Tonight, the 2019-20 NHL regular season resumes for Our Favorite Team: the New Jersey Devils. While the team does not have much to play for as a unit, there are individual players who deserve your attention after the 2020 NHL All-Star Game. One of them is the team’s leading goal scorer: Blake oColeman. This is not a knock on Coleman as is 19 goals puts him in a tie for 30th in entire NHL in goals. He is joined by Andrei Svechnikov, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Evander Kane, James Neal, and Zach Parise with 19 lamp-lighters. As a way to get back into the swing of things and as a reason to just indulge in some highlights in a dismal season, let us review all 19 goals by Blake Coleman.
Blake Coleman’s Offense or Magic in the Middle of the Zone
Before jumping into the 19 goals themselves, it is worth noting that Coleman is also the current Devils’ leader in shots on net and tied for 24th in the NHL with 147. As you would expect from the team’s shot leader, he has a lot of shot attempts too. 220, to be exact according to Natural Stat Trick. I asked Matt Donders on Twitter - you may know him from the Devils Game Bot he programmed - to provide a heat map of Coleman’s attempts in all situations to confirm where they were being taken.
As you can see, while Coleman has not been shy about taking attempts from distance, the majority of them are in the middle of the zone. More specifically, in the slot and the area around the crease. To put a number on it, Natural Stat Trick has Coleman with 130 individual attempts in the scoring chance zone with 70 of those being in the high-danger area (slot, crease, rebounds) Coleman may be a winger but he does get in close for opportunities. His attempts have been in the locations where you want offensive players to be creating and taking. It is also worthy to note that the vast majority of these attempts are shooting attempts. According to the shot map, Coleman does not have much in the way of tip-ins and deflections. To me, that is fine provided that the production is there.
By the way, I asked Matt for an all situations shot map because you cannot ignore shorthanded situations when it comes to Blake Coleman. This man goes hard on the forecheck on the penalty kill and he relishes any opportunity to dart ahead to take a turnover and turn it into an opportunity. By the All-Star Weekend, Natural Stat Trick credits Coleman with the 23 shooting attempts, the most in PK situations in the NHL, and 16 shots, the second most in PK situations with 11 of those being high-danger chances. It took some time, but Coleman now has 3 shorthanded goals - also tying him with multiple other skaters for the most in the NHL. As many of these chances are odd-man rushes or breakaways, Coleman often gets into a desirable shooting location for those attempts. It only strengthens that tendency that is shown in Donders’ shot map.
The expected goals model leans heavily on shot location and the history of shots in such locations to determine the likeliness of a goal being scored on a shot. It at least provides a good baseline as to what we should expect in terms of production based on what the player is shooting. As you may expect by his total of 19 goals in 48 games, Coleman has been surpassing the model. (Aside: As has the NHL this season per this January 20, 2020 article article by Travis Yost at TSN.) In shorthanded situations, his attempts yielded an ixG (individual expected goals count) of 1.92. He has 3 shorthanded goals. In even strength situations, Coleman’s attempts yielded an ixG of 10.84. Coleman has 16 even strength goals. In all situations, Coleman’s ixG is 12.76 and he has 19. The point is that Coleman’s goal output really is well-above expectations even when taking into account what and where he has been creating on the ice this season. There could even be more in the Devils’ remaining 34 games. Only recently has Coleman been included on a power play unit. If that gets some traction by some way, that may lead to even more scoring for Coleman.
I predict that if it is happens, it will likely be in the slot and or around the crease because that is where the majority of his 19 goals have been scored this season.
Details About Coleman’s 19 Goals
I watched all 19 goals scored by Coleman through the videos of his goals at NHL.com. It surprised me that only three of them were scored by shots from the circles. He was just inside the left (Coleman’s left) circle for his amazing second goal in the home opener; he was in the inside of the right circle when his shot hit Alexandar Georgiev in the mask and bounced down and then through his legs; and he was inside of the left circle when he scored his first shorthanded goal of the season. That was it. Every other goal had Coleman firing or touching the puck while in the slot or at/around the crease. That is where the production has come. I expected a little more variety but no, #20 was mostly in the middle of the zone in the dangerous areas in the offensive zone.
There was more variety in where the goals were scored. Coleman scored on five shots to the left - his left - side of the net. Three were high with one each for low and medium heights. Coleman found more success putting pucks in on his right. Out of the eight scored to his right, three were on high shots, three had a medium-height, and two were low. The remaining five were goals scored in the “low middle,” or through the goalie’s legs. Coleman’s sole ENG was also in that spot but it was an empty net so it does not mean much. There has been a preference for that right side for the left-shooting winger, but it is not a massive one. If the spot is there, he will try to put the puck wherever it is.
What was also surprising to me was that Coleman has had some significant goalless streaks in this season. After his third of the season against Our Hated Rivals on October 17, Coleman would score his fourth of the season on November 15 against Pittsburgh. That was a ten-game drought that also included a nine-game pointless streak. After his double in Montreal on November 28, it would be another nine games before his next goal: his tenth of the season against Washington on December 20. Coleman’s scoring has really heated up in recent weeks. It took 34 games for Coleman to score his first ten goals. If he scores tonight, then it would be just 15 for Coleman to get his second ten. Hopefully, he can keep it up. At the same time, it would not be the end of the world if he goes goalless for a few games. He already came back from two extended droughts this season, after all.
It is also note-worthy that none of Coleman’s 19 goals were really “garbage goals” or really fortunate breaks. Sure, Coleman did get some favorable bounces and I doubt he could replicate his second goal against Winnipeg even if he was given a hundred attempts. But there were no goals where he was just jamming at a loose puck and got lucky to find it. There were goals where he dealt with the opposition but there was no real puck battle in the process. There was only one tip-in goal - his goal on January 9 against Our Hated Rivals - out of all 19. There was only one empty net goal by Coleman; the last goal scored in Montreal on November 28 that sealed a 6-4 win. The other 17 goals were all intentional shots and moves made by Coleman.
To be more specific, here is how I counted the types of shots Coleman took for his goals. Coleman definitely utilizes his backhand. It accounted for six of 19 goals, including some of his most impressive. Coleman’s forehand wrist shot is certainly not bad either. He scored five on those. The three goals he scored on shots from loose pucks and three one-timers he finished were all taken on his forehand too. Coleman has only scored one goal off a rebound of a shot and only one goal off a deflection. I have nothing against those kinds of goals. All goals are beautiful. But Coleman is not someone who just grinds out opportunities. He is very much a finisher of chances being created.
That leads me to who assisted on Coleman’s goals. Most of them had at least one; only three of them were unassisted. I counted who helped the most and whether or not the assist was legitimate. A legitimate assist, in my definition, is that the player who got the credit for an assist made an intentional pass, shot, or play to get Coleman or another player the puck as part of the scoring play. Out of all 19 goals, 16 of them had primary assists and 14 of those were legit. Out of all 19 goals, 14 had secondary assists and 11 of those were legit. In short, the assists given out were largely appropriate.
Out of all twelve Devils who registered at least one assist on a goal by Coleman this season, the most common Devils assisting on Coleman’s goals are Coleman’s most common teammates this season. Travis Zajac has the most with four primary and four secondary assists; three of each were counted as legitimate. Nikita Gusev is behind him with five primary assists and one secondary assists with all of them being legit assists. The only other Devil with more than two assists on Coleman’s goals this season is Will Butcher with one primary and two secondary assists, although his primary assist was not legit (it went to the defender and Coleman fished it out from his skate before putting it in the net - it was his hat trick goal in Toronto). If you needed another reason to keep Zajac, Coleman, and Gusev together, then look to Coleman’s production this season. It is not an accident that when the coaches decided to change up the second power play unit, they just iced the Zajac line as they normally do at even strength. It very much “clicks.”
What also clicks for Coleman is the time of the game. Sixteen of Coleman’s 19 goals have been scored in either the second period (9) or the third period (7). This may be more or less coincidence but it is something noteworthy about his tallies. Coleman has only scored the first goal of a game once this season, which was the November 28 game in Montreal. And only one of his goals tied up the game at the time it was scored, which was the aforementioned shot off Georgiev’s dome on October 17. Every other time Coleman has scored, it is either to get the Devils back closer on the scoreboard or to extend a lead. Again, this may be more or less coincidence but it stood out enough to me to note it here.
As one final detail, I counted all of Coleman’s goals to be in that scoring chance area. That is, the area from the around the crease to the top of the faceoff circles with the dots representing the outside edge of it. Even the tip-in and the ENG was taken from inside that “homeplate” area on the ice. Again, as indicated in Donders’ shot map, Coleman has been consistently taking attempts in that area - and it is where his goals have come from this season. The 2019-20 Devils may need a lot of changes. Coleman’s shooting tendencies on the ice is one of the few things I do not want changed at the moment.
What was most astounding out of re-watching all 19 of Coleman’s goals this season was how impressive a lot of them looked. The clips show some excellent efforts by Coleman to keep the puck and take a shot, much less a successful one. I found myself hooting and hollering at the monitor at the play - regardless of what else I knew about the game or the situation or my own memory of the goal. Coleman has scored in the face and/or in spite of opposing players. Coleman has scored on some incredibly good-looking shots. And, yes, I know some Devils fans want to forget the home opener, but Coleman’s second goal is a legitimate Goal of the Year candidate.
To put it more simply, Coleman’s goals bring the hype. You could even argue that his play this season is akin to being a human-highlight reel. It does not happen every night but when it does, it is likely to get you out of your seat and cheer. It is very much a reason to keep attending Devils games and pay attention to what they do on the road. Coleman is currently on pace to score about 32 goals this season. That would make him the team’s first 30-goal scorer since Taylor Hall’s 39 in 2017-18, which was the first time since Kyle Palmieri and Adam Henrique each scored 30 in 2015-16. I would love to see him do it and I hope he does. And I think if it does, then he will do it with style and panache. Whether you call him Pickles, the Maverick, the Pickle Maverick, the Big Dill, or something else that has not yet stuck, you may want to add Hype Man to the list.
A Top Ten of Hype Coleman Goals At the Expense of Others
To that end, I want to close this post out with a list of my favorite goals by Coleman this season where he took advantage of an opponent or succeeded in spite of them. So grab a mason jar of pickle juice, put on a P20 snapback hat, and get ready to get hyped like I did when I watched them again - just as I am staying hyped while writing about them again.
#10. January 14, 2020 - Third goal against Toronto
Coleman’s hat trick goal was more or less him finding a puck from the skates of Travis Dermott and beating Frederik Andersen in front. It was not exactly aesthetically great. It was for a hat trick, and those are always worth hyping.
#9. November 23, 2019 - Coleman’s first goal against Detroit
Defenseman Madison Bowey did not have a good game on November 23. Coleman literally took a puck from him in front and then roofed it past Jonathan Bernier in his face. The Devils were already putting a hapless Detroit team to the sword. Coleman’s strike only added to the pain and further confirmed that Bowey was having a Bad Time.
#8. January 16, 2020 - Shorthanded goal against Washington
Coleman’s third shorthanded goal of the season put the Devils within one for a few minutes at Washington. Here is a “fun” fact. This was the last goal scored by New Jersey before the All-Star Weekend. Yes, they played another game after this one. Yes, they were shutout in it. Anyway, John Carlson did not quite find the loose puck and Coleman did. He went off to finish the drill against Ilya Samsonov. Yes, this is only #8 in my opinion. Wait for the others.
#7. January 14, 2020 - Coleman’s second goal in Toronto
Gusev gave Coleman a lead pass for him to go off on a one-on-one. Tyson Barrie tries to catch up. When he thinks he does, he first tries to impede Coleman and then just straight up tries to foul him from behind. He failed at both. Coleman got around the second attempt. His stick-swinging looked lame as Coleman burned Andersen with a killer backhand.
#6. November 15, 2019 - Coleman breaks a goalless drought against Pittsburgh
If you thought Coleman made Bowey look bad in #9, then check out what he does to John Marino here. First, Marino loses the puck and Coleman takes it and goes off. Marino did well to backcheck and force Coleman to take a shot from distance. But Coleman did not give up on the play. Matt Murray let up a juicy rebound, Marino turned to try to knock it away, and Coleman basically stick-checked Marino to have the puck go in. This was a great individual effort. It also put the Devils up 2-0 going into the third, which would hold up for a rare change in New Jersey at the time.
#5. October 17, 2019 - Coleman’s goal against Our Hated Rivals
No, a skater was not beaten or made to look silly on this play. But I am making an exception just on how this was scored. Coleman fired a high shot, it hit the goalie in his mask, and then it somehow bounced down and then through the goalie’s legs. Even today, I am marveled by the physics of it all. How does a goalie give this one up? How does the puck hit the ice hard enough and on an angle enough to go the way it did? That it happened against Our Hated Rivals makes it much more sweeter. If you must have a skater being victimized by Coleman, then do note that the clip includes him winning a puck from Brady Skeji on a forecheck - although it did not lead to anything with respect to the goal.
#4. January 14, 2020 - Coleman’s first goal against Toronto
Forward Dmytro Timoshev seemingly lined up Coleman for a check in the middle of the offensive zone. He hits with him with a shoulder check. But Coleman had the strength to take the hit, kick the puck back to his stick, and then fire a wrist shot in one spinning motion. Yes, Coleman spun through the check and then caught Andersen low on the resulting shot. It was another great individual effort; only this goal did have legitimate assists from Butcher and, yes, Miles Wood.
#3. December 23, 2019 - Coleman’s goal against Chicago
While the game was out of doubt, I loved so much from this goal From how quick it was scored in the third period to Coleman beating defenseman Duncan Keith to Coleman scoring while falling to the chorus of disapproval given by the Chicago fans. It is hard enough to score a goal in the NHL. To do so while falling down is that much more challenging. And it was not even the first time Coleman did it this season!
#2. December 20, 2019 - Coleman’s goal against Washington
This goal ended a nine-game goalless streak for Coleman and thrilled the Rock. Nicklas Backstrom did have an amazing game but he made a big mistake trying to haul down Coleman from behind. Not only would have led to a penalty or even a penalty shot, it did not even work! He stashed the puck in between Samsonov’s legs as Backstrom took Coleman down and into the goalie and the net. The puck went in before the puck went over the line; the referee signaled a goal; and it was all good. On top of that, the whole play started with Coleman taking a puck away from Carlson to lead a 2-on-1 with Gusev. It starts with a success by #20 in the Devils’ end and it ends with another success by #20.
#1. October 4, 2019 - Coleman’s second goal against Winnipeg
Coleman’s first goal of the season was very nice. And few will remember it because this one was magnitudes more amazing. Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov was taken for a ride as Coleman stunned goalie Laurent Brossoit with an unlikely perfect shot with just one hand. One hand! All while being off-balance too! That Coleman beat Kulikov to get the bouncing puck was impressive enough. To take a one-handed shot at all was impressive. To get the puck up and over Brossoit’s glove is just the cherry on the top of a sundae of awesome in this clip. I know that the game itself is infamous for the Devils in this season. However, this goal should not be erased from our memories. It is just too incredible to forget. Too wonderful to discount. If the NHL and/or the media do not include this as at least a Goal of the Season candidate, then they are just living in shameful ignorance of this brilliant display of courage, strength, and skill by Blake Coleman.
Blake Coleman is having an excellent season. Gerard called him a hero back on Thursday and I am not disputing it. Not only is he the team’s leading goal scorer, he has been creating a lot of expected value on his individual shooting attempts and surpassing that expected value. Not only does he have 19 goals, but almost all of them have been off actual shots in good-to-great shooting locations. Not only does Coleman have a lot of goals, more than half of the goals were scored at someone’s expense, which only adds to the hype that the goals themselves generated. The season may be lost for the Devils as a whole, but Blake Coleman’s performances provide a compelling reason to keep paying attention. If only to see what greatness he will create over the next 34 games. Maybe it will begin tonight. We can only hope.
In the meantime, I would like to know your take on Blake Coleman and his goalscoring so far. Do you think he will be able to keep up his pace of goals? Will he keep getting into the slot and to the net for goals? How many more goals do you think Coleman will score. How many of those will feature Coleman beating, withstanding, and/or scoring in spite of whatever an opposing player tries to do to him? Which of his 19 goals so far was your favorite? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Coleman in the comments. Thanks to Matt Donders (@MattDonders) for the shotmap and thank you for reading.