Player popularity: the 2016 NHL Playoffs on Twitter

Today we’ll looks at tweets with NHL content that were posted over the course of the playoffs. I searched for posts containing #NHL as well as those containing the names of a select group of players – one from each playoff team. By the end I had collected and saved millions of tweets in .JSON format, but was left with ~400,000 after filtering out the non-relevant posts [1].

I used my own Python script for collecting tweets, it’s available on GitHub here. You can learn about its dependencies and how to run it in this blog post. For the analysis I used an ipython notebook (available here), where you can see the inner workings of this series in more detail.


2016 NHL Playoffs on Twitter – Part 2: Visualizing popularity via tweet frequency


We can see the overall trend by plotting a histogram of posts containing #NHL during the playoffs.



Each bar includes a day worth of tweets, and the spikes occurred on days with big games. Overall we see a decrease in interest as the playoffs progress and more teams are eliminated. On the other hand, we see a dramatic increase in the popularity to game ratio. This is especially evident for the final round where game days are clearly distinguishable with spikes of at least 1000 tweets. This count increased significantly for the final two games of the playoffs and hit a maximum on the final game. Interestingly, the two days prior to this had the lowest tweet counts of the entire playoffs.

Below we’ll look at similar histogram plots for a selected group of players – one from each team in the playoffs. For teams in the east we get the following:


And for teams in the west we find:


The plots are pretty hectic, and for this reason I’ve also produced variations where each player is isolated. We’ll look at these individually below with some commentary, although I’ll mostly leave the interpretation up to you.

Starting with the east players:

Sidney Crosby:


Sid dominated the popularity contest this year. Even from the start he was one of the most tweeted about players, but things really started getting crazy in the later rounds. The final spike of ~40,000 tweets was the result of Pittsburgh winning the Stanley Cup and Crosby himself being named playoff MVP.

Nikita Kucherov:


Nikita and the Tampa Bay Lightning had a great run this year, losing to Pittsburgh in the conference finals. His big spike near the end was the result of a 3 point performance on May 22nd. He had two shots that game and got two goals, one coming late in the third to push the game to overtime where Tampa won on a lucky bounce.

Alex Ovechkin:


Alex’s histogram probably would have looked more like Crosby’s if his Washington Capitals had been able to make it past the Penguins in the second round. He was initially on par with Sid, if not more popular, but that all came to an end along with the dreams of his Stanley cup hopeful teammates.

John Tavares:


John is one of my favorite captains in the league and he’s helped bring his New York Islanders three playoff births in the last four years. The spike of ~10,000 tweets on April 24th was the result of his series wining double overtime goal (in New York) that pushed his team into the second round for the first time since 1993. Oh and he also scored that games tying goal with a minute left in the third period.

Jaromir Jagr:


Jagr, now 44 years old, saw his Stanley cup dreams end in the first round this year. Like other members of his Florida Panthers (e.g., Barkov), he wasn’t very successful in the playoffs compared to the regular season. His most popular twitter day came on May 5th when the Panthers signed him to a one year deal.

Claude Giroux:


Despite a solid effort, Giroux and his Philadelphia flyers were never even close to defeating the Presidents trophy winning Capitals in the first round.

Petr Mrazek:


Mrazek played only three games in the playoffs. He put up great numbers and earned his Detroit Red Wings a win against the Lightning. These performances helped to solidify him as Detroit’s expected number one next year.

Henrik Lundqvist:


The king and his New York Rangers battled hard this year against Pittsburgh. He played all 5 games despite suffering an eye injury in game 1.

Now moving swiftly on to the west players:

Joe Pavelski:Pavelski

Little Joe was a total powerhouse of goal scoring for his San Jose Sharks, and was a big reason why they made it to the finals. Unfortunately for the Sharks, his unprecedented goal scoring came to an abrupt halt in the finals. This is reflected in the data as we see no significant spikes after the third round.

Vladimir Tarasenko:


Tarasenko and his St.Louis Blues were finally able to defeat Chicago in the playoffs this year. Until the conference finals he had a productive playoffs, but the Sharks were able to shut him down. As can be seen, Pavelski (dashed turquoise line) had larger spikes game-for-game when the two stars faced off against each other.

Filip Forsberg:


Despite his Nashville Predators going deep this year, Forsberg was one of the least popular players I followed. This makes sense considering his uncharacteristically poor performance and low popularity to begin with.

Tyler Seguin:


Seguin was injured shortly before the playoffs began and I had anticipated he’d be returning before long, resulting in an onslaught of attention. I was wrong.

Patrick Kane:


Despite his Chicago Blackhawks being eliminated in the first round, Kane still ended up being on of the most popular players this year on twitter. The massive spike came after a double overtime goal against St.Louis in an elimination situation for Chicago. Later on, after being eliminated, he garnered more attention when being named a Hart trophy finalist on May 7th. This is awarded to the regular season MVP, and Kane ended up winning it this year as announced on June 22nd.

Corey Perry:


Perry and his Anaheim Ducks were eliminated early this year, but Perry threw on a team Canada jersey and flew over to Russia to compete in the IIHF world championships. As such, and considering Canada ended up winning the tournament, he saw late spikes of twitter attention in May.

Jason Pominville:


Jason played really well for his Minnesota Wild, and was a factor in the team stealing two games from a high powered Dallas team before being defeated in an exciting final match. This series was really great.

Milan Lucic:


Because of his affinity for controversy, Lucic had the potential to get a lot of twitter attention had his L.A. Kings made it deep. But they didn’t.

Thanks for reading. Keep an eye out for my next post, where we’ll look at the most influential NHL twitter users.

If you would like to discuss anything or have questions/corrections then please write a comment, email me at, or tweet me @agalea91


[1] – The filtering, which took my computer nearly two days, was necessary to make sure the tweets were about NHL players and not other people with the same last names. Next time I do this I’ll attempt to customize my search better via the twitter API, or alternatively implement the pre-processing algorithm at the tweet-scraping stage before writing to the file.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s