Today is a lovely day in New Jersey, with the weather at a pleasant 80ish degrees and sunny. A great day to go out and enjoy it. And if you don't want to do that, there's a NFL draft going on that you should check out at some point this weekend and hope Kenny Britt may perhaps become a Giant (it's unlikely, but I'm hoping anyway.)
Today, both the Devils and the Hurricanes are preparing for Game 6. Every game so far has had exactly one (1) day of rest in between until now. So with the extra day off, I think it's a good time as any to see how well both teams have been shooting in this series. It's been a tight series, with Games 2 through 5 being decided by one goal. Since the games have been so tight, one would think it is important to be the more prolific, accurate shooting team in the game? Or is it?
In order to examine this idea, I took the official stats at NHL.com from each game with respect to shooting: shots on net, shots blocked, and shots missed. The total of those three are the total number of attempts on net each team has had in each game. The percentage on net is simply shots on net over attempts on net, and I'm essentially defining accuracy in this way. I also included the goals each team scored in each game to see if there's an obvious correlation.
New Jersey Devils
|Game 1||Game 2||Game 3||Game 4||Game 5||Series Avg.|
|Shots on Net||39||34||35||29||42||35.8|
|% on Net||61.90%||66.67%||49.30%||55.77%||68.85%||60.50%|
|Game 1||Game 2||Game 3||Game 4||Game 5||Series Avg.|
|Shots on Net||19||32||30||46||44||34.2|
|% on Net||54.29%||76.19%||50.85%||63.89%||61.11%||61.26%|
Considering only 5 games have been played, the averages can easily be influenced by one game. For example, the last two games, Carolina has been more aggressive when they had the puck and the Devils let them shoot all night - and they did. This clearly influenced their shots on net and attempts average.
In fact, the first thing I notice when bringing these two sets of numbers together is that Carolina has really trended up on offense. If it wasn't for Martin Brodeur, perhaps the goals would have trended up along with their shots and attempts. They truly were that punchless in Game 1, but as the team played with more confidence, effort, and with better puck possession, their shot and attempt totals increased. The Devils, on the other hand, have remained a little more consistent - but they don't touch Carolina's peaks (or their lows).
Incidentally, the more accurate team has won every game except for Game 3. I think this is more coincidence than anything else. For example, in Game 2, Carolina scored it's goals - one off a bounce off the boards and the overtime winner through a screen. It wasn't as if their accuracy contributed to the goals. Likewise, in Game 4, Brodeur was beaten off two rebounds, a wicked one-timer, and a bounce off Jussi Jokinen's skate. I'm not trying to take anything away from Carolina, just that accuracy doesn't necessarily equal goals. Another example would be Game 5, the game's only goal came off a deflection - not always a shot, but it was counted as one as it went into the net. Still, it's a recurring coincidence.
Moreover, both teams have been fairly accurate. Carolina has had more accurate games than the Devils and they are more accurate on average. Still, New Jersey hasn't been a slouch in this department - they have been shooting at least with 55% accuracy except for Game 3. Interestingly enough, Game 3 also featured Carolina's least accurate performance. I'm not recalling anything about that game that would result in both teams being sloppy with their shooting, but it was what it was.
While both teams have been fairly prolific and accurate with their shots from game to game, it hasn't necessarily resulted in more goals. However that's namely because both Martin Brodeur and Cam Ward have each had a fantastic first round so far. Short of a collapse, neither goaltender can be blamed for the results as they have had a lot of work to do - and they have been largely successful at keeping the puck out of the net! Therefore, there has been plenty of attempts, shots, and scoring chances; but few goals.
From looking at the shots in this way, I think we can have an idea of what each team should do in Game 6 with respect to shooting. For Carolina, they should keep on doing what they were doing in Game 4 and Game 5. The only adjustment they need to make is to stop attempting to shoot through the defense. 22 attempts blocked in Game 5 is more than just "bad luck." The Devils would be wise to do the same, considering they also average 12 blocked a game in the series.
As for the Devils, I have two takeaways from these charts. The first is that the defense needs to play more preventative hockey. It's one thing to get out Brodeur's way so he has a clear view of the shot. But it's been more than that in Games 4 and 5, where Carolina made over 70 attempts. They have just been firing away and given that Game 6 is at the RBC, it's not like Carolina won't be pumped up and encouraged to shoot more. The defense has to get to Carolina and have them shoot less. As good as Brodeur is, requiring him to be legendary isn't a good gameplan.
The second is that the forwards really need a little less focused on the holes when they have the puck. What I mean is that they are trying to hit a corner or slide a shot through traffic and as a result, more than a few shots have been blocked or miss the net entirely. The biggest discrepancy in averages is in missed shots, as the Devils have been missing an average of 2 more shots a game. Given that the Devils tend to miss when they are trying to pin point a post or somewhere up high, they tend to be missed opportunities. I feel that if they aim a little lower on those attempts, they'll not careen the shot off the boards (or a defender's leg) and essentially give the puck back to Carolina. Even if they go into Cam Ward's chest, it can still result in offensive zone faceoffs where the Devils have a better chance at keeping possession.
Like the rest of the series, except for Game 1, Game 6 should be a very close, hard fought game with tons of battles. The difference in the game could very well come down to goaltending like it did in Game 5, especially if both teams remain fairly accurate as they have been for most of this series.