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NHL Fun Index: Ranking the must-watch teams

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One of the goals of the NHL All-Star Game is to put on an entertaining display of hockey in order to grab the attention of people who normally wouldn't spend much of their free time watching the sport. Let's say you were one of those folks and seek the most possible fun you can have watching the league at large. How would you go about picking a team to watch for the remainder of the 2018-19 season? What if you're a seasoned hockey fan just looking for the best game to stream every night?

We have your answer.

When aiming for the highest amount of joy per 60 minutes of hockey, we would all look for lots of action. We would look for teams who are playing games with the most shots, scoring chances and goals, and teams that dominate the power play and have goalies making spectacular saves.

In order to give us a look at which teams are the most fun to watch, we looked at how every team ranked in those areas by using the following metrics (via Natural Stat Trick):

  • Combined even-strength shot attempts per 60 minutes: This gives us an idea of a team's tempo, and whether both clubs are flying up and down the ice or plodding along.

  • Combined even-strength goals per 60: Is a given game more likely to be 6-5 or 2-1? The total scoring per game will tell us.

  • Combined even-strength high-danger chances per 60: Not everyone throws pucks at the net for 60 minutes, but some clubs are great at producing scoring chances. If a team gets close shots and allows them, that adds up to a high rate of entertainment.

  • Individual team high-danger save percentage: What's better than a goalie standing on his head? Does your squad's netminder bail out his team when opponents create chances?

  • Individual power-play scoring rate: The energy in any NHL building ramps up when a high-skill team can move the puck around and take advantage of power plays on a regular basis.

By adding these rankings together, we came up with the five most fun and five least fun teams to watch on a nightly basis.


The NHL's most fun teams

1. Pittsburgh Penguins

Shot attempts: fifth
Goals: sixth
High-danger chances: second
High-danger save percentage: 16th
Power play: fifth

There may have been some bumps in the road during the first 48 games of the Penguins' season, but they aren't a team that can ever be ignored. The combination of offensive firepower and defensive issues makes for back-and-forth shootouts for Sidney Crosby & Co. They rank 10th in shot attempts for, and have allowed the sixth-most shot attempts against. For every 60 minutes of even-strength hockey, the Pens and their opponents are combining for an average of 117 shot attempts, and 24 high-danger shots. Simply put: Don't blink during Pens games.

Star power boosts Pittsburgh's case. Crosby is having one of the best seasons of a generational career, with 57 points in 45 games. He's also leading all forwards in goals for his team when he's on the ice. Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel are also producing more than one point per game. Kris Letang is sixth among defensemen in scoring.