The 2021 NHL Playoffs came to a close with the Tampa Bay Lightning winning Game 5 with a 1–0 shutout over the Montreal Canadiens to win the Stanley Cup. Now that all of the actual hockey in the 2020–21 season if officially done, we can visualise how the Stanley Cup Final transpired in terms of goals scored by game state and by scorer. Assessing team performances with game state and scorer allows for a high level understanding of which players stood out in the series and the playoffs, and how each team was able to score their goals.
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 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. Click on each image to see the full size visual.
Check out the visualisations from the previous rounds here:
Stanley Cup Final
Montreal Canadiens versus Tampa Bay Lightning
The Final saw a tale of two teams, as the Lightning got off to a 3–0 series lead off of 5–1, 3–1, and 6–3 final scores. Their offence was clicking while the Canadiens’ offence was struggling. Carey Price had three rough outings to start the series that saw him perform well below expectations. It wasn’t until Game 4 in the must-win game that Price stole the win for the Canadiens.
Over the span of five games, the Lightning more than doubled up on the Canadiens in terms of goals scored. As seen in the visualisation, the series was won by the Lightning mostly at 5v5. Special teams hardly factored into the series at all with only three 5v4 goals between the two teams.
It was a team win by Tampa Bay, as 13 different players notched at least one goal in the Final. Only Nikita Kucherov, Blake Coleman, and Tyler Johnson had more than one goal apiece with Kucherov leading the series with three goals while Coleman and Johnson had two.
Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman scored the Lightning’s two 5v4 power play goals. Incredibly Stamkos’ marker in Game 1 was the first power play goal the Canadiens’ penalty kill conceded since Game 4 against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round. At 5v6, Coleman scored the sole empty net goal of the series, but it was his 5v5 goal that was a highlight-reel buzzer beater that combined a well-timed sprawl with a well-swung stick.
On the flipside, the Canadiens scored just eight goals as a team over the five games. Josh Anderson and Nick Suzuki led with two goals each, with Anderson’s two goals being pivotal in securing the win for Montreal in Game 4 as he scored the overtime winner for his second of the game. In terms of special teams, Suzuki owned Montreal’s only power play goal in the series.
At 6v5, Corey Perry scored a sharp-angle goal in Game 3 right as Montreal got the extra attacker on with over four minutes left in the game. Besides that, fairly mundane and limited scoring from the rest of Canadiens.
Players who provided goals for the Canadiens in their previous series who were held off the scoresheet include Tyler Toffoli, Cole Caufield, Joel Armia, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Armia missed Game 1 after being cleared from COVID-19 protocol, while Kotkaniemi was a healthy scratch for Games 4 and 5.
Final playoff performances
The Canadiens and Lightning had very different paths to the final. Odds on them alone were enough to see that one team was a heavy underdog while the other was a heavy favourite. As the playoffs wore on, the identity of these teams could really be spelled out based on how goals were scored.
For Montreal, their offence was found in all sorts of manners, but it wasn’t at a high rate. Scoring 51 goals over 22 games, they averaged just 2.32 goals per game. The biggest proportion of their goals came at 5v5, as their power play was not very effective. Limited to an average of 4:02 of power play minutes per game (per Natural Stat Trick), they were among the teams with the fewest opportunities to score on the man-advantage in the playoffs on a per game basis. Only Winnipeg Jets, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Minnesota Wild had less power play rates over their shorter playoff runs.
However, the Canadiens made up for their lack of power plays with goals on the penalty kill—their four shorthanded goals led the playoffs. Three of those shorthanded goals were at 4v5 and one was at 4v6. They also managed one 5v3 goal from Toffoli. Their only 6v5 goal was scored by Perry as aforementioned, whereas they were able to capitalise on three empty netters themselves.
Suzuki led the team with seven goals across three different on-ice situations, while four others followed with five goals each. In terms of some misses on personal performances, Brendan Gallagher was held to just two goals over the whole playoffs despite scoring 14 goals in the regular season while Jeff Petry went goalless after 10 regular season goals.
Jonathan Drouin‘s personal leave of absence was a bit of a sting for the Canadiens, as was Tomas Tatar‘s injury sustained in the first round. Lastly, Paul Byron deserves a shoutout for scoring three goals (one shorthanded doing what he does best) in the playoffs while scoring just five during the regular season.
Tampa Bay Lightning
One of the highest offence teams in the playoffs (only behind the Colorado Avalance on a per game basis), the Lightning put up 75 goals over 23 games for a scoring rate of 3.26 goals per game. At 5v5, they were highly effective with scoring spread out over many players scoring multiple goals in the playoffs. Among their 15 goal scorers who scored at 5v5, only Coleman, Erik Cernak, and Luke Schenn were limited to one 5v5 goal or less.
Brayden Point was the runaway goal scoring leader of the entire playoffs with his 14 goals—no other player had more than eight, in which three Lightning were tied for second in goals with Stamkos, Kucherov, and Alex Killorn hitting that mark. This group of four as well as Victor Hedman accounted for literally all of the Lightning’s power play goals too.
Point scored the only 6v4 goal for Tampa Bay while Anthony Cirelli scored once at 4v4. Interestingly, both Yanni Gourde and Coleman each had one 4v5 shorthanded goal and one 5v6 empty net goal over the playoffs. Pat Maroon earned his three-peat cup while contributing two 5v5 goals.
Concluding the 2021 NHL Playoffs
That’s a wrap on the 2021 NHL Playoffs as well as the postseason version of the goals by game state and scorer visualisations. Next up, the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft followed by the Entry Draft and Free Agent Frenzy. Buckle up, the offseason is just getting started.
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.