Watching the New Jersey Devils game after game, while it can absolutely depress you, you also tend to start noticing things. One thing I think you might agree with is that Devils defenders seem to shoot a lot. P.K. Subban is often seen bombing shots in from the point, and Hamilton is shooting all the time, he is definitely not shy about it. So I wanted to gauge just how much Devils defenders shoot compared to the rest of the league.
There are 114 defenders who have played at least 200 minutes at 5 on 5 that average over 30 shots per 60 5v5 minutes. Of those 114 d-men, 6 play for the Devils. Here they are, and their stat and rank with this thanks to Natural Stat Trick.
When you look at those ranks, they are not exceptionally high. Four of those 6 guys are outside the top 75 defensemen in shots for per 60. However, what tips NJ over the top is the sheer number. As mentioned, there are 114 defenders who shoot at least 30 shots in this scenario per hour of ice time. If you divide that by 32, that’s around 3 and a half defensemen per team. So realistically, an average defense in the NHL should have 3 or 4 defenders who average over 30 shots per 60 5v5 minutes. The Devils have 6 defenders who meet that criteria, way above average. If every team averaged 6 defenders in this range, there would be 192 defensemen who shoot 30 or more shots per hour at full strength. That is massively more than there actually are. So while each Devils defender outside of Dougie Hamilton might not shoot excessively on his own, as a unit they do because all of them get in at least 30 shots per 60 5v5 minutes.
The interesting thing about this data, however, is that you would think it means that the forwards shoot less on this team. However, going by the same metric, it is not the case. There are 217 forwards who meet the criteria of shooting at least 30 shots per 60 5v5 minutes. If you divide that out by 32 teams, you get a little under 7 forwards per team. 6.78 to be more precise. So you would think if defenders on NJ are shooting more, the Devils might have fewer than 7 forwards who hit the 30 shot threshold. But nope, check out the chart:
So the Devils are also above average in terms of forwards shooting at 5v5 as well, with 9 forwards over 30 shots per 60. In fact, all 9 of them are over 32 and are in the top 140, a pretty strong feat. Again, like with the defense, most are lower on the list. Jesper Bratt is very high up there, and Jack Hughes cracks the top 50 as well, but most of them are outside the top 100. So they all shoot a lot, but most don’t solely focus on it.
So, given that the Devils have more forwards who shoot above the mean, and more defenders who shoot more than the average, you would think that they are a high shooting team. That is kind of true, but not exactly. The Devils currently rank 13th in the NHL in SF/60, sitting at 31.4 for the team at 5 on 5. But really, that isn’t out of line with the individual numbers. The Devils have lots of shooters who shoot above average, but few who shoot a ton. Bratt and Hamilton are high on their respective lists, but that is it. Everyone else on those lists is above average in shot production, but not super high. That would ultimately lead a team to be above average in shot production but not elite.
But all-in-all, I think the more important statistic, and the one that I led this piece with, is how the defense has more shooters who shoot more. It is the more telling stat, and let’s us know that the defenders on this team are not afraid to bomb it in. It isn’t a bad thing to have an offensive-minded defense, especially if it can also hold its own in the defensive zone. However, when they are shooting instead of hitting an open forward for a more dangerous shot, it leads to a static offense that will have a low shooting percentage and a low chance to score lots of goals. And this also plays out in the stats, as NJ ranks 22nd in shooting percentage, definitively lower than average. Passing too much can be frustrating when you see a player avoid an open shot with a decent percentage of going in, but sometimes, that extra pass down low or in the slot will lead to more goals in the long run, and will help produce more offense.