On NHL Game 7’s

Three NHL Game 7’s are scheduled for tonight, so I figured I’d run some Game 7 numbers.

For this analysis, I used both numbers via AC Thomas’ nhlscrapr package (provided by Thomas himself), and also penalty data that I collected a few years back, summarized in a paper here, a recent article here, and published in International Journal of Sport Finance.

What’s different about Game 7’s?

For starters, there are far fewer penalties.

On average, teams combine for about 9.4 penalties (excluding matching majors) in playoff Game’s 1 through 6, but just 7.0 in Game 7s. This could be the result of changes in style of play, or due to referees being less inclined to assert themselves into the game.

In terms of win percentage, going back to 2002, home games have won 57% of Game’s 1 through 6, and 52% of Game 7s. Here’s a chart of the likelihood of the home team winning (along with 95% confidence intervals) by game number.



The most interesting aspect of this chart to me was how much more likely the home team wins Game 1, relative to the other three games that team would host (2, 5, 7).

How about total goal volume?  Here’s a scatter plot of average goals per game, for both the top seed (green) and the lower seed (red). On average, there appear to be fewer goals scored in game 7’s, at least by the home team.


Of course, fewer goals in Game 7’s may not be all that surprising, for two reasons. First, its plausible that the teams playing a Game 7 are more evenly matched, relative to series which had already ended. Second, if penalties are decreasing in Game 7’s, teams would have fewer power play opportunities on which to score.

Is there anything else you should tell us about Game 7’s?


I went to the Bruins Lightning ECF Game 7 back in 2011. The Bruins won, 1-0, on a Nathan Horton third period goal.

Moments before the game ended, this happened:

In the final seconds of Friday night’s game at TD Garden, two Bruins fans were jumping and cheering when the floor underfoot gave way, plunging them into a cavity beneath their seats. The fall, which police said was about 6 feet, left Dave Mandel and Mike Lopez scraped, bruised, and startled, but they landed on their feet.

As a result of the fall, TD Garden officials were nice enough to give my friend and I tickets to each of the Stanley Cup games. That was fun.




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