After the first round of the playoffs a lot of the foolishness has disappeared and teams have returned to a more disciplined style of play in the second round. That hasn’t stopped certain players from being undisciplined and putting their teams on the penalty kill. Is it just a coincidence that 5 of the top 6 in penalty leaders are also the same players who frequently drop their gloves in the regular season?
These stats are for all games in the 1st and 2nd rounds, with the exception of the Game 7 between Rangers and Capitals. Other than racking up a lot of penalties, Kimmo Timonen doesn’t fit in with the rest of this group. The remainder have had their fair share of fights this year but it appears they forgot that the playoffs are about staying out of the penalty box. Rinaldo and Prust are interesting examples because they have earned quite a few Minor penalties that are not related to fighting. This supports my earlier analysis linking more fighting majors to more non-fighting PIMs. The fighters are more likely to be “the rats” that are supposed to be taking over the game, and not the enforcers that keep them in line. They don’t play a lot of minutes but you can count on them to put their teams at a disadvantage at an annoyingly high rate.
There are exceptions of course, like a couple of Matts who keep their gloves on and stay out of trouble. Hendricks and Cooke, two players who have been known to attract attention from the Refs, have avoided the penalties in the playoffs. For Cooke that was an accomplishment given the violence that erupted in the Penguins Vs Flyers series, but it is a continuation of his reform that started back in the fall of 2011. Both of these professionals show that you can be disciplined and that fighting and violence is not required to release frustration during the highest periods of stress. When winning matters, fighting is the least effective strategy that a team can employ.
If you have had a chance to watch any of the IIHF Hockey Championships the play has been pretty exciting. There’s no fighting allowed in an IIHF sanctioned event and pro-fighting fans will tell you that the game is a lot rougher with more stick work and resulting penalties. But check out the stats section of the IIHF and you’ll see that this tournament is cleaner than the NHL playoffs thus far. In the IIHF championships about half the teams are averaging 7 to 9 PIMs per game while the other 50% ranged from 11 to 16. Over on this continent the 50% who incurred the least PIMs averaged 7 to 11 PIMs per game, about the same as the IIHF. However the other half ranged from 14 to 24 penalties per game. Fighting sure keeps the game cleaner in the NHL doesn’t it?
Eventually the myths about fighting (momentum, necessary emotional release, policing the game) will all be discounted and abandoned. All it will take is for the players, coaches, general managers and league executives to study the facts and listen to common sense about the impact of fighting on the game. OK….maybe it might take a bit longer than expected…..