January 14, 2011
During that third period fight-fest between the St. Louis Blues and the Anaheim Ducks two days ago, a graphic flashed on the screen noting that these were two of the NHL's leading teams when it came to major penalties.
Using HockeyFights.com's running tally of fighting majors for the regular season, it breaks down like this:
New York Rangers: 37 fighting majors
Dallas Stars: 36 fighting majors
Boston Bruins: 39 fighting majors
Pittsburgh Penguins: 41 fighting majors
St. Louis Blues: 42 fighting majors
Anaheim Ducks: 45 fighting majors
There are teams you expect to make this list and teams that you don't, and you can be excused for assuming that the Pittsburgh Penguins wouldn't have 20 more major penalties than the Chicago Blackhawks and 12 more than the Toronto Maple Leafs. In fact, the Penguins lead the NHL in total penalties (276) and are second in penalty minutes (726).
Seth Rorabaugh of Empty Netters writes that the Penguins' transformation into "the toughest team in Pennsylvania as well as the entire NHL, at least statistically" was rather abrupt.
From Empty Netters, which traces the changes over on its blog:
With perhaps a slight hiccup during the change from Therrien to Bylsma, it's been a pretty direct change from a team primarily identified with finesse to one also associated with fighting. And as we saw during "24/7," the Penguins don't hide from that fact. Bylsma and company pride themselves in physical play.
Seth wonders if the overall penalty picture for the Penguins is problematic, but when it comes to major penalties the results are clear this year: Only one team (St. Louis) in the bottom six for major penalties is out of the playoff picture, with Boston and Dallas both leading their divisions.
Lest any of us believe there's a direct correlation between knuckling-it-up and success in the standings -- call it Burkie's Law -- here are last season's major leaders:
Half the teams didn't make the cut. And yet in the 2008-09 season, five of the six did. Go figure.
The interesting team from last season to this season as far as majors are the Tampa Bay Lightning, who went from 75 in 82 games to just 13 in 44 games this season. Considering the new style from Coach Guy Boucher, that's one factor.
But should anyone be surprised that a Steve Yzerman team goes from leading the League in major penalties to having the fourth-fewest, considering the Detroit Red Wings have led the League in fewest major penalties every seasons since 2003? (They had 7 in 82 games in 2005-06. SEVEN!)