Visualising team scoring in the NHL three months into the 2021 season

We are now three months into the 2021 NHL season and the playoff race is tightening up across all four divisions. Most teams have passed or are about to hit the three quarter mark of their seasons and the final stretch is well underway. There’s been some movement across the league both in terms of standings and also in total goals and points scored over the past month, and we can visualise the state of the league by looking at the NHL Point Share Shell data visualisation.

The past month has included a lot of NHL storylines, both on and off the ice. Before we jump into the data visualisation, it’s a good a time as any to remember that professional sports leagues are all navigating their seasons as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. The NHL did not escape unscathed, as the Vancouver Canucks are currently getting the worst of it. As they are set to resume play based on the schedule, J.T. Miller has spoken out against returning to play given the circumstances.

At the end of the day if the health and safety of players and their families are compromised for the sake of a complete season, then it’s time to consider whether or not it’s worth it. The Canucks will figure out how the rest of their season will shape up over the next few days, with clarity coming as soon as later today:

Let’s hope that the Canucks are able to find the best path forward with health and safety held at top priority. We will all stay tuned to how that unfolds and will get a better idea of how the league plans on sorting everything out. It would not be unreasonable to pull the circuit breaker on the Canucks’ season for the sake of the team’s health and deal with the North Division playoff race with a modified structure.

Update: The Canucks have postponed one game, and more may follow.

Nevertheless, the rest of the league presses on with the 2021 season and with any luck, less concerns regarding COVID-19 will occur as the vaccine becomes more available for the general North American population, including players and personnel in the NHL.

Back to the topic at hand, we can look at how how teams compare against one another in terms of offence by using data visualisation. The NHL Point Share Shells from a month ago look quite different to this month’s update, so follow along and see how it all breaks down.

Related: Check out the presentation from the Columbus Blue Jackets Hockey Analytics Conference to see the thought process that went behind creating the Point Share Shells.

NHL Point Share Shells

The shells are meant to give an intuitive way to compare scoring depth across all NHL teams at the team level. We’re not interested in the acute details of knowing where players with x number of points compare to other players with y number of points. The shells instead reveal which teams are scoring often and which teams are struggling, and they also provide depth context for each and every team.

For the visualisation, the data includes all games up until the end of April 13, 2021, exactly three months since the first puck drop of 2021. Note that most teams are floating around the 42 game mark (with the Canucks being the exception), but for the most part comparisons are more direct as games played across teams approach equilibrium.

To provide more context, the visualisation breaks down goals versus assists. Goals are shown in original team colours whereas assists are lightened. For each player, assists stem from the centre point of the shell, and goals are added to round out the outside of the shell. This way, goal scoring can be compared to assists, all while being able to look at cumulative point totals too.

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Here’s how the NHL Point Share Shells look after three months. Click on the image to see the full size!

Point share observations

Here’s what we can see from the Point Share Shells. Reminder that this includes all games played through to the end of April 13, 2021. The few additional games played since then will be included in the final visualisation update after the 2021 regular season concludes. You can use the observations listed below and see if you can spot them in the visualisation! Teams are listed in order of total points.

North Division

For the North Division, I’ll include three observations per team as these are the teams I’ve personally watched the most. For the other three divisions points will be a bit briefer. Please feel free to add in some comments if there are things of note for other teams!

Toronto Maple Leafs

  • Auston Matthews leads the league with 32 goals scored and has 21 assists for a total of 53 points.
  • Mitch Marner also matches with 53 points coming from 14 goals and 39 assists.
  • Four other players have at least 30 points on the season, with John Tavares leading that cohort (13 G, 23 A, 36 P).

Winnipeg Jets

  • Depth scoring is everything for the Jets, with Mark Scheifele leading the team with 48 points, and a whopping nine more players with at least 20 points.
  • Kyle Connor leads the team in goals with 19 and he’s followed closely by Nikolaj Ehlers with 18.
  • Neal Pionk is the top scoring defender with 26 points, 23 of those points are assists.

Edmonton Oilers

  • Connor McDavid continues to pace the league with 69 points (23 G, 46 A). Leon Draisaitl follows with 61 points (22 G, 39 A).
  • Tyson Barrie is third on the team with 35 points, while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Darnell Nurse are tied for fourth with 28 points each. No one else has reached 20 points.
  • The Oilers’ depth scoring is concerning as no other team has that big of a difference between their top players and the rest of the roster.

Montreal Canadiens

  • Montreal is getting scoring by committee, as they are ranked 15th in the league for team scoring yet Jeff Petry and Tyler Toffoli are tied for the team lead with 30 points each.
  • Six additional players have reached the 20 point mark, led by Tomas Tatar, and another six players beyond have reached the 10 point mark.
  • The biggest gap in points between any two roster players is just three. The Canadiens thus form a fairly aesthetic shell, even if it doesn’t represent ideal offence.

Ottawa Senators

  • Thomas Chabot and Brady Tkachuk lead the team with 26 points each. The former has four goals while the latter has 14.
  • Similar to Montreal, the Senators have spread out depth with four more players with at least 20 points and seven more after that with at least 10 points.
  • The Senators have 14 players scoring between one to nine points, many of none of which have played the full season. This group is led by Artem Zub‘s nine points in 34 games played.

Calgary Flames

  • Elias Lindholm leads the Flames with 36 points while Johnny Gaudreau has the goal scoring lead on the team with 15.
  • Mark Giordano leads the defence corps with 20 points and sits seventh overall on the team, a lower position than he’s used to.
  • The team had actually have 12 players with double digit point totals, but the team has struggled mightily on offence for much of the season. Only four players have reached at least 10 goals scored.

Vancouver Canucks

  • Prior to their pause, Brock Boeser paced the team with 33 points (16 G, 17 A).
  • Quinn Hughes tallied the most assists with 26, compared to his lower goal total of just two.
  • Depth scoring was an issue for the Canucks as a lot of roster players weren’t contributing to the scoresheet. They had seven players with at least 30 games played without reaching double digit scoring.

West Division

  • The Colorado Avalanche boast one of the deepest rosters in the league and have a great mix of goal scorers among their players. Seven forwards have reached double digit goals (Mikko Rantanen leads the team with 25) while four defencemen have reached double digit assists (Cale Makar and Samuel Girard both have 26 assists each to lead their defence corps).
  • The Vegas Golden Knights are second in the division for total team points, lead by Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, Shea Theodore, and Jonathan Marchessault as the team’s players with at least 30 points. Pacioretty’s 20 goals leads the team with Alex Tuch following with 14 and Stone’s 31 assists are followed by Theodore’s 26.
  • Over in St. Louis, the Blues have a cohort of six players leading the team with points ranging from David Perron‘s team-leading 40 to Torey Krug‘s defence-leading 22. In this group, five forwards have all reached at least 10 goals with Ryan O’Reilly‘s 17 goals taking the top spot. Krug is the sole defenceman in the group and he has just 1 goal to 21 assists.
  • Rookie Kirill Kaprizov leads the Minnesota Wild with 34 points. His 16 goals also leads the team while his 18 assists are second only to Jordan Greenway‘s 19 assists. The Wild only have five players with at least 20 points, but are buoyed by having many players chipping in for goals as twelve players have scored at least five goals, which all adds up.
  • The Arizona Coyotes have a clear group of six contributors in terms of players getting scoring both goals and assists at comparable paces. Phil Kessel leads with 15 goals and 18 assists for a total of 33 points while Conor Garland‘s has 10 goals to couple with his team-leading 21 assists.
  • Anze Kopitar‘s 43 points (9 G, 34 A) is good for 18th in the league, and it leads the Los Angeles Kings by a margin of 13 with Drew Doughty second on the team with 30 points (8 G, 22 A). The Kings are getting goals by committee as well, with Dustin Brown‘s 16 goals pacing the team.
  • In San Jose, the Sharks have a mixed bag of results with some big underperformances. Evander Kane has 16 goals and 19 assists, both of which leads the team. Brent Burns is tied for the team lead in assists but only has five goals. Only four players have reached at least ten goals, with Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, and Kevin Labanc joining Kane in that cohort.
  • The Anaheim Ducks have one of the the worst offences in the league. Max Comtois leads the team with just 25 points, and he and Adam Henrique are the only Ducks with at least 10 goals. Rickard Rakell‘s 15 assists leads the team with only four others reaching double digit assists.

Central Division

  • The defending Stanley Cup champions have shown no signs of slowing down on offence yet. The Tampa Bay Lightning are led by Victor Hedman who has 38 points (7 G, 31 A). The next four players are forwards including Brayden Point, Steven Stamkos, Ondrej Palat, and Yanni Gourde, and they share 61 goals between them. Even without Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning have offence figured out.
  • The Carolina Hurricanes have put together a stellar season too, and despite having less total team points, they have a similar structure to the Lightning. Four forwards and a defenceman make up the top five scorers on the team, with Sebastian Aho, Vincent Trocheck, Martin Necas, and Jordan Staal putting up 57 goals between them while they each have at least 30 points, and Dougie Hamilton rounds it out with 33 points himself (6 G, 27 A).
  • A solid campaign has been put together by the Florida Panthers, who are pretty much locks for making the playoffs after a disappointing qualifying round exit last year and several misses before that. They are led by Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau on offence, but also have scoring down their whole roster to pad their depth.
  • Playing the whole season without their captain Jonathan Toews, the Blackhawks are buoyed by the offence of Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat, and Dominik Kubalik. There are big gaps between the three however, and onward from the trio the Blackhawks see a big drop in points scored per player. They are seeing scoring by committee as well and that’s how they’ve managed without one of their most important players.
  • The Dallas Stars have had some injury woes as well, as Tyler Seguin has yet to play although he may return soon, and Alexander Radulov is done for the season after logging just 11 games and 12 points. The team is still led by 36-year-old Joe Pavelski on offence, who has 16 goals and 22 assists to lead both categories. Roope Hintz and Jason Robertson are the other two players with at least 10 goals scored with 13 and 12 goals, respectively.
  • The Columbus Blue Jackets among the bottom of the league for goals against, and they haven’t gotten the offence needed to counter that. They are led by Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s 32 points while Cam Atkinson and Jock Roslovic each have 28. Patrik Laine joins Bjorkstrand and Atkinson as the only other Blue Jacket with at least 10 goals, though he’s a bit lower down team rankings for total points with just 17.
  • A team that’s clawed their way back into the playoff picture has been the Nashville Predators. They’ve yet to have player reach 30 points, as Filip Forsberg‘s 29 leads the team, but they have five different players with at least 10 goals, have gotten depth scoring, and have good enough goaltending to manage in the Central Division.
  • The Detroit Red Wings have the second lowest goal total in the league, with only the Ducks putting up less goals. Anthony Mantha, who was traded, was tied with Adam Erne for the team lead in goals with 11 each, while Robby Fabbri put up 10 goals himself. Dylan Larkin and Filip Hronek are tied for the team lead in scoring with 22 points each, Larkin has 8 goals and 14 assists while Hronek has 2 goals and 20 assists.

East Division

  • The offence coming from the Washington Capitals has been a large factor for why they’re atop the East standings. They have seven players with at least 10 goals, of course led by Alex Ovechkin‘s 22, while Nicklas Backstrom leads the team with 44 total points (14 G, 30 A).
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins are not far back on offence either. Sidney Crosby‘s 48 points (32 G, 16 A) leads the team while Jake Guentzel is right behind him with 45 points and 20 goals for the team lead in goal scoring. Injuries, most notably with Evgeni Malkin, has caused the team to find depth scoring and they’ve gotten that. A healthy Penguins team would be one with a lot of options on offence.
  • With a small chance of making the playoffs, the New York Rangers have had an unfortunate experience of being one of the best teams on offence but not being able to keep pace with the East Division’s top four teams. Led by Artemi Panarin‘s 43 points, he along with Adam Fox, Pavel Buchnevich, Ryan Strome, and Mika Zibanejad all have at least 30 points, and six players have at least 10 goals (Buchnevich’s 16 goals leads the team).
  • The Philadelphia Flyers saw their playoff chances crashing down over the past month and a bit, as goaltending has not been a strong suit for the team this year. Five players have reached the 30 point threshold, lead by James van Riemsdyk‘s 34 points. Joel Farabee leads the Flyers with 15 goals (and his 15 assists puts him in the team’s top five point scorers), while Jakub Voracek leads the team with 25 assits.
  • The New York Islanders haven’t been the strongest on offence, but their goaltending is a key part of why they’re second in the division. They’re led in scoring by Mathew Barzal‘s 37 points (13 G, 24 A) with five other players scoring between 24 and 27 points each. Nick Leddy stands out as a player with 25 points where 24 of them are assists. He leads the league for most points scored while scoring just one goal.
  • The Boston Bruins have struggled on offence, but have had great goaltending to offset it. While Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak continue to lead the way, there’s a bit of a drop after them. Of course, the addition of Taylor Hall looks to offset their scoring woes and if he’s able to break free of his own bad luck on scoring then the team would be in good shape in all areas of their game.
  • Nearing the bottom of the league, the New Jersey Devils have not seen top-end scoring talent this season. Miles Wood leads the team with 14 goals, while Jesper Bratt and Pavel Zacha lead the team with 25 total points each. They traded away Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac to the Islanders at the deadline, signalling further retooling of the team.
  • Lastly, the Buffalo Sabres, whose historic losing streak was one for the ages. Since stopping the streak by closing out March with a win, they’ve won three more times so far in April in seven tries. Sam Reinhart leads the team with 26 points (14 G, 12 A), and he’s followed closely by Victor Olofsson with 24 points (11 G, 13 A).

Now or never

The playoff race across all four divisions each have their own storylines. Between top teams playing for seeding, bubble teams facing long odds, and bottom teams looking to play spoiler, there’s no lack of action post-trade deadline. We’ll see how the rest of the season pans out see whether the buyers at the deadline are able to get returns on their trades, and soon enough the 2021 NHL Playoffs will begin.

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