[Editor’s Note: clib542 has returned with a follow up guest post!]
Back in November, you may remember a postabout the value of blocking shots. After 17 games the numbers
suggested there was little difference between blocking a shot, and shots
attempted on net. Well, now the Flames are at the halfway point of the season,
and the numbers have not only changed, but have shifted in such a direction to further make me
question the value of blocking shots.
Before you read anything else
I want to make it clear this time. I am
not arguing that blocking shots is bad, or players should stop blocking shots.
This is about the culture of blocking shots.
Coach Bob Hartley has said multiple times he expects players to drop down in front of shots, and if you
get hurt; well, too bad, it is part of the game. As mentioned in the last post,
blocking shots seemed to be more of a defensive strategy than a last effort to
prevent the shot getting on goal.
This post is not about a certain player or
group of players who block more shots than others, or their value to the team.
There is a skill to blocking shots, but it can also be accidental, as a shot
can deflect off a players *insert body part here*.
Overvaluing aspects of the game
Hockey is more than using two buttons – to
pass and shoot – on your old NES while playing Blades of Steel. Every player in
the league has their own set of skills they bring to the game. I think it is
safe to assume that most fans could rank players from top to bottom on the team
based on such skill, and this is why it can be frustrating when a coach’s
lineup does not match your rankings.
It has been argued it takes certain types
of players to win games (for some reason, the type is different in the
playoffs). I think a lot of it has been made up by the media for easy
narratives, or by agents trying to get more money or even one last contract for
Gone are the days when teams needed an
enforcer in the lineup. How many players with well below average skills,
relative to the rest of the team, had a career in the NHL because of their
fists? Big, immobile, “shut down” defensemen were key during the clutch and
grab era of the league, yet when skill took over, they were left behind.
Faceoff specialists always seem to be traded at the deadline, but they are always
depth moves, rather than acquiring a top-six forward.
Leading the league in blocking shots is not
something to write on a resume. Does it take grit, heart, etc to lay down in
front of a 100 mph shot? Sure, but when was the last time you heard at a draft that a team was looking for a shot blocker? Have the Flames been worse off this year
because Lance Bouma has missed so much time due to injury? Do they miss his one shot block per game? Is that the reason
they have four fewer points than they did a year ago?
Matt Stajan has already blocked three more shots
than he did all of last year. There will always be another player who will take
on that roll, because of their perceived value, earning those players another
Facing the stats
When we first looked at the numbers, there
was little difference when it came to what happened after a shot. The Flames
were allowing another shot 35.6% of the time after blocking a shot, and 33.9%
of the time after not blocking a shot (shot on goal, or missed shot). The
numbers have shifted quite significantly in the last 25 games.
So, to review the four outcomes after a shot attempt:
- Allowed another shot (shot on goal, missed shot, or another blocked shot)
- Stoppage in play (by goalie or puck out of play)
- Possession not changed (event happened in defensive zone)
- Possession changed (event happened in neutral/offensive zone)
|After a blocked shot||After allowing a shot|
|1. Another shot||37.2%||30.5%|
|2. Stoppage in play||20.3%||31.8%|
|3. Possession not changed||17.7%||17.3%|
|4. Possession changed||24.7%||20.4%|
There is now nearly a 7% difference between
blocking a shot and not blocking the shot when it comes to allowing another
shot. Is it really worth putting one’s body in front of a shot when:
down on the ice to block a shot puts the player out of position, and,
- The team
is more likely not to allow another shot if the first shot isn’t blocked in the
The other two outcomes when there is change after allowing a shot are when possession is either changed or not changed. I didn’t get into this last
time, and I am going to hold off again here, as there might be a trend
starting. I really want to see where the numbers are going as it might be in
part with Ramo getting the majority of the starts lately, but it could also
have to do with the Flames being better at retrieving the puck after the shot.
I will update this later on in the season.
One topic which was brought up in November
was shots vs goals. You know “100% of the shots you block, saves 100% of goals,” or something like that. I went back and reviewed all the goals allowed this
year. Using video, I determined if there was an attempt at blocking the shot
before the puck went in; if so, I would determine it to be a failed block
attempt. Using the official game sheets, I looked at the last event before the
goal was scored. There are so many different possibilities, so I focused on if
there was a shot before, a blocked shot, or the shot went directly in.
|After allowing a shot||41|
|After blocking a shot||17|
|Failed blocked shot||34|
If you combine the goals allowed after
blocking a shot and failing to block the shot, you get 51. That’s 10 more goals
allowed than when the opposing team maintains possession after the original
shot and scores, such as a goal off the rebound.
The numbers would suggest the Flames are
better off when allowing the original shot to get through rather than attempting to
block it. In a game where it is important to have the puck and not be chasing
it all the time, perhaps Hartley should be looking into a better defensive
scheme than to block as many shots as possible.
There have been countless times
this year on odd man rushes when instead of trying to take away the pass,
the defenseman has tried to block the shot (most recently Giordano vs the
Sharks, and Backlund vs the Oilers). There have been players 30-40 feet away from the original shot
attempting to block the puck after it has passed their teammates’ failed
attempt, as well as players dropping almost in the blue paint trying to stop
the puck from getting to the goalie.
Most goalies are going to be able to make
the save on shots they can see. Take, for example, how bad the penalty
kill has been this year while leaving a player unguarded in order to stand right in front
of the goalie. Clear a path, let the goalie make the save.
If the team wants to
limit the amount of shots on goal, then find a new defensive strategy. When a
player goes down to block a shot, the shot has already been taken.