Player Size and Playoff Success – Part II

Last week I looked at the relationship between player size and playoff success at the individual level (i.e. do taller/heavier players go deeper into the playoffs). What I found what that bigger defensemen generally go deeper into the playoffs than smaller defensemen but there is no relationship for forwards – both big an small forwards do equally well in the playoffs.

In this second part I wanted to look at team success when their group of defensemen or forwards are taller or heavier than their opponents and see if there is a difference between regular season and playoffs.

To do this I look at games when one team was greater than 0.5″ taller than their opponent and games in which one team greater than 5 pounds heavier than their opponent for either their defensemen or their forwards. I did this cumulatively over the past 6 seasons (2017-18 to 2022-23) as this is when I found that size of defensemen began to matter in the playoffs. This table summarizes the results.

During the regular season teams with taller and heavier defensemen do slightly better however during the playoffs teams with taller and heavier defensemen do significantly better.

For forwards there is no significant difference and in fact for this time period teams with taller forwards actually did marginally poorer in the playoffs.

t’s difficult to say why bigger defensemen matter more in the playoffs. I’d guess there are differences between the playoff and regular season playing styles that benefit bigger defensemen. That could be a stricter adherence to defensive play in front of the net or maybe fewer penalties get called in slot battles making larger defensemen more important. Without further investigation I’d just be speculating but the key takeaway is bigger defensemen are more valuable in the playoffs and lead to greater playoff success. This is important to consider as much of hockey analytics focuses on regular season data but the ultimate goal for teams is playoff success.

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