[Editor's Note: Bumped to Front Page for awesomeness]
This is a project that quickly gained steam on me from a question asked by my friend in frustration from this year's playoffs. Do the Red Wings take more penalties in the post-season? Well, when I started thinking about it, it would have been short-sighted to only look up the Wings... so here we are! A year-by-year breakdown of regular season vs. post-season Penalty Minute and Times Short-Handed since the lockout for all playoff teams.
Penalty Comparisons Spreadsheet (Google Document)
The basic way I summed it up: average penalty minutes and average number of times short-handed per game per team. So you'll see that in 2006, teams had an average of 5.8 penalty kills per game, equalling 11.6 total power play chances per game (since 2 teams are playing).
The "Differential" column is just a difference of the regular season vs. post season calls against individual teams. A positive differential means the team received more TSH/PIM in the playoffs, negative means less calls against. Putting that differential into an average would skew results since teams with only 4 games played but a ton of penalties would raise/lower averages, though the teams are statistically insignificant over the breadth of the post-season.
I also wanted to include a team-by-team breakdown of differential but felt it would skew what the scope of the project was by making viewers look at teams who gained favor of calls in the playoffs (hint: look at Montreal and Pittsburgh, the only 2 with a negative differential in TSH since the lockout).
The Conclusion: Overall, yes, there are more penalties called in the playoffs. Save for 2009, the playoffs have seen an increase in power play opportunities on average for the entire league. However, there has been a decrease in penalties called both in the regular season and the playoffs every season, save for the playoffs in 2010 after the anomaly of 2009.
The numbers seem small, but think about it: how often does 1 goal decide a game? How often does a well-timed power play swing the momentum? Getting an extra call every other game could be the difference in a tight series. I don't think I'm astounding anyone when I remind you that the Wings and Sharks were tied in goals scored over the series this playoffs.
This information is also not a commendation or criticism of officiating, does not take into account Home vs. Road, current score of the game, team seedings in the series, etc. It is simply raw data turned into averages.Those other things are potential future projects.