2021 NHL Playoffs goals by game state and scorer — Second Round

The second round of the 2021 NHL Playoffs recently concluded after the Vegas Golden Knights eliminated the Colorado Avalanche in six games in what definitely felt like a series that could have been the Stanley Cup Final. Now the playing field is down to four teams, with the Golden Knights matching up against the Montreal Canadiens, and the Tampa Bay Lightning facing off against the New York Islanders.

To revisit how the second round went, the goals by game state and scorer data visualisations breaks down team performance by seeing how goals were scored and by whom.

How to read the goals by game state and scorer 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 connections between the left and right columns gives a visual breakdown of a team’s goal scoring tendencies.

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 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. Click on each image to see the full size visual.

Be sure to check out the goals by game state and scorer visualisations from the first round as well.

North Division

Winnipeg Jets versus Montreal Canadiens

The North Division featured the second round’s only sweep, as the Canadiens cruised through the Jets with a plethora of goals while the Jets’ offence was nowhere to be found.

In four games, the Jets managed to score just six goals, with Adam Lowry and Logan Stanley each scoring two goals apiece. The Jet’s top guns were completely stifled. During the regular season, Kyle Connor led the Jets with 26 goals, and in this series he scored just one goal in Game 1 at 6v5 when the Jets had the extra attacker.

Of course, Mark Scheifele‘s suspension hurt their offence, but Nikolaj Ehlers, Blake Wheeler, Andrew Copp, Paul Stastny, and Mason Appleton along with Connor and Scheifele formed Winnipeg’s top-7 goal scorers in the regular season, and that cohort was held to just one goal throughout the whole series.

For Montreal, they found their offence in spades, scoring 14 goals over four games. It was a true team effort as Artturi Lehkonen, Joel Armia, Nick Suzuki, and Tyler Toffoli all shared the team lead with two goals each in the series. Six other skaters scored one goal each.

Notably, Montreal scored two 4v5 shorthanded goals, and the one scored by Toffoli was en route to the 1–0 shutout in Game 2. Armia scored the other 4v5 shorthanded goal in Game 3, but he also added a 4v6 goal as well, scoring on the empty-net in the same game.

West Division

Colorado Avalanche versus Vegas Golden Knights

The Colorado Avalanche were rolling in the playoffs, starting their postseason 6-0 by collecting two wins against the Vegas Golden Knights to open the second round. Throughout six games, the Avalanche mustered up 12 5v5 goals, with Brandon Saad scoring all four of his goals at even strength. Mikko Rantanen tied Saad for the team lead, but three of his goals came on the power play.

Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog were the only other multi-goal scorers with two goals apiece, while every other Avalanche scorer had one goal. Andre Burakovsky and Joonas Donskoi were among those with just one goal in the series, but they slotted right into Colorado’s top-six regular season goal leaders, so their deficit on offence was felt.

The Golden Knights put up a whopping 17 5v5 goals in the series—the most by any team in the second round. Jonathan Marhessault had four of those to his credit, while William Karlsson had three and Max Pacioretty had two. Eight other Golden Knights had one 5v5 each, including their captain Mark Stone‘s pivotal Game 5 overtime winner.

Vegas had difficulties scoring on the power play in the series however, scoring just two goals in 13 opportunities. Only the Jets had fewer power play goals in the second round.

Central Division

Carolina Hurricanes versus Tampa Bay Lightning

Similar to the Jets, the Hurricanes were stifled on offence, albeit to a lesser degree. Over the five games they played, nine different players scored one goal apiece for their total goal output. Jake Bean and Jordan Staal had the Hurricanes’ two power play goals, while Andrei Svechnikov scored a desperation goal with the extra attacker on the ice in the Game 1 loss.

Carolina was one of the league’s top offensive teams in the regular season, and even had a winning record over the Lightning, but as it always goes, the playoffs are a different story. While the Lightning weren’t overly high-scoring in the series, they didn’t have to be. The first two wins were efficient 2–1 wins, and it wasn’t until Game 4 that Tampa Bay actually scored more than two goals in a game in the series.

Brayden Point led the team with four goals—three of which were at 5v4 on the power play. Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov both had one 5v5 goal and one 5v4 each, while Steven Stamkos‘ two goals both came at 5v4. The Lightning currently have the best power play in the playoffs clicking at over 40%. It showed in the series as their goal totals at 5v4 equalled their totals at 5v5. With Colorado and Boston out of the fray, the next best power play belongs to the Islanders, which is a more modest 27%.

East Division

Boston Bruins versus New York Islanders

The Bruins had fairly good offence in the series with one of the better 5v5 showings. Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak led the series with five goals each—the duo accounting for over half of the Bruin’s total goals. David Krejci was the only other Bruin with more than one goal in the series.

Interestingly, all of Boston’s power play goals were scored by the trio, while every other skater scored at 5v5. Patrice Bergeron and Taylor Hall were held to one goal each, which didn’t help against the Islanders’ stingy defence.

Leading the second round in total goals scored, the Islanders put up 22 goals. All the charts in this section of series breakdowns are scaled to this total, making visual comparisons between all eight teams in the second round possible.

Kyle Palmieri put up four goals in the series to lead his team, while five other players had multiple goals. Brock Nelson and Mathew Barzal each had three goals, while Casey Cizikas, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Josh Bailey had two apiece.

Over half of the Islanders’ goals came at 5v5, while their power play was effective with 6 5v4 goals. They were also highly efficient at scoring on the empty net, scoring twice in Game 4 to tie the series and again twice in Game 6 to put the series away.

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Second round exits

Now looking at the four teams who were eliminated, their aggregate playoff goals by game state and scorer can be visualised too. This gives a higher level look at how the playoffs went for these teams as a whole to better understand their offensive performances throughout their postseasons.

Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche were the top offensive team to be eliminated in Round 2, scoring a whopping 38 goals over the 10 contests they appeared in. The team was highly effective at 5v5, but was also dominant at 5v4 as well.

MacKinnon led his team with eight goals, and combined with Saad, Rantanen, and Landeskog, the four of them scored well over half of the Avalanche’s goals. Cale Makar followed his Norris-worthy campaign with two power play goals in the playoffs, and depth scoring was evident for the team with multiple players scoring at least one goal at 5v5.

Having the Presidents’ Trophy winner match up against the runner-up (that conveniently had the same total points in the standings) in the second round will inevitably lead to some of the best quality hockey occurring a bit too early in the playoffs, and one team exiting would be sorely disappointed. The Avalanche’s curse of being unable to get past the second round continues for yet another year.

Boston Bruins

Over the Bruins’ two series, the team only scored at 5v5 or 5v4. No other game states occurred when Boston found the back of the net. Looking at both rounds, the team’s scoring showed a better picture of how they performed to close out the regular season. Offence was present for many players incluing their big three, while Hall was also effective.

Eight different skaters had at least two goals in the playoffs. Better yet, seven of those eight scored at least two goals at 5v5. The Bruins played quality hockey, but much like the Colorado/Vegas series, it could have gone either way and Boston was ultimately eliminated.

Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes scored in all sorts of game states throughout their playoff run, with 5v5 and 4v4 goals both present. Staal scored both of the 4v4 goals in the first round against the Nashville Predators.

Sebastian Aho led the Hurricanes with six goals, five of which came during the first round. Staal was second with five goals, while Jamie McGinn scored three goals at 5v5 placing himself third in goals scored for the Hurricanes.

No other Carolina skater had more than two goals, but their scoring was spread out their roster. While they scored lots in the first round, the second round didn’t fare as well for Carolina. Ultimately, the team showed good scoring ability throughout their roster, but found difficulty scoring against Tampa Bay.

Winnipeg Jets

The lowest scoring team to be eliminated in the second round, the Jets totaled 20 goals over their eight games played. While they swept the Oilers with a good showing of both offence and goaltending, their offence evaporated while their goaltending was exploited against Montreal.

The Jet’s 13 5v5 goals were spread throuhout their roster, which at least indicated that depth scoring was present, but their power play was ineffective throughout the playoffs. They did however, manage one shorthanded goal courtesy of Lowry in Game 1 against Montreal.

Overview of second round exits

Comparing all four teams, first note that the charts are rescaled to Colorado’s 38 total playoff goals. State and scorer details are removed to enable higher level comparisons. The Avalanche, Bruins, and Hurricanes were all good on offence, being closely packed with over 30 goals each. On the other side, the lowly Jets found themselves far behind the pack in terms of goals for.

While these four teams share the fact that they had their quest of the Cup cut short, they all have different needs to address in the offseason. We’ll see how each team reacts soon enough, as they all turn to preparing for the Seattle Expansion Draft as the next big event on the horizon.

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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