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Screened Goals Against the New Jersey Devils in the Last 16 Games

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Since November 15, the New Jersey Devils have been bleeding goals against. This post looks at how many of them had the goaltender screened. It even has a slideshow of the screens against.

Vancouver Canucks v New Jersey Devils
How many times was I screened again?
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

It is no secret that the New Jersey Devils have given up a lot of goals. It’s been a running theme from Devils fan and Guy Who Knows Things, Todd Cordell, to tweet out when the New Jersey Devils have allowed three or more goals. Because it’s been happening a lot. He Tweeted this after the Ottawa game ended.

It’s now fourteen out of sixteen games as the Devils only lost 2-3 by a shootout yesterday. Still, it’s a lot of goals to allow. Since the Devils had the tail end of the winning streak in Dallas on November 15, the Devils have allowed total of sixty goals in the sixteen games since that 2-1 overtime win in Dallas. Fifty seven of them were scored on goaltenders Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid. The sad thing is that while each have allowed some goals they wish they had back, they’ve been hung out to dry more often than not from what I’ve seen in these last sixteen games. What’s gone wrong?

Well, a lot has gone wrong. So let’s focus on one of them: screens on goals against. Bodies in the way of the goaltender from seeing the shot. It’s common for an attacking team to have someone set someone up around the crease or go to the net to get in the goalie’s way. After all, a goalie who can’t see the puck is going to have a much harder time trying to stop it than a goalie who can. I think it’s been happening quite a bit. I’ve noted multiple times in game previews that the Devils need to help their goaltenders more. And it’s something Cordell has noticed too.

So is Cordell and my thinking about there being a large number of goals allowed off screens correct? Thanks to NHL.com, I watched each and every one of those fifty seven goals against Schneider and Kinkaid. Here are the results:

Screened GAs for Kinkaid and Schneider from 11/17 - 12/18

From 11/17 - 12/18 GA Screened GA % Screened
From 11/17 - 12/18 GA Screened GA % Screened
Total 57 16 28.07%
Kinkaid 17 6 35.29%
Schneider 40 10 25.00%
Total 11/17 - 12/18 Screens

Sixteen out of fifty seven goals is not exactly a large amount. It’s around 28% of all of the goals allowed in the last sixteen games. It’s not a small amount; but it isn’t extravagant. Most of the goals allowed came on shots that either the goalie saw or the goalie could not stop (e.g. shot on a flank). Cory Schneider, who has started eleven of these sixteen games, has been victimized more by screens than Keith Kinkaid in terms of raw totals. However, Kinkaid has been subjected to a higher proportion of these kinds of goals against. It can be said that both goalies have suffered from screens in the last sixteen games.

I thought there would be more screens; however, that’s really because this issue is much more recent in this run of fourteen games of over three goals allowed in the Devils’ previous sixteen games. Here’s a game-by-game breakdown of what I looked at:

11/17 - 12/18 Game Breakdown of Screened GAs

Date Home/Away Opponent Devils Goalie GA Screened GA
Date Home/Away Opponent Devils Goalie GA Screened GA
11/17/16 A Anaheim Schneider 3 0
11/19/16 A Los Angeles Schneider 3 1
11/21/16 A San Jose Kinkaid 4 1
11/23/16 H Toronto Schneider 4 0
11/25/16 H Detroit Schneider 5 1
11/26/16 A Pittsburgh Kinkaid 3 0
11/29/16 A Winnipeg Schneider 3 0
12/01/16 A Chicago Schneider 4 2
12/03/16 A Nashville Kinkaid 4 1
12/06/16 H Vancouver Schneider 2 2
12/08/16 A Montreal Schneider 5 1
12/09/16 H St. Louis Kinkaid 4 3
12/11/16 A NYR Schneider 5 1
12/15/16 A St. Louis Schneider 4 2
12/17/16 A Ottawa Kinkaid 2 1
12/18/16 A NYR Schneider 2 0

In the November part of this set of games, there were only three occurrences in total. There were four out of seven games where the goals against did not come off a screen. In the December part of this set of games, there have been thirteen. There was a streak of seven games where there was at least one goal against off a screen. That streak ended yesterday. Four games in that streak of seven had at least two goals allowed with a screen. That’s a terrible run of this kind of goal against. I think that has made it seem more common than it really has been over the last sixteen games. Granted, if the focus was just on the games in this month, then I would agree it’s amazing that the Devils have this kind of streak going.

What really makes these screens standout is who is providing them. In reviewing each goal against with the goal videos at NHL.com, I took a screenshot of each screen. Rather than drop in sixteen individual photos, I’ve put them together with commentary in a slideshow. Don’t worry, you won’t be seeing all-slideshow posts. Here’s a gallery of all sixteen goals against the Devils with a screen in their last sixteen games.

You’ll notice that with there was only goal allowed where the opposition alone screened the Devils goaltender: on December 8 in Montreal. On all of the others, there was a New Jersey Devil involved in the screen. Eight of the sixteen screened goals against involve a Devil and an opposing player in the screen. Whether it is because a Devil is battling with the opposing player or the opposing player drew them into the shooting lane varies. But if one player in front makes it difficult, then a second player just makes it that much harder for Kinkaid and Schneider. I do not know whether this means the Devils have issues “clearing the crease” or that they should not try to do that as they’re not succeeding with their help.

What this also means is that seven of the sixteen screened goals were just by Devils alone. Those are the really frustrating ones. I was rather livid with Adam Henrique on December 1 in overtime when he paused right in front of Schneider when Marian Hossa shot. Likewise when Andy Greene was in Schneider’s way in overtime on November 25 against Detroit. I was annoyed to see Ben Lovejoy and Andy Greene in the way of the net-finding shot on December 6 against Vancouver. The only one that maybe was not so consequential was John Moore getting in the way in San Jose on November 19, as that shot came after a surprising carom in the slot. The rest, well, they were errors and the Devils paid for it. Those are the kinds of errors the Devils need to cut back on.

From a player breakdown, most of the screeners are defensemen. That was expected given their position. I identified Ben Lovejoy as being involved the most with five occurrences. Andy Greene was on for four of them; Kyle Quincey and John Moore each had three each. I was not surprised to see Greene on four of these given how much he plays. I am not terribly surprised that the slowest two defensemen on the team were screening their own goalies. Only Yohann Auvitu and Damon Severson have not screened their goalie for a goal against in this set of games. As for forwards, only four - Adam Henrique, Michael Cammalleri, Taylor Hall, and Vernon Fiddler - who were involved in just one each. Henrique had the worst one by far.

Ultimately, I think the issue of Schneider and Kinkaid being screened is an issue but it was not as large as I expected. Screens are commonly set by the offense, so there being plenty of goals allowed from them does not seem out of the ordinary. The real issue has more to do with recency and who’s providing the screens. The Devils have allowed at least one goal where the goalie has been screened in each game in this month. That’s a bad streak. And most of those screens involve a Devil, either making a problem worse by joining a screening opposing player or creating a screen themselves. That’s a problem in of itself. And it’s contributed to the awful run of results. After all, in these last sixteen games, they’ve won only three games - and only once in regulation. Those losses have brought about many problems such as the team’s play while trailing. This is another one that the coaching staff and players will have to address.

It could be argued that solving this one would also address some of the other issues that have led to so many goals against. While looking through all fifty five goals against, many were point-blank goals that could have been prevented with better communication and awareness of loose pucks. There were even two own goals where an attempt to clear the puck off the goal line ended up putting the puck over it. As much as Schneider has been slumping and Kinkaid has not been much better, the skaters have more than enough room for improvement in their play. I would think some good first steps would be to better communicate on the ice between the goalie and players. As for the skaters themselves, suppressing that desire to go for a block or just sit in a lane when it doesn’t really help. Both can help them get out of the goaltender’s way so they can make a save, which would be a way to cut back on the screened goals against. At the end of the day, the Devils need to stop bleeding goals against, this is an area where they can do that.

Now that you’ve read my thoughts and findings on this, what do you think? Is a big issue in your opinion? Is the issue really more to do with who has been screening Schneider and Kinkaid rather than how often it has happened? What do you think the Devils should do about it? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about screened goals against in the comments. Thanks to Todd Cordell for the inspiration for this post, NHL.com for having the videos available for review in their gamecenters, and thank you for reading.