October 19 2009 07:10PM
Some pundits in town are pointing to the Flames increased blocked shots numbers as an example of the team's changing commitment to defense under new Skipper Brent Sutter. That's something I've been looking at for more than a year since Keenan explicitly stated that the team made an effort to get out of the way of most shots on net in order to give Kipper a clear view (rather than risk a bad deflection). Given the team's high goals against average and Kiprusoff's ever shrinking save percentage, that struck me as dubious strategy at best.
Thus far, Calgary has blocked 122 shots in 7 games played, good for 4th in the league. Of course, they've also given up a league high 265 shots against, so perhaps the total is simply an artifact of a lot of rubber flying around in the defensive zone and not actually a symptom of Brent Sutter's influence.
Converting shot blocking to a percentage helps clarify the issue. Through 10 games last season, the Flames had blocked just 49 shots and given up 294 for a SB% (blocked shots/blocked shots + shots against) of just 14.2%. The Flames percentage so far this year is (122/265+122) 31.5% which is indeed a sizable increase. Unfortunately, the results haven't followed from the Flames new found blocking prowess as they remain one of the worst teams in the league in terms of goals against.
Still, it's a sign in the this early going that Brent Sutter is efforting to make changes and the players are listening. Here's hoping more advantegous alterations are on the way...