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Statistically speaking, is a hockey team (in the NHL) more likely to score on a power play or with a penalty shot?

Often times this is something I wonder when a player is tripped on a near breakaway and the referee calls a penalty rather than a penalty shot. I wonder if the tripped player got the better of the two.

Of course this would all depend on the skill of the team etcetera, which is why I'm asking only if anyone can provide an answer based on general statistics.

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To add onto the excellent answer above: A one-on-one situation will almost always provide a better opportunity to score than a situation with more players on the ice. Less defenders. Less factors on the ice. It is just the player vs. the goalie, taking away the defenders and factors. – user1422 May 31 '13 at 3:35
@Bill I won't just believe that is true. On the Powerplay, one of the best scoring opportunities arises from creating traffic in front of the net. One on One the goalie has a very clear perspective of the shot, and only a few players have the stick handling ability to deke the goalie. – CodyBugstein Jun 11 '13 at 16:47
Don't forget that the opposing team is less likely to score during the two minutes that they are penalized. This slightly favours the penalty (but not enough to offset the advantage of a penalty shot). – user3335 Feb 21 '14 at 15:33
up vote 30 down vote accepted

Since the 2005-2006 NHL regular season, penalty shot opportunities consistently yielded a higher conversion percentage of goals made than power play opportunities.

graph of below data

*graph does not include data after the 2012-2013 NHL regular season

2015-2016 NHL regular season (82 game season):

Penalty Shots -- 16/58 = 27.6%
Power Plays -- 1429/7658 = 18.7%

2014-2015 NHL regular season (82 game season):

Penalty Shots -- 14/41 = 34.1%
Power Plays -- 1403/7520 = 18.6%

2013-2014 NHL regular season (82 game season):

Penalty Shots -- 21/69 = 30.4%
Power Plays -- 1441/8055 = 17.9%

2012-2013 NHL regular season (48 game lockout-shortened season):

Penalty Shots -- 8/34 = 23.5%
Power Plays -- 872/4785 = 18.2%

2011-2012 NHL regular season (82 game season):

Penalty Shots -- 27/69 = 39.1%
Power Plays -- 1408/8132 = 17.3%

2010-2011 NHL regular season (82 game season):

Penalty Shots -- 27/78 = 34.6%
Power Plays -- 1571/8179 = 18.0%

2009-2010 NHL regular season (82 game season):

Penalty Shots -- 16/55 = 29.1%
Power Plays -- 1664/9136 = 18.2%

2008-2009 NHL regular season (82 game season):

Penalty Shots -- 23/59 = 39.0%
Power Plays -- 1938/10227 = 18.9%

2007-2008 NHL regular season (82 game season):

Penalty Shots -- 19/64 = 29.7%
Power Plays -- 1871/10536 = 17.8%

2006-2007 NHL regular season (82 game season):

Penalty Shots -- 25/70 = 35.7%
Power Plays -- 2099/11935 = 17.6%

2005-2006 NHL regular season (82 game season):

Penalty Shots -- 35/103 = 33.4%
Power Plays -- 2545/14390 = 17.7%

(goals made/opportunities)

Notice the range for penalty shot conversion percentage during 82 game seasons is 11.5% (39.1 - 27.6) and the range for power play conversion percentage is 1.6% (18.9 - 17.3).

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Excellent detailed answer! Great job finding those stats. It really is interesting how in some seasons the penalty-shot conversion rate is much higher. I guess that's another question! – CodyBugstein May 9 '13 at 20:47
It's also worth pointing out the huge spread in penalty shots awarded between different year, from a low of 55 in '09/'10 to a whopping 103 in 05/06. – CodyBugstein May 9 '13 at 20:48
@Imray My thoughts exactly! Considering 05/06 was the first season after the 04/05 lockout season, is it possible that officiating was more strict? Also, have rules and enforcement of such changed? Perhaps officials are letting the players play more...just a few hypotheses. – ᴍᴀsᴛᴇʀᴍɪɴᴅ_ᴇᴅ May 9 '13 at 20:56
The actual numbers are so low that statistical anomalies are to be expected, really. (Might also be interesting to compare penalty shot statistics before and after the shootout was added; which side benefits most from actually practicing these regularly?) – Wooble May 10 '13 at 15:59
@Wooble: True, but the success rate for penalty shots has remained relatively stable over a number of years now. The sample here includes 503 penalty shots, which seems to my untrained eyes like it should be enough. – Michael Myers May 10 '13 at 17:17

protected by ᴍᴀsᴛᴇʀᴍɪɴᴅ_ᴇᴅ Feb 21 '14 at 15:44

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