Under Pressure (What Is Clutch Part 3)

It’s finally the one you were all waiting for, the last (for now) in my Clutch rankings – the Playoffs.

Methodology wise, these are done the exact same way as the regular season, with weighted metrics measuring individual effort, team effect, and efficacy in Tied & Trailing states vs the Leading by 1 state. If you missed it, Part 1 is where I outline the definition of Clutch and what I’m attempting to achieve, but the final methodology used is explained in Part 2.

There is one major difference between the Regular Season ranks and the Playoff ranks, and that is the sample of skaters. Because of the comparative infrequency of the 5v5 playoff minutes, these are a cumulative total of the last five seasons (2011-2015), with a minimum requirement of 50 5v5 minutes to get on the list. This gives us a list of 431 forwards, and 236 defenders.

First, one thing I noticed amongst the forwards – Total Time on Ice definitely had an impact on individual metrics. The more TOI these fwds had in the playoffs, the higher their Individual High Danger Scoring Chances/60 and Individual Scoring Chances/60 were.

but effort is nothing p1

So unlike in the regular season, where there were several 3rd & 4th line guys who snuck in because of significant increases in individual effort when tied or trailing, the playoff ranks are mostly dominated by those with experience. Again, though, it’s interesting to look at them from a TOI standpoint, especially since there are only a few teams (*cough*kingsblackhawksrangersbruins*cough*) who seem to do well, year over year.

Without further ado, here are the Top 20 Most Clutch Playoff Forwards (all TOI)

Playoff 20 Clutch - F

And here they are over 300 minutes TOI

Playoff 20 Clutch 300m - F

And finally, over 500 minutes TOI

Playoff 20 Clutch 500m - F

And here are the Top 20 Most Clutch Playoff Defenders (all TOI)

Playoff 20 Clutch - D

And over 300 minutes

Playoff 20 Clutch 300m - D

And finally, over 500 minutes

Playoff 20 Clutch 500m - D

There are a few things I noticed while looking at these rankings. First, historically Vancouver has been very, very hard to beat. Last year seems to have been the exception, not the rule, though it may also be signaling a downward spiral for their team. Afterall, the Sedins are getting older, neither Kesler nor Raymond was on the squad, and this year they won’t have Bieksa on the blueline either.

Second, the Kings definitely live up to their reputation as Playoff Performers, especially Justin Williams. Mr. Game 7 came in at 124 of 160 forwards in a 3yr cumulative regular season ranking, but is 30th of 431 in the playoffs (9th of 74 forwards with 500+ TOI). Alex Martinez, who booted the Blackhawks from the playoffs in 2014 with a Game 7 OT goal, comes in at #5 of 236 defenders, and Matt Greene is right behind him at #6 overall.

As for playoff busts, the Sharks don’t look pretty on the forwards list, despite strong performances from Brent Burns and Matt Irwin on defense. Adding Joel Ward this summer is looking better and better for them. Also, Corey Perry & Ryan Getzlaf, who dominated the regular season ranks coming in at #1 and #2 on the 3yr averages are nowhere to be found in the playoffs. Well, that’s a lie – Perry is barely top 50% of the 500+ minute club…and Getzlaf is 7th from last. Maybe the Ducks fans do have a reason to complain.

Now, before Blackhawks fans attempt to skewer me, I want you to remember – this is a measure of how much play improves when tied or trailing. The Blackhawks are so consistent in play, they see very little positive fluctuation, and therefore they will rank lower. For example, here are Toews’s Points/60 numbers:

P/60 (33% weight)

Lead1: 1.65
Tied: 1.92
Trail1: 0.83
Trail2: 1.58

This earns Toews the following ranks (of 431):


Tied:  155
Trail1: 233
Trail2: 141

Overall, Toews comes in at #224 of 431, which is mid pack. If this was just a rank vs the NHL average, he would score much higher; all forwards averaged just 1.39 P/60 when leading. But because this is an attempt to rank him against his own standards (again, see Part 2 for methodology), he lands in the middle.

Once again, I’ve dumped this data in a google doc so you can browse at your leisure.


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