Last week, I showed off one of Micah Blake McCurdy’s toys at HockeyViz: WOWY Shot Maps. Those were heat maps relative to the league of where shots were coming for or against a player or combination of players. I used it to show who was and was not defending the front of the net on the Devils in 5-on-5 play. Dr. McCurdy came up with a new toy that was available at the time of this writing: individual shot maps. They are spray charts and I think they are a good tool to highlight where the shots are being taken as well as what kind of shots are being taken. To demonstrate this, let’s look at the maps of the top shooters on the New Jersey Devils.
These maps include all goals, shots, and missed shots. They are effectively Fenwick maps, which is useful in that they show where the player is taking an unblocked attempt. The maps are available for both even strength and power play situations. The even strength situations will suffice to show where the Devils’ shooters are making it happen.
Hall is your shot, points, and general offensive leader on the Devils. This map shows a big reason why that is the case. He is just taking all kinds of looks below the circles. Shots from distance are rare. As a left winger, it is no surprise that the cluster is mostly on the left side. But the encouraging part is how close it is to the net. Outside of the circumference of the left circle is where there’s just a lot of marks representing where Hall is striking fear in the hearts of opponents. Provided he is able to keep getting to those spots, there will be more red marks - goals - on this map in the future.
In all situations, Nico Hischier is second on the team in shots on net. From preseason, I realized that Hischier was ready, willing, and able to get into high-traffic areas for attempts at goal and/or keep plays going. This has continued into the NHL season and 23 games into his career, the 18-year old has been all around the net. Look at all of that blue by the crease! This is evidence that not only that is he present in those difficult areas, but he is . Whether they are jam plays, shots from in-close, attempts at rebounds, Hischier is making the goalie and opposing defenses work from there. There’s a lean to the right side by the crease, although he has taken more attempts from the left side of the rink from further distances away. But the encouraging takeaway is that most of Hischier’s unblocked shots are coming in the slot and close to the net. Dare I say it, but this is Parise-like. I write that as a huge mark of praise for the rookie center.
Henrique is not exactly old but he is definitely a veteran on this roster as he has been a Devil since 2011. Henrique’s scoring has been streaky throughout his career. The goals have been few and far between at evens for #14. But it is not because he is shying away from his spot. Most of his unblocked attempts are in the slot and in front of the net, two desirable places to get those attempts. That a good amount of them are deflections may speak to the streakiness. While players do practice them, it does not take much for a deflection attempt to change from a shot on net to a shot that misses the net or even stops the shot entirely. While Henrique has scored on one tip, the others have all faltered. Perhaps he needs to focus more on getting shots in the middle as opposed to looking to tip shots in. Alternatively, a few more attempts from inside the circles could help. I do wonder if his streakiness will “turn on” if some of those tips start going in. I cannot help but think this is a kind of coincidence.
Tied for Henrique with 47 total shots this season, Wood has been all over with his unblocked attempts. The speedy winger has not been shy about firing from the offwing position. Or his natural left wing position. Or even right by the net, where a good cluster has formed almost an arc around it. Part of this is due to the fact that his teammates try to spring him into space, whether that is through a direct, long pass or he’s chasing down a dumped in puck. I think this is why Wood is all over the place with his attempts even though he is a left winger. Part of it may also be due to that fact that when the team is able to cycle with Wood on the ice, he can and does roam all over the zone. I am not sure if the Devils coaches would want this kind of spread of unblocked shot locations for Wood - or if they should encourage it. What do you think?
Believe it or not, Coleman is fifth on the team in total shots on goal with 44. Dr. McCurdy does not have a shorthanded shot spray chart. But this even strength one shows a fourth-line center/winger put them up from all over. For an “energy” line player where Brian Gibbons and (usually) Stefan Noesen are rotating about, I’m not surprised at the larger spread. The cluster being close to the middle is a plus. There is stronger lean to the right side than the left side, but the slot is where it is at for Coleman. It is impressive to a degree that he is able to get to the middle as much as he has done so far. May it turn into a few more goals.
Severson has 42 shots on net in total. His power play shot spray chart is all from the points. At even strength, the right-defenseman is mostly firing away from the point. I was surprised that there were not more attempts closer to the net. The Devils defensemen seemingly have been given more free reign to jump up and/or pinch in on offense. I would have thought a defender with offensive skill like Severson would have done more. At least he has been firing away from his more traditional position. Away from it is a bit curious. There is a small group around the top of the right circle and a handful from the left side. Curiously, Severson has scored twice from left side. I cannot imagine that will last as Severson continues to launch shots from the right point.
Bratt has speed, shiftiness, and skill on the puck. What he does not have is much of a concentration of unblocked shots at even strength. That more of his attempts appear to be outside of the faceoff dots is concerning. Those are not dangerous shots for any goalie and, as such, they are not likely to be goals. This spray chart shows an opportunity for improvement: Bratt needs to work on creating more scoring chances for himself. I have no doubt he goes to those areas. When he’s there and he has the puck, he should think to shoot first instead of passing more often. It will likely yield more goals for him, which benefits the team. It is something for the rookie to learn.
Goal Scoring Leader, Brian Gibbons
Gibbons is not one of the most prolific shooters on the Devils. But he is the Goal Scoring Leader and leads the team by far with a 34.4% shooting percentage. It makes sense to see where it is even happening for Gibbons. The map displays the fortune involved. Gibbons has one goal from the sideboards, which is a low-percentage shot. He has one from over fifty feet away, which is also a low-percentge shot. If I’m counting this right, he has two deflections from the slot too. Also something that may not be repeatable. I do not bring this up to be a bring-down. I’m just pointing out that the Goal Scoring Leader has had plenty go his way to get the eleven total goals he does have. In general, Gibbons’ shot attempts have not been from such a bad location. Mostly they are from the left circle and inside of that circle. That is legitimately good and more repeatable. Whether it will yield more goals is another question, but here’s hoping if only for CJ’s projections to come true.
I have to thank Dr. McCurdy for coming up with and adding shot spray charts for HockeyViz. Between the icons used for the shot types and their locations, these maps have come out really well to identify where players are making attempts. Intuitively, where a player shoots the puck does matter in a game. That information has become increasingly important as models (e.g. expected goals) and other stats are based in part by where the shots are being taken. While I do question the validity of the shot location data from the NHL scorers, this does not make Dr. McCurdy’s tool any less useful. The tool itself still works and it is another reason to check out and, if you’re interested, contribute to HockeyViz.
In using these charts to look at the top shooters on the Devils, I learned quite a bit. These maps are further evidence of how dangerous Hall and Hischier have been at even strength when they fire the puck. I was surprised to learn that Wood was all over the offensive zone with unblocked shot attempts, mostly in a good way. Ditto for Bratt, although in a not-so-good way. He needs to get to the middle more. Henrique could stand to take more shot attempts in the middle of the slot instead of deflection attempts. These maps also showed some encouraging work by Coleman and Gibbons, even if the latter has been very fortunate with some of the goals he has scored this season. There are some good signs from most of the shooters on this team and plenty to want to keep up some of these trends by some of these players.
What do you make of the shot spray charts by Dr. McCurdy at HockeyViz? What have you learned from them regarding the various Devils players highlighted? What did you like seeing from some of those players; who has something to work on from your perspective? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the shot maps and where the Devils are taking their shots on net and their missed shots at even strength in the comments. Thank you for reading. (P.S. November month in review will be next Monday. After a thirty-second pass through results, expect Hall to be the winner of Devil of the Month. That may change.)