Thursday, October 30, 2008


Hits, Shots, and Publicity of the Month

First, the self-promotion! Slap Shot at the NY Times is doing their Hockey Night in Blogdom feature and I've answered a few questions from them. Check that out.

Now, for the actual content of this post: hits and shots. Specifically, how have the Devils been hitting and shooting now that Devils hockey is done for October. With only 9 games into the season, the low amount of games skews the results drastically in some regard. But the whole point of keeping track of the Devils' shots, their failed attempts at shooting, and how many times the scorer actually counts a bodycheck is to get an idea of how they are going. It's good to see any trends forming and perhaps find areas where the Devils can improve (or don't need to).

As always, my numbers come from the super stats reports found at I understand the NHL numbers can be biased by scorers being too generous or too picky. A great example is the second half of the home-and-home with Philadelphia last weekend. Amazingly, there were only 22 recorded hits combined in the second Philadelphia game; and that was a very physical and intense game. I really do think there were more than 22 hits in that game. Yet, they are the official numbers and so I will use them. Feel free to take all this with grains of salt.

First, let's look at hits. Over all 9 games, the Devils are barely outhitting opponents 166 to 163. Compared to the other team Their most physical game this month has been against the NY Rangers where the Devils outhit them 43 to 37, a total of 80 hits. The least physical game has been against Atlanta, wherein they were outhit 6 to 8, a total of 14. The Devils average approximately 17.25 hits at the Rock and 19.4 on the road; opponents are averaging 17 and 19, respectively. The differences in averages when the Devils win is +1 (17 to 16) and -0.5 when the Devils lose (20.25 to 20.50). Basically, it's pretty even. And games like the Rangers game as well as the Thrashers game does skew things. Here's an interesting fact: the Devils have been outhit in their last 4 games - all by 2 hits per game.

Based on this, it seems that the Devils do hit more on the road, but that is heavily skewed by the 43 they dropped on the Blueshirts (2nd highest total on the road is more than half that - 20 against Pittsburgh). While I have no issue with the Devils taking the body a bit more, it's too soon to really conclude that they do need to be more physical or not.

The shooting is a bit more complex. In total, the Devils have an overall efficiency of 56.54% and opponents have an efficiency of 56.65%. Devils have a higher total number of attempts on net (520 to 436); shots on net (294 to 247); and, unfortunately, shots blocked (137 to 93). But the Devils have missed fewer shots: 89 to 96, that's a bit new. However, I think their blistering 49-shot and 88 shot-attempt performance against Pittsburgh, I think, tends to skew the averages. Yet, the Devils remain with a total average of 32.667 shots per game and 57.778 attempts per game this month. Opponents this month have put on an average of 27.444 shots per game and 48.444 attempts per game. What surprised me is that the Devils actually miss close to one less shot per game on average than their opponents: 9.889 misses per game compared to opponents' 10.667 misses per game. Blocks are still in the opponents' favor by a huge margin: they have blocked 15.222 Devils' shots per game whereas the Devils only block 10.333 opponent shots per game this month. This is a combination of poor decision making by the Devils - seriously, shooters, stop trying to force shot through defender's legs, skates, sticks, and bodies - as well a conscious effort by opponents to make their shots count.

The most efficient game the Devils have had this month was their second game against Philadelphia, where the Devils put 31 of their 48 attempts on net, good for 64.58%. In contrast, their worst performance in this regard has been against the Rangers, where only 27 out of 58 attempts (46.55%) got to Henrik Lundqvist. The best opposition performance was by Philadelphia in their first game against New Jersey, they put up a rate of 68.29% - 28 out of 41 attempts. The worst opposition performance was Pittsburgh, who got a mere 15 shots on net out of 38 attempts (39.47%).

Differences between at home and on the road have been huge, as well as the differences in wins and losses. Again, small population sizes skew this heavily; but currently the Devils have been more accurate at shooting on the road than at home. They have had an average of 11.75 more attempts on net; 7.05 more shots; an improvement of .36% in efficiency; and 1.55 fewer missed shots. Only the average blocked Devils' shots are better at home by 3.30. For wins and losses, as one may expect, the winning team is more accurate and more proficient at shooting on net - be it the Devils or the opponents. The Devils difference in efficiency isn't large, only 1.22% greater in wins; but they have many more attempts on net (10.85 more average attempts) and shots on net (7.05 more shots on net). The efficiency is more dramatic among opponents: as their rate is a mere 52.53% when they lose; but it balloons to 61.06% when they win. That goes along with more attempts - 10.45 more attempts on average when they win and an average 10.45 more shots on net. Again, numbers are likely influenced heavily by the Pittsburgh and Toronto games, but the trend appears clear. Shoot more pucks and make more them go on net, and you may be more likely to win.

Of course, given that we're discussing the New Jersey Devils, we all know it's more than just shooting and hitting that causes teams to win hockey games. Still, it's interesting information to consider from the past month.

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