Monday, May 05, 2008


Devils Accuracy Analysis of 2007-2008

Well, after 82 games and a lot of dithering, I have found some impressive figures involving the Devils and their shooting accuracy. Before I go into this really, really long post on accuracy, I would like to explain what it is that I'm doing, for those who have not read earlier posts on this matter.

As a Devils fan, it's easy to notice that the Devils don't score many goals. there are many possibilities for this. The Devils may not have talented enough players to finish plays. The Devils have horrific luck against goaltenders (somewhat true against backups, bizzarely enough. The system isn't designed to score goals. It's because you didn't wear your lucky underwear during the game. And so on and so forth. I believe that a lot of it has to do with how the Devils shoot. Wayne Gretzky famously said that you miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take. Well, you also don't score on 100% of the shots that don't reach the net.

Therefore, I've been recording the shots on net, missed shots, and blocked shots counts from the Event Summaries of every Devils game from One set by the Devils, and one set by their opponent. There are numerous shortcomings in doing this. First, stats like missed and blocked shots can be quite subjective. A scorekeeper may regard a tipped shot that goes wide as missed, blocked, or neither. I do not know how to adjust for those values outside of guessing, so for the purposes of this analysis, we must assume them to be correct. Second, the blocked shot statistic refers to shots blocked by the opposition. This makes sense. But what of shots that are blocked by their own team? Countless times have we seen a Devils defenseman wind-up for a slapshot only to have the puck hit a Devils' leg or skate and go awry. I have not counted how many times this has happened to New Jersey and nothing by the scorekeeper in the published stats that I have found accounts for this. Therefore, we must, unfortunately and unrealistic as it is, ignore this. Third, I am only comparing the Devils to their opponents. While it would be interesting and enlightening to do this for all 30 teams over the past 3 seasons (including this one) and see where New Jersey ranks among with them; the process of collecting all that data would be an extensive project that I'm not willing to undertake at this juncture. Sorry. Fourth, I am only looking into the regular season - the playoffs are far too short, I think, for any full analysis. Fifth, I am operating on this crucial assumption:

A shot on net, a blocked shot, and a missed shots are all attempts to get the puck on net. The accuracy of these shots is the number of shots on net out of the number of total attempts made to get it on net.

Should a shot be blocked or miss the net, the goal was not reached. For missed shots this makes sense. Yes, opposing players could make a play on their own - or get lucky enough to be in the way - but should a shot be blocked, it likely wasn't a good attempt to begin with. With that all of these assumptions and shortcomings admitted to early, let's get into it. The main answers we are seeking are just how accurate the Devils have been this season in shooting, how this compares with their opponents, and whether or not this means anything.

Let's cut through the suspense. The "too long; didn't read" table is right here and it proves that, yes, accuracy does mean something with respect to this past season.

Devils Accuracy VS. Opponents

Right there is some amazing stuff. The Devils only were more accurate than their opponents 30 times this season; but they won 22 of those games! Yes, I'm sure there are some shootout wins in there; but in those 22 times out of the 30, the Devils have at least scored as many or more than the opposition to get the full two points. A remarkable winning percentage of 73.3% when the Devils are more accurate than their opponents. That is proof positive that superior accuracy may have something to do with winning hockey games. However, it is equally shocking that this occurred only a few times in the 2007-2008 season. Yes, the Devils did win 24 games whilst being less accurate; but 22 out of 30 really does suggest that they may have an easier time getting Ws when their rate of shots go on net is better than their opponents. It suggests a better offense - shots hitting the net at a better rate - as well as a better defense, forcing the other team to take bad shots and/or get in front of more of them. Unfortunately, over the whole season, opponents has had the more accurate offense.

Regular Season Totals

With this chart, you will notice a few things. The Devils make many more attempts at shots on net than their opponents; but their opponents make more out of those fewer attempts. The Devils missed the net 121 more times than the opposition. The opposition got 170 more blocks on New Jersey's attacks. While the Devils have gotten more shots on net than their opponents, they aren't as efficient or accurate as their opponents have been over a whole season. This could be due to a number of reasons. With a world-class, legendary goaltender in net for New Jersey, opponents may be more likely to try and take the best shots they can get. Combined with a relatively weaker and more inexperienced defense this season, and opponents could look for those better opportunities to try and beat Martin Brodeur. Likewise, opponents who love to collapse in the slot found many opportunities to throw off shooters - or outright block them - as the New Jersey took many shots from the point and outside of the slot. Based on this chart alone, we can see some areas of improvement for New Jersey. The Devils defenders could certainly do a better job of getting in front of pucks, for starters. The Devils could also learn to stop forcing shots through traffic, which could cut down on their own totals of blocked and missed shots. Let's see how this breaks down on averages:

General Shooting Averages of the 2007-2008 Season

(Note: all the averages are based on a 82 game season.) The averages, as expected, support the same conclusions shown in the overall numbers. Here, we can see that the standard deviation in blocked and missed shots by both groups (Devils and non-Devils) isn't too far apart. It is further evidence that the Devils miss approximately 1.5 more shots per game than their opponents; and the opposition blocks approximately 2 shots per game than the Devils. Two areas that hurts the Devils attack and leads to more attempts at shooting on net. The standard deviation in shots on net is very close to each other; thus, we can say that the Devils really do average more shots on net than their opponents in spite of variation. Nevertheless, this just confirms what the totals have already shown.

For those who like to see this further broken down, I've split up the numbers between home and road games, and Devils wins and losses.

Home and Road Shooting

Now, this is something. On average, the Devils and the opposition make many more attempts on the road. While the opposition gets more shots on net on average, the Devils actually get slightly fewer shots on net on average. While New Jersey does better than blocking shots and the opposition amazingly misses more shots, the Devils also miss more shots and get blocked more. As a result, the accuracy of both squads drops significantly - 5.48% by New Jersey, 7.28% by everyone else. In other words, both squads would like to play their games at the Prudential Center. The averages show that they are clearly much more accurate, with the opposition shooting an substantial 62.78% on net rate.

Devils Win and Loss Shooting in 2007-2008

This chart confirms what I think most people would expect. The Devils and the opposition are more accurate in wins than they are in losses. Even so, the opposition on net/attempts on net rate is similar to New Jersey even when the Devils do win. Moreover, the opposition still takes fewer attempts on average in both Devils wins and losses; and even takes a fewer attempt on average when they do win. Conversely, the Devils are more free-wheeling in their attempts on average in losses, with an average of 3 extra attempts in losses. Again, the Devils do worse in blocking shots, missing shots, and hitting the net than their opponents in losses. Seems obvious enough. However, the major point is that the Devils are not necessarily more accurate than their opponents in Devils' wins and they are significantly worse in losses.

So what did this entire gigantic 5-chart post yield? Well, it confirms that shooting accuracy by the Devils needs to be improved. Their opponents have been better than them more often than not in that category. The result? 52 games where the Devils were at least even with or worse in shooting accuracy and a winning percentage of roughly 46% in those games. In the other 30, the Devils have a winning percentage of 73.3%. While I wouldn't expect these percentages to carry over and while we can't say that one directly leads to the other, it does matter. Goals only come from shots on net; reducing blocked and missed shots will lead to more opportunities for goals - more shots on net. By improving their accuracy, the Devils could increase scoring. I don't think the Devils organization is happy with only putting in 206 goals in 2007-2008.

Now that we know how poor the Devils shoot in comparison to their opponents, what is the next step? Well, I think there are multiple ways to improve accuracy. In-game decision making and shooting practice could certainly help in putting the puck on net. Getting more talented players who are already good at shooting could help as well. Establishing lines of players who have good chemistry with each other - as opposed to constant lineup changes - could lead to better communication, passing, and shooting from those players. A new assistant coach that can focus on the offense and provide some new ideas could also help. There's a lot of things the Devils can do here. They have all offseason to consider their options and take the right shot. If you have any questions, complaints, corrections, or a comment just to say you read through all this; please, by all means, leave them.

And, no, I'm not sorry for that stupid pun at the end.

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