Thursday, December 27, 2007


Devils & Accuracy Part 2

Yesterday, I wrote a great deal about how I defined accuracy and gave a general overview of how accurate the Devils have been this season compared to their opponents. I highly recommend that you read Part 1 prior to reading this post. Thank you.

Now, yesterday, we learned that overall the opposition is more accurate in the shots they do attempt than the Devils, the opposition blocks more of the Devils' shots on average than the Devils, and the Devils miss more shots on average than the opposition. Obviously, this is not good. From my perspective, it doesn't make a lot of sense either. The Devils are 20-13-3 in 36 games and they are sitting at the top of the Atlantic Division. They are successful in spite of these issues with accuracy. An odd claim, but the approximately 57% average on-net percentage of the opposition tells me that Martin Brodeur and Kevin Weekes are seeing these shots more often than not, and goals obviously almost always come from shots on net. Can't score if you don't shoot, and all that.

Still, there may be more to these averages. Given that the Devils have played 8 more games on the road than in Newark, that would be a good place to start. From what I have seen from teams in any sport, road teams tend to be more conservative and defensive on the road than at home in an effort to get some points out of the game. Teams on the road have a number of possible disadvantages that could affect how they play: the crowds are definitely not cheering them on, they aren't as familiar with the ice or the arena as they would be at home, they are traveling, &c. The Devils did start off this season with 9 games on the road, and they have had a number of road trips in between. Perhaps has skewed the data one way or another. So I've broken down the averages based on whether the Devils were at home or not into the following chart.

Home Away Shot Chart

Now, this is quite telling. The Devils, on average, are much more accurate at home than they are on the road. They shoot nearly 7% better, the opposition blocks on average 2 fewer shots, and miss approximately 2.5 fewer shots at The Rock! This definitely gives some validity to claiming a home-ice advantage. Interestingly, the Devils make more attempts at shooting the puck on average on the road - they just aren't nearly as accurate. If Brent Sutter is looking for areas to improve his team's offense, how they perform on the road with respect to shot selection and shot accuracy would be a good place to start. Both at home and on the road, they aren't blocking as many shots as the opposition on average and they do a better job missing the net on the road than the opposition.

However, the comparison stops being favorable when you consider the opposition. The opposition must enjoy playing at the Rock too. While they get 6 fewer opportunities to shoot on average, they are almost 5% more accurate and miss nearly 3 fewer shots on average! Yes, their average shots on net when they host New Jersey, but surprisingly they are not as accurate in missing more shots on average Not that hosting New Jersey doesn't have any benefits; opponents block an astonishing 13.36 shots on average! The Devils players must think twice about shooting into traffic, especially on the road, because they are getting denied quite a bit.

OK, so there does seem to be difference between the home and road in terms of shot accuracy. Now, let's look at a more obvious point of comparison: wins and losses. Intuitively, I thought the Devils would be more accurate than their opponents when they do win and less accurate than their opponents when they lose. Therefore, I set up another chart with the same averages, calculated between Devils wins and Devils loss:

Win Loss Shot Chart

Here, my intuition was correct. The Devils, on average, put more shots on net, make more attempts to shoot, and their percentage of those attempts hitting the net are greater than their opponents when they win. While the Devils make more attempts on net than their opponents on average when they lose, the opposition puts more shots on net and a percentage of those attempts hitting the net than the Devils. This chart does show more than confirmation of what one would expect. The opposition still blocks more shots on average than the Devils regardless of whether the Devils win or lose. Regardless of the Devils achieving victory or defeat, the Devils still miss approximately 11 shots on average. This is another area that I would suggest the Devils players would work on: those 11 shots could become much more dangerous and perhaps even goals if more of them are on net. Interestingly, while the Devils block more shots on average in losses, the opposition blocks more shots on average in both situations. The Devils could also stand to get in front of more shots in general. Nevertheless, the Devils are more accurate in their wins than in their losses, which makes sense to me (at least).

So through these comparisons, the most obvious conclusion is that the Devils could be more accurate. The opposition blocks more of the Devils shots than the other way around regardless of the Devils winning or losing and regardless of the Devils being on the road or at home. In addition, the Devils miss more shots on average than the opposition. It isn't all bad, the Devils are consistently making more attempts at shooting the puck than their opposition. However, the fact the the Devils are missing so many shots on average and having so many blocked shots on average are both sources of lost opportunities. Not just because those missed and blocked shots would go on net and have a low probability of resulting in a goal. When a shot is missed or blocked, it means the offense failed to do what they set out to accomplish. Momentum suffers when a shot by the Devils is blocked, scoring chances are wasted and momentum suffers. This makes the Devils efforts on offense much more difficult. Also, the Devils defense needs to make a better effort in blocking shots if only to make it easier on the Devils goaltenders.

In short, the Devils are not as accurate as their opposition and for the New Jersey offense to be more productive, the players will need to improve in setting up shots, deciding when to shoot through traffic and when not to, and in their shot accuracy in general. It would also be more beneficial if the Devils defenders make more of an effort getting in front of shots to reduce the workload Brodeur/Weekes would face on a night to night basis.

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Do you think that sometimes the devils intentionally miss the net because they aren't aiming for it? Alot of times I see shots that seem to got to the net but are actually for the devil behind the net. It is a more defensive and safer play when you know your chances of getting a goal are much higher when the guy behind the net centers the puck.
I doubt it; I understand what you're saying, but I don't think the scorekeepers are registering dump-ins as missed shots. If they did, the Devils (and many other teams, it's a common tactic) would be averaging something like 27+ missed shots a game.
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