kyle Lowry and Jansen Harkins scored the Jets’ other two 5v5 goals.
Things are a bit more interesting for the Minnesota Wild, being the only team to score when outnumbered on the ice. Jared Spurgeon scored on the empty net in the Wild’s Game 1 shutout over the Canucks. Luke Kunin scored a shorthanded goal in Game 2. Both of them also notched a power play goal over the series.
Kevin Fiala led the Wild in goals with three. Not one to shy away from the pressure, he scored two goals for the Wild with their net empty in a losing Game 2 effort. Eric Staal, Joel Eriksson Ek, and Nico Sturm also each got a goal at 5v5.
In the Eastern Conference, two upsets also occurred with the Pittsburgh Penguins bested by the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs losing in dramatic fashion to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The lower seeded Florida Panthers and New York Rangers were eliminated by the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes, respectively.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs were the only eliminated team with five games played in the qualifiers. We all know how that series panned out. Over the five games, the Leafs scored 10 goals. Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and William Nylander all had two goals a piece, with all three of them playing a large role in the infamous comeback in Game 4.
Of course, Zach Hyman‘s goal might have been the biggest goal of the season for the Leafs, as he tied Game 4 up with just 23 seconds to spare. Morgan Rielly, Cody Ceci and Nicholas Robertson all had one goal each in the series as well.
The Panthers bowed out after four games. They were led in scoring by upcoming unrestricted free agent (UFA) Mike Hoffman. Erik Haula, another upcoming UFA also notched a goal for the Panthers. Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, core pieces in the Panthers lineup, only each managed to score one goal.
Finally, 35-year-old forward Brian Boyle scored a goal. That was his first playoff goal since 2015-16, when he played with the Tampa Bay Lightning. For him to return to hockey after being diagnosed with cancer and finally get back onto the playoff scoreboard, that has to be a feel good moment for the long-tenured player.
New York Rangers
The Rangers didn’t have much success in finding the back of the net at all. They were the only team to be swept, and they had four goals to show for it. Artemi Panarin scored a goal while on a two-man advantage, Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad each had a 5v5 goal, and Marc Staal had a shorthanded goal.
That’s all the Rangers had to give in the qualifying round, and it was unfortunately far too little to get the job done.
Qualifying round teams overview
To compare all eight teams who had their 2020 Playoffs cut short, each plot is rescaled such that one goal has the same height across all eight teams. It’s clear the Western Conference teams scored more than their Eastern counterparts.
The Oilers, Predators, Jets, and Panthers scored entirely at 5v5 or 5v4, whereas the Wild, Leafs, and Penguins also scored while down a player at 4v5. The Rangers, though limited in scoring, were the only team to score while on a two-man advantage.
Check out the rest of the series here:
Stay tuned, as charts for other rounds are coming soon. Of course, once the Conference Finals finish, more plots will be ready for exploration.
What do you think of these goals by game state and scorer charts? Though a bit of a mouthful (renaming these charts might be in order), I think they show both a good breakdown of a teams’ offence. By stepping back a bit and comparing teams, it even enables a high-level glimpse into how teams differ.
Are there any other teams (regular season or playoffs from previous years) you’d like to see? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter at @mrbilltran.