Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Shots Against

Counterintuition At Play

Montreal media lamenting a loss – too many shots against.

Montreal media complaining about an undeserved win – too man shots against.

Bob Gainey's analysis of Carbonneau's team – too many shots against.

Too many shots against is a bad strategy, it a consensus. It can be proven with stats...

Not so. Read this astounding piece on the Canadiens website. It turns everything you know about defence upside down.

"When the lockout ended and hockey returned in 2005-06, the NHL wanted to open up the game - have goalies face more rubber and perhaps have a few more get by them. While that was the wish, the pair don’t always go hand in hand. The league’s masked men have proven that the busier they are, the better they are."

In fact, the numbers are astounding:

96-86-41 in 2005-06
87-54-34 in 2006-07
78-57-28 in 2007-08
73-71-36 in 2008-09

Combine that's 334-268-139 for at least (because the stats end at 60 minutes) 807 points out of a possible 1482 – a 0.544 winning percentage.

Based on these averages, it would not be an insane coaching move to let up 40+ shots a a game, every game (provided you had the goalie to cope). If you did so over 82 games and averages played in your favour, you'd be in line for 37 wins, 30 losses and 15 trips to OT. Even if you lost every one of those OT games, you'd have 89 points. If you give your goalie some benefit of the doubt (after all he does rescue you 54% of the time in regulation) you could probably get 8 more points for a respectable and playoff-bound 97 points.

A very interesting article indeed...

I'm not sure what the reason for this oddity is, but it should be a combination of the following:

a) Goalies are better when facing more shots
b) Teams that take a lot of shots are being impatient
c) Teams taking a lot of shots are lost for ideas as to how to beat the goalie
d) A saved shot is a turnover opportunity
e) Paying for the top goalies (winners) leaves little money for paying a functional defensive corps

I'll let you guys decide which you think is more likely in a new poll in the right-hand column...

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