Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star takes an in-depth look at the postseason of blocked shots:
Perhaps it’s not a complete coincidence that the teams that currently lead the playoffs in shot blocks, the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals, are engaged in a series in which neither has scored more than three goals in a game. The Rangers, in fact, have played in a record 12 straight post-season games in which neither participant has hit four on the scoreboard.
The crowds of defenders clogging shooting lanes have become impossible enough to navigate that, if you’re an offensive player with the puck at the point, one of the lone wise options is to shoot 10 feet wide and hope for a fortuitous bounce off the back boards.
How to remove the net-front glut? Hall of famer Bob Gainey once bandied about a rule that outlawed the defensive player leaving his feet to block a shot. Pierre Page, the former NHL coach and GM, has suggested a variation of basketball’s three-in-the-key violation. Widening rinks might change some angles for the better.
Just as there are no easy answers, those with close ties to current results aren’t pushing for change.
Those with close ties to current results include Washington head coach Dale Hunter, New York head coach John Tortorella and Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett, whose Coyotes average 17 blocks per game.
“Basically, at this time of year you do whatever it takes to win,” Tippett told The Star. “And if that’s laying down in front of a shot and getting in a shot lane to deter a shot at the net, ultimately players feel like that gives you a better chance to win.”
At this time, I’d like to point out there’s as much shot blocking now as there was during those early, halcyon days immediately following the lockout. You know, when offense ruled and every game ended 8-7.
Consider this reverse chronological chart:
— Two years ago, Montreal blocked an amazing 408 in 19 games (21 per contest) en route to a surprising Eastern Conference finals appearance.
— In 2009, Pittsburgh blocked 406 on its way to the Stanley Cup. Of note, that was 174 blocks more than the No. 2 team, Detroit (232).
— In 2008, Philadelphia only played 17 games en route to the Eastern Conference final, but finished second in the league with 323 shot blocks.
— In 2007, Buffalo only played 16 games en route to the Eastern Conference final, but finished second in the league with 290 shot blocks. (Of note, that Sabres team also finished first in the NHL in offense.)
— In 2006, Carolina blocked 420 in 25 games (17 per) and won the Stanley Cup.
The reality is that, regardless of the style of play, blocking shots is a big part of postseason success.
Just ask Tip.
“I don’t know if it’s good for the game,” Tippett said. “It’s good for winning.”