Over the past three weeks, I reviewed the video of every goal David Clarkson scored for the New Jersey Devils in the 2011-12 campaign. Clarkson had a fantastically productive season with 30 goals and he put in three more in the playoffs. He was one of only 30 NHL players in the entire league to score more than 30 and he was the only one among those 30 to not average 17 or more minutes of ice time per game. While he racked up the shots (228) and played regularly on the Devils' first power play unit, Clarkson was primarily used on the third line. This makes his production even more impressive.
In Lou We Trust user kawrous_lover suggested this closer look back in March, shortly after Clarkson's 27th goal of the season - which went off his leg and in. At the time, the user wondered how inflated that goal total was with pucks going in off his body, empty net goals, and the like. After reviewing all 33, I can say the only one where Clarkson got credited for goal despite not even getting his stick on the puck was his 26th, where Petr Sykora's shot got re-directed by Clarkson's leg. Additionally, Clarkson only put in two empty net goals in 2011-12. However, I think there's some truth behind the larger point kawrous_lover brought up then. Clarkson got a lot of breaks to score as many goals as he did. He had a lot of luck.
Before I continue on with the summary, I'd like to emphasize that's not a criticism of Clarkson to say that he was lucky. For some strange reason, some people see the word "luck" and assume I'm discounting talent and/or work ethic. I'm not. This review certainly showcases that Clarkson has a good shot and he didn't just pile up "garbage goals." However, every goal ever scored by anyone requires some kind of good fortune because the event leading up to the goal or taking the shot that went in involves something(s) beyond the player's control. This could mean a defensive error. This could mean a bounce off a rebound. This could mean a great play made by someone else to create the play. I highlight these in the various goal breakdowns on this site, such as this example. I've even pointed it out back in March with then-recent Clarkson and Ilya Kovalchuk goals to show that goal-scoring is a combination of hard work and luck. If you need more examples, well, the 33 goals Clarkson scored would suffice.
That said, in putting the last three posts together, I noted some common traits about the kinds of goals Clarkson scored. It also brought some other thoughts to mind about the whole process. Please continue on after the jump as I summarize the review of all 33 goals scored by David Clarkson in 2011-12.
The Goal-By-Goal Review
I broke up all 33 goals into three posts, where I looked at each set of 11 goals separately. If you want to see those reviews, then here are the links to each for easy access:
Over all three posts, I counted 18 goals where Clarkson scored on a scoring chance. For the uninitiated, a scoring chance is defined as a shot taken in the area between the faceoff dots in front of the goaltender to the crease. This includes the slot. For those who want a deeper explanation, Jonathan Willis has a good one on how a chance is defined in this article at the Edmonton Journal. I've never looked at chances myself before, but I wanted to know whether Clarkson was scoring from this prime area of the ice.
As it turned out, he was. That 18 may be higher given my own inexperience plus the fact I didn't include deflections. I didn't credit Clarkson with a chance on those plays since he didn't get a shot on net. Likewise, I can't include that glorious series-winning rebound against Ilya Bryzgalov in the playoffs (Note: I incorrectly marked it as a chance, I updated the third review post to reflect that). If I did include them, the total would be at 22. Either way, the majority of Clarkson's goals came from that dangerous area. That shouldn't be so surprising; if anything, it just furthers the point that Clarkson should be getting to those spots.
It would have been great if I had a total of how many scoring chances Clarkson had all season to see what his success rate was. However, there's no total count of Clarkson or any other Devil player for the whole season. Therefore, it can't be done unless someone knows of a complete count somewhere.
This was what I believe kaworus_lover really wanted to know back in March. While all goals are the result of effort and luck, some require a lot more luck. They're the sort of goals you look at and go "How did that get in?" or "No way, that can happen again." Clarkson benefited with six goals off flukes. One was that wonderful equalizer against the Rangers on January 31; the shot itself was no fluke, but that it bounced off a glass support of a dump-in and right to a charging Clarkson was. The series-winning goal against the Flyers in the playoffs count as Bryzgalov just made a boneheaded decision to fire the puck at an on-coming Clarkson and it bounced back past him. The user pointed out the goal off Clarkson's leg; that counts as a fluke. The other three were just shots that somehow got past the goaltender. Those are the kinds of goals that one really can't expect to happen in the future short of some great fortune.
I'm not complaining about those six and I don't think any Devils fan really would either. I'll take goals however they come. However, it's important to note them as it is more reason to believe that Clarkson isn't going to repeat his goal production next season. While I don't think Clarkson will be so devoid of luck in 2012-13 that he won't get any, I highly doubt he'll benefit from six fluke scores again regardless of what happened. If you include the two empty net goals, then it is arguable Clarkson's goal total was "inflated" by eight in 2011-12.
There's nothing wrong with 25 non-fluke, non-empty net goals from a third line winger. At the same time, it is still a drop in production. And that doesn't even include the reality that Clarkson may not even get 25 non-fluke, non-empty net goals based on what we know about shooting percentages. Clarkson hit a career high of 13.2% in the regular season and he shot at 12.2% including the playoffs. Even though he's only played five full NHL seasons and fired 915 shots in his career, he's 28, he's already developed as a player, and his NHL role is pretty much set. He is who he is. I doubt he'll maintain a shooting percentage of ~13% for a second season after never rising above 11% in the past.
Types of Shots & Goals
While reviewing each goal by Clarkson, I noted the type of shot he took and the type of goal he scored. I wanted to see how Clarkson was succeeding. Here is the count I have of the types of shots Clarkson scored on:
|Shot Type||Count||% Total|
For the most part, Clarkson scored most of his goals either his forehand or just by getting a stick on the puck, which what I called one-touch goals. Clarkson scored quite a few deflections, rebounds, and one-timers in 2011-12. On most those plays, Clarkson just reacted; he didn't settle the puck or maintain control before firing it on net. Most of those one-touches were with his forehand, though there was one one-timer that he scored with a snap shot. While I only have this count for 2011-12, that he's been more successful with his forehand doesn't surprise me. It was a little surprising to learn that Clarkson scored just as many goals just by getting a touch of the puck - but that's based on my definition.
What really surprised me were the kinds of goals Clarkson was scoring:
|Goal Type||Count||% Total|
That's right, Clarkson didn't just pile up the rebounds. Sure, he had six; four were just one-touch whacks at pucks. However, that's only part of the picture. He actually scored a plurality of his goals on just standard shots either off the rush or otherwise. I certainly didn't expect so many from him. Clarkson also scored on two breakaway goals, too, so he wasn't a waste all alone in those few opportunities. His six one-timer goals showcased getting into an open area and slamming the puck with good timing. In my view, this is all evidence that Clarkson has an effective shot.
Sure, he has the strength and tenacity to play in traffic and I'm not totally opposed to that continuing in the future. Yet, it wouldn't be a bad idea to have him just fire at will. Clarkson certainly has the mindset and he showed in 2011-12 that it can pay off. It may not pay off as much in the future, but it's a better plan than to park him down low and have him just look for rebounds. Clarkson can do more than that.
Lastly, I counted the situations Clarkson was scoring in. For the most part, Clarkson scored the majority of his goals in even strength:
Clarkson did most of his damage in 5-on-5 play. Despite (or because?) he was on the first power play unit, he only put up eight power play goals. Despite being in the middle by design, only two were scores off rebounds: one at 5-on-4 and one at 5-on-3. In any case, Clarkson wasn't used much in other situations in the season so he didn't score so many goals outside of 5-on-5 and 5-on-4 situations. His four goals in those other situations did carry value. He had one overtime winner, two empty net goals, and one equalizer when the Devils had an empty net.
I hope you enjoyed this review of David Clarkson's 33 goals from 2011-12 and learned something beyond the numbers. I'm not so sure I'll do this again this summer, but it was a learning experience. Plus, it was nice to sit and look at a Devil scoring a goal as opposed to seeing others score goals on the Devils. What did you get out of this review of Clarkson's 33 goals? What did you learn from the summary or the goals themselves? Did this change your opinion of Clarkson and/or his expectations for the future? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this review in the comments. I want to thank kaworus_lover for the suggestion back in March and you for reading.