2020 NHL Playoffs goals by game state and scorer: First Round

Following up on the goals by game state and scorer data visualisations for teams eliminated in the qualifying round, we now look at the eight teams who had their vie for the Stanley Cup end after the first round.

The first round saw some surprise early exits, include the last two Cup champions in the St. Louis Blues and the Washington Capitals. There were no sweeps and there were no Game Sevens, with all series ending after five or six games.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the data visualisations.

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.

Western Conference

The Western Conference saw one upset courtesy of the Vancouver Canucks. Other than the Blues failing to get past the first round in the playoffs, the other three top seeds managed to advance, forcing the Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, and Arizona Coyotes leaving the bubble. Charts are posted in order of seed.

St. Louis Blues

The Blues were most effective on at 5v5, but were also able to convert on a handful of power play opportunities, including a 5v3 goal. However, they were entirely unable to score shorthanded. David Perron, Jaden Schwartz, and Ryan O’Reilly each potted four goals. Brayden Schenn and Colton Parayko had a couple goals each.

Alex Pietrangelo scored the 5v3 goal in a critical Game 4 that ultimately evened the series for the Blues. Justin Faulk, Robert Thomas, Sammy Blais, and Troy Brouwer each scored at 5v5, and Zach Sanford had one of his teams 5v4 power play goals.

Calgary Flames

The Calgary Flames were the highest scoring team to get eliminated in the first round. A good chunk of their goals came from the qualifiers against the Winnepeg Jets, but they weren’t necessarily void of offence against the Dallas Stars either.

Sam Bennett led the Flames in goals despite his torn triceps and was a critical player in both series. The arrival of Dillon Dube was also a welcomed sight as he thrived alongside Milan Lucic and Bennett.

Johnny Gaudreau was his line’s most effective scorer, doubling up Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm. The Flame’s had a fourth player to score at least four goals in Mikael Backlund, making them the only team with at least four such players among those who got eliminated in the first round.

Looking at their defencemen, Mark Giordano was held goalless over ten games for a fairly disappointing playoff performance by the Norris Trophy winner. On the flip side, Rasmus Andersson scored thrice and looked like a stud on the ice.

Lastly, let’s give some attention to former Oiler who Bob Nicholson openly criticised last year. Of course it’s no other than Tobias Rieder. He scored three shorthanded goals and was an all around very effective scorer for the Flames’ penalty kill unit.

Arizona Coyotes

The Coyotes were a team that got the bulk of their scoring at 5v5, led by Clayton Keller and Michael Grabner. Thirteen different players scored for the Coyotes, with Brad Richardson, Christian Dvorak, Lawson Crouse, and Taylor Hall all scoring at least two goals.

Their defencemen weren’t a big components of their offence either, with only Jakob Chychrun, Jordan Oesterle, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson scoring single goals from the backend.

Unfortunately for Arizona, they faced the Colorado Avalanche in the first round, who gave no mind to who their opponent was. Even if Taylor Hall or Phil Kessel had been able to score a couple more goals each to boost their offence, they were still completely dominated by the Avalanche who handed the Coyotes two straight 7-1 losses to close out their playoffs.

Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks surprised the Edmonton Oilers with their qualifying round upset, but were quickly bested by the Vegas Golden Knights.

Jonathan Toews and Dominik Kubalik led the Blackhawks in scoring. Toews managed to score five goals in three different game states over his teams’ playoff run. Kubalik opened the playoffs with his five-point performance against the Oilers. The duo also accounted for ever power play goal scored by the Blackhawks.

Matthew Highmore had a memorable playoff debut too, netting three goals. Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat and Brandon Saad had more disappointing individual performances when it game to scoring in the playoffs as the trio only posted two goals each.

David Kampf scored the Blackhawk’s only 4v5 goal, while the trio of Drake Caggiula, Kirby Dach, and Slater Koekkoek each scored once at 5v5.

Eastern Conference

Mirroring the West, there was also just one upset where the New York Islanders sent the Washington Capitals home in a 4-1 series. The Hurricanes and Blue Jackets also lost in 4-1 series, while the Canadiens lost to the Flyers in six games.

Washington Capitals

The Capitals were the lowest scoring team among those eliminated in the first round. Their offence was unsurprisingly led by Alex Ovechkin. Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie also had multiple goals in the playoffs.

Richard Panik, Tom Wilson, and Travis Boyd were the only other Capitals to score, rounding out the team’s total goals at a mere 13. Over the eight games they played, the Capitals did not score more than two goals once, and their disappoint playoff run was capped off with 4-0 shutout in Game 5 versus the Islanders.

Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes were a fun team to watch, as always. But even the goals based on game state shows that they scored across various situations that included a 4v6 empty net goal by Sebastian Aho.

Among the sixteen teams that were eliminated by the time the first round concluded, the Hurricanes were the only team to score a goal while being outnumbered by two skaters, as indicated by the red strip.

Andrei Svechnikov led Carolina in scoring with four goals. He and Aho, along with Teuvo Taravainen, Haydn Fleury, and Jordan Martinook were the Hurricanes’ only multi-goal scorers in the playoffs.

However, eight other players posted a goal. Among these eight include Dougie Hamilton who returned from a major leg injury. Nino Niederreiter, Martin Necas, and Jaccob Slavin are notable players who also scored.

Perhaps one surprising name missing was Vincent Trocheck‘s. Despite having over 100 regular season goals, he’s still looking for his first career playoff goal. Given his limited playoff experience, his first playoff goal will surely come soon enough, provided Carolina makes it to the playoffs over the next few seasons.

Justin Williams‘ mid-season return to hockey was admired and highly anticipated by many, and his quest for the Cup ended early. He did have one playoff goal to show for it, but the sting is still hard to take for the veteran. Whether that’s the end of it for Williams’ storied career remains to be known.

Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets are one of the most storied teams of recent playoff memory. This postseason alone, they were apart of two historic games including the Leafs’ highly improbably comeback in Game 4 of the Qualifying Round, as well as the quintuple overtime game to open their series against the Lightning.

Pierre-Luc Dubois led the Blue Jackets with four playoff goals, and he was joined by Alexander Wennberg, Cam Atkinson, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Nick Foligno as the Blue Jackets’ multi-goal scorers. The five of them combined to score over half of the teams’ goals.

Most of their goals came at 5v5, which was a testament to how well the team played at even strength. Given eight of nine players with single goals scored at 5v5, that’s a team that shows consistency in their systems and one that doesn’t rely too heavily on its top players.

Montreal Canadiens

The Canadiens lasted longer than many had expected, largely due to the play of Carey Price, but over on the offensive side of the game, they had contributions from their young players and veterans alike.

Fun fact: Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Nick Suzuki led the Canadiens in scoring, and their combined age equates to 41 years. On the other hand, their captain Shea Weber, who also found the back of the net often, slots in at 35 years old by himself.

Joel Armia, Jeff Petry, and Tomas Tatar also scored multiple goals in the playoffs. Artturi Lehkonen netted the series-winner in their 2-0 win over the Penguins.

First Round TEAMS overview

Comparing all eight teams with Round One exits, the plots were rescaled to show scoring differences. For the most part, a lot of teams had similar scoring structures, where Chicago, Arizona, Columbus, Montreal, and Carolina were all able to score the bulk of their goals at 5v5.

The Flames end up standing out as a team that had spread out their scoring out over even strength, power play, and shorthanded game states. Finally, unfortunately for the Capitals, their offence was virtually non-existent compared to the rest of the teams.


Check out the rest of the series here:

2020 NHL Playoffs goals by game state and scorer: Qualifying Round

2020 NHL Playoffs goals by game state and scorer: Second Round

Up next, the charts for the four teams eliminated in the second round. After that, we’ll take a brief break from the series as the the Conference Finals finish up, and those plots will follow.

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.


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