The Devils are a team that is renowned for playing low-event hockey; good defense and defending good percentage shots is what defines the team. New Jersey has only played 9 games so far this season (certainly no need to panic) but as the team seems to be getting away from what makes them successful. Their shots allowed per game total has been awful so far this season; they rank 25th in the league, allowing 32.2 shots on their goaltender each game.
Now I know we've had a variety of complaints with the team so far this season (penalty killing, faceoffs, blowing leads the same way they did last season), but the amount of shots being allowed to hit the net is an astonishing change from the past few seasons. Perhaps it is due to the small sample size so far, but here's a look at the Devils' Shots Allowed Per Game since Peter DeBoer took over:
From the past season alone, the Devils are allowing approximately 7 more shots per game on average; while it's only about 5 more than their first season under DeBoer, they've fallen from one of the best teams in the league into the bottom echelon. Granted as I previously said, we are working with a small sample size at the moment for the current season, but just from watching the games, it seems the Devils are sliding away from what made their system so successful, albeit not on purpose. Is it a byproduct of personnel change? Something based in the team stats? Is it something else entirely? I attempt to investigate today!
Theories on Change
The first theory I wanted to test was that without Anton Volchenkov and Mark Fayne around, more shots are getting through to Cory Schneider. I went to NHL.com to check out how many shots the Devils blocked last season, and was surprised to see that New Jersey finished last in the league in 2013-2014 with 849 blocked shots for an average of approximately 10.35 per game. This season the Devils have already blocked 105 shots through 9 games; sitting 22nd in the NHL, they average 11.66 per game so far this season. While it has only been said 9 games, the Devils are blocking shots at a higher rate than they were last season. As of this point, we can't attribute the rise in shots against to less blocked shots as it is simply untrue.
Faceoff Percentage/Time of Possession
This one is technically two statistics, but I think they have to be looked at together due to how poorly the Devils have performed in the faceoff circle; when you win a faceoff obviously your team takes possession of the puck, and if the team doesn't turn it over right away, then the other team can't put shots on net. I decided to look at the Devils' facoff statistics under DeBoer as well, and came up with this:
Again, another stat (or I guess pair of stats) that I thought could lead to an answer that seems to be a dead end. While the percentage isn't much of an increase, the team is performing relatively the same in the dot as they have in previous season, which means their possession off the draw would be fairly similar as well. For all the flack he gets for not scoring, at least Travis Zajac continues to win draws at over 50% season after season; Adam Henrique has significantly increased his faceoff win percentage this year, but Patrik Elias and Stephen Gionta can't seem to buy a win (both under 40% currently) resulting in a similar team percentage. Jacob Josefson in the lineup on a nightly basis could improve the draw percentage (historically, he's been pretty good) but it still doesn't explain all the additional shots hitting the net per game.
A simple answer that doesn't have much statistical foundation is that simply with a cluster of new players joining the system coupled with a slew of youngsters on defense has New Jersey surrendering more shots per game. Maybe its something about their positioning that allows the opposition to get more shots that hit the net. It could also be the permanent change in net with Cory Schneider now in full-time; without the puck handling abilities of Martin Brodeur, the Devils may be having more trouble getting the puck up the ice, and as a result, they're surrendering more shots. Again, there really aren't any statistics to back this up, it's just more of an idea.
I'd like to see if you guys have any opinions as to why we're allowing so many more shots on goal to start off this season; is it because of personnel? Is it because of a statistic that I didn't look at? Is it because it's only 9 games into the season and the numbers are possibly still fluctuating? Leave any and all comments below and as always, thank you for reading!