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Penalties in 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Who’s drawing them, and who’s taking them?

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After his team took four minor penalties in the third period of their Game 3 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes Coach Dave Tippett used his postgame press conference to bemoan the "dishonesty" that's crept into the NHL when it comes to embellishment.

"When it's done well, it's very hard for the referees, because if you fall down near the boards, or you drop your stick or you throw your head back, you're putting the referee in a very tough situation," he said.

Before blocked shots became the soapbox topic du jour in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, diving and embellishment were being hotly debated. Brad Marchand's embellishment earned inspired a lowlight reel on YouTube. Ryan Kesler's tumbleweed dive against the Kings became a point of ridicule.

Like Tippett said: Every team, including his, attempts to draw penalties. And some players are better at it than others.

Who is drawing the most penalties in the 2012 NHL playoffs? Glad you asked.

All of these numbers are via Behind The Net's tabulations for the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They're for players with at least 10 playoff appearances this postseason, and the penalty figures are for even strength.

Player TOI at even strength/games in playoffs Penalties Drawn at 5/5, 2012 Playoffs (per 60 min.) Penalties Drawn at 5/5, 2012 Reg. Season (per 60 min.)
Justin Williams, Kings 13:32/12 2.6 1.1
John Mitchell, Rangers 5:43/16 2.6 0.7
Dustin Brown, Kings 14:26/12 2.5 2.2
Ryan Callahan, Rangers 16:42/16 2.2 1.4
Danny Briere, Flyers 15:01/11 1.9 1.3
Jarret Stoll, Kings 10:41/12 1.9 0.4
Nick Spaling, Predators 13:00/10 1.9 0.8
Artem Anisimov, Rangers 11:53/16 1.9 0.6
Sean Couturier, Flyers 11:34/16 1.9 0.9
Mike Richards, Kings* 12:45/12 1.7 0.9

* Tied with Kyle Chipchura, Brooks Laich and Brayden Schenn.

Seven of the top 10 are still playing. Last season, five of the top 10 players in postseason penalties drawn appeared in the conference final — Keith Ballard and Ryan Kesler of the Canucks, and Ryan Malone, Dominic Moore and Steven Stamkos of the Lightning.

(Because you're bound to ask: Shawn Thornton drew the most penalties for the Boston Bruins in the 2011 players at even strength with 1.4; Brad Marchand was eighth at 0.7.)

Back to 2012 -- the Kings also have three of the top 10 players in drawing penalties while shorthanded: Dustin Brown (3rd), Trevor Lewis (4th) and Rob Scuderi (6th).

So that's penalties drawn; now, what about penalties taken at even strength (based on at least 10 games played)?

Player TOI at even strength/games in Playoffs Penalties Taken at 5/5, 2012 Playoffs (per 60 min.) Penalties Taken at 5/5, 2012 Reg. Season (per 60 min.)
Mike Rupp, Rangers 5:48/16 3.2 1.1
Dustin Penner, Kings 11:13/12 2.7 1.0
Brandon Prust, Rangers 11:17/16 2.7 0.9
Jordan Nolan, Kings 6:30/12 2.3 1.0
Brandon Yip, Predators 8:18/10 2.2 1.0
Martin Hanzal, Coyotes 13:33/10 1.8 1.1
Marek Zidlicky, Devils 19:49/14 1.8 0.7
Mike Knuble, Capitals 9:05/11 1.8 1.0
Kimmo Timonen, Flyers 13:11/11 1.7 1.1
Roman Josi, Predators* 15:13/10 1.6 0.4

* Tied with Steve Bernier, New Jersey Devils.

Obviously, these numbers are greatly affected by ice time. Last year's leader in penalties taken? Ben Eager (to make his team shorthanded) with 7.4(!) per 60 minutes thanks to his paltry ice time.

Prust of the New York Rangers leads the playoffs with 10 minor penalties, followed by Derek Morris (9) and Zac Rinaldo (9).

On diving: Having watched nearly every game of the postseason, there's no question that Dustin Brown can get a little Hollywood when someone's defending him. There's also no question that Ryan Callahan's been lighter on his skates in this postseason than I ever recall him being.

That said, both of these players — and others — earn their penalties drawn through hard work in the attacking or defending zones. These are belly-flops at center ice. The "embellishers" frequently force opponents into making borderline plays and then add the exclamation point.

Tippett's point is taken: There's a dishonesty to it. But that doesn't mean it's incredibly effective as a tactic in the NHL.

Thanks again to Behind The Net for its work.

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