Are less penalties called during the playoffs?

The answer might just surprise you

If you were to poll fans who’ve been watching hockey at least since the ‘90s, when asked if there are less penalties called during the Stanley Cup Playoffs compared to the regular season, I’m certain that the wide majority would say “yes.” I know I would! But is it true?

Wrong! After gathering the data and comparing minor penalties called per game during the regular season to the playoffs, the answer is clear: Penalties actually increase during the playoffs. In fact, this has been the case in all seasons since at least 2005-06 (which is when I started the comparison). The closest time it ever got to reversing was in 2014-15, when there was only 0.02 more minor penalties called per game in the playoffs than during the regular season.

But, penalties called per game in general has increased over recent years, hasn’t it? Nope! Interestingly enough, total penalties per game in both the regular season and playoffs has actually trended downward from 2005-06 to 2011-12, at which point the trend become relatively flat.

PKs and PPs during these playoffs: At a stellar rate of 92.9%, the Montreal Canadiens have lead these playoffs in penalty kill percentage, substantially better than the Tampa Bay Lightning (81.6%), Vegas Golden Knights (73.5%), and New York Islanders (63.4%). Conversely, the Lightning lead the remaining teams in powerplay percentage at 39.2%, with the Islanders at 22.2%, Canadiens at 18.4%, and Golden Knights at 10.3%. While neither penalty kills nor powerplays are correlated with success (i.e. total points) in the playoffs since 2005-06 (0.21 and 0.17, respectively), they certainly can come in handy during clutch situations. After all, the game winning goal of last year’s Stanley Cup winning team was a powerplay goal by Brayden Point.

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