Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Do the Texas Stars Have a Penalty Problem?

It seems like the Stars are taking more penalties this season, but is that true?
(Credit: Steven Christy)
There are definitely a number of things to look at when a team hits a six-game losing streak. One thing that has felt off this season has been penalties for this Texas Stars squad. Usually a quieter team in terms of PIMs, the Stars seem to be racking up minutes with abandon this season. Is that just perception though?

First, let's look at the raw numbers. The Stars have taken 88 penalties this season totaling 196 minutes across 16 games. They are third from the bottom in the league in this regard with only Worcester (12.12) and Providence (10.67) earning fewer PIMs per game than Texas at 12.25.

It's all a little clearer if you put it in a table. In the table below, TSH is 'times shorthanded'. This helps to account for matching minors and fights that do not affect the manpower on the ice.

SeasonGPPIMPIM/GPRankTSHTSH/GPPK%PK RankPPGAPPGA/GP
2009-1080111313.9128th3083.850.8642nd420.53
2010-1180102612.8330th2993.740.80923rd570.71
2011-127698312.9329th2843.740.83511th470.62
2012-137692312.1429th2693.540.81822nd490.64
2013-147692312.1430th2953.880.8643rd400.53
2014-151619612.2528th734.560.80823rd140.88

As you can see from the table, the Stars are not really gooning it up out there. They are within 1% of the penalty minute per game average for the prior two seasons. The league average is 18.08 and some of the goonier teams out East average over ten minutes more per game. Texas has never been a rough team, even when players like Luke Gazdic and Francis Wathier were in their employ.

Another factor that might affect the eyeball test is the playoff comparison. The Stars are coming off a deep playoff run, where referees are known to swallow their whistles in favor of letting teams play. If you look at the numbers below and compare them to the regular season for 2013-14, you'll see that the Stars were shorthanded on average 0.4 times fewer per game in the playoffs than in the regular season. Overall, their PIMs per game went down by nearly two minutes as well.

SeasonGPPIMPIM/GPRank*TSHTSH/GPPK%PK Rank*PPGAPPGA/GP
2014 Playoffs2121710.3315th733.480.8497th110.52

* - Remember on the ranks just above that they are out of 16 and may be of dubious value since not every team played as many games as Texas did. For example, Manchester averaged 6.25 PIMs per game but didn't make it out of the first round. That's a pretty limited sample set.

So it's pretty clear that the Stars aren't taking more penalties overall. However, they do appear to be ending up shorthanded way more often than they have in the past. On average, Texas is ending up on penalty kill 0.68 more times per game this year or approximately two more PKs per three games. This may be a result of the Stars' more physical style that several players have mentioned. Coach Laxdal likes to have players finish checks and take the body much more than previous coaches did and that can lead to the occasional overzealous check. Another factor could be defensive lapses. When you end up on the wrong side of a rush up the ice, you're more likely to hook, trip or otherwise interfere with the puck carrier.

All that leads to the equalizing factor. You'll notice in the numbers that the Stars were at their franchise worst last season in terms of times shorthanded per game. It didn't really matter that much though because they were also the third best team in the league on the penalty kill. That same team that had the highest TSH in team history also had the franchise's best penalty kill percentage and allowed the fewest power play goals per game and in the aggregate.

So this points to the larger issue. While the Stars are certainly not happy with the number of TSH they have per game, the Stars really have a penalty killing problem.

1 comment:

  1. I did some calculations, and if they continue at this rate, they'll let in 67 PPGA total this season. (.88PPGA/PG x 76 games)

    Last year, the team succeeded in the PK because they were so good at getting the puck, and clearing it. It seems like this year, they try passing it and end up turning it over instead. We really need our forwards to find the puck, clear it, and our defensemen to stay behind at the blue line and prevent the other team from entering our zone in the first place. Prevent quality chances, reduce PPGA.

    Another factor to consider: are there new refs down here? That "playing with a broken stick' call on Rallo last game was pathetic, and the only explanation I could think of was a rookie ref.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for commenting. Remember to keep it civil. Using a name will help us identify replies and build a Texas Stars community.