Blocking shots: Mad genius or just mad?

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One of the interesting little underground hockey debates revolves around blocking shots.

Any reasonable person will admit it’s a brave act, but the schism happens when you discuss the wisdom of doing so. The New York Times tackled the subject in an interesting way on Monday, studying the undeniable increase in the activity since the lockout while spotlighting heavy practitioners and the teams who generally abstain from the courageous move.

Many stats bloggers will say that a blocked shot is often the sign of a last-resort move by a defenseman who’s out of position.

Interestingly enough, The NYT’s Dave Caldwell spotlighted the three local teams and saw a wide variety of results. The lowly Islanders topped the NHL in the category and look primed to fall in first place again this season, but the East-leading Rangers swear by it too. Meanwhile, the traditionally stout Devils defense follows Paul Coffey’s lead in avoiding the practice.

Crunching simple numbers on the subject

source: Getty ImagesTo take a quick-and-dirty look at the potential big picture view, here are the top five teams as far as shot blocking, their place in the standings, total goals allowed and times shorthanded:

1. NY Islanders: 955 blocked shots, 55 points (tied for second to last in East), 159 goals allowed and 158 times shorthanded
2. Montreal: 942 blocked shots, 55 points (tied for second to last in East), 154 goals allowed and 214 times shorthanded
3. Toronto: 912 blocked shots, 62 points (eighth place in East), 166 goals allowed and 178 times shorthanded
4. NY Rangers: 907 blocked shots, 77 points (first in East, second overall), 110 goals allowed and 178 times shorthanded
5. Minnesota: 904 blocked shots, 58 points (12th place in West), 144 goals allowed and 193 times shorthanded

To take a look at the flip side, here are the five teams who block shots the least in the same categories:

26. Boston: 694 blocked shots, 70 points for second in the East, 120 goals allowed and 188 times shorthanded
27. Los Angeles: 691 blocked shots, 65 points tied for sixth in West, 124 goals allowed and 210 times shorthanded
28. Columbus: 661 blocked shots, 38 points for worst record in NHL, 185 goals allowed and 185 times shorthanded
29. Vancouver: 652 blocked shots, 74 points for second in the West, 138 goals allowed and 208 times shorthanded
30. New Jersey: 638 blocked shots, 66 points for sixth in the East, 155 goals allowed and 190 times shorthanded

I’m not sure if you can deduce much of anything from that little study, although it does seem to provide good evidence that you can play stingy defense without blocking shots. The low shot-blocking side seems a little heavier on “legitimate” contenders … but it also includes the horrific Blue Jackets. (Click here to check out NHL.com’s stats on shot blocking.)

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How do you feel, though? Is the strategy a necessary evil to avoid goals or a bad gamble in terms of positioning and/or injuries? Share your take in the comments.

Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.