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
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.)
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.