Ducks, Murray dealing with shot-blocking conundrum

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Following Wednesday’s 5-4 shootout win over Philadelphia, Anaheim further established itself as one of the NHL’s best shot-blocking teams, sitting sixth overall with 398 on the year.

And in a related move, GM Bob Murray had to go out and get another defenseman today.

Technically, it was a D-for-D swap — Murray moved Jesse Blacker to Florida in exchange for Colby Robak — but Robak’s a year older than Blacker and has 42 games of NHL experience to Blacker’s one, suggesting this was a move to insert a healthy body, now.

And with good reason. All that shot blocking has paid a price: Francois Beauchemin is out with a broken finger and newly-acquired Eric Brewer is out with a broken foot, both busted while getting in the way of frozen rubber discs.

“Seems like a new guy every day,” Boudreau said, per the L.A. Times. “But when you block 28 shots [Monday, vs. Boston] and pay the price, you usually win.

“That’s what good, character guys do. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the sport.”

This brings up a familiar debate: Is blocking tons of shots a good thing, or a bad thing?

Grit-n-sacrifice narratives will tell you it’s vitally important for good teams and, to a certain degree, they’re right. The Stanley Cup playoffs are often littered with testimonials about blocked shots leading to victory; during the ’12 postseason, John Tortorella’s Rangers team forced one prominent voice to declare that shot blocking was taking over the NHL playoffs.

There is a counter-argument to this, of course — that teams blocking a lot of shots are, y’know, giving up a lot of shots. Which is a bad thing.

The Ducks currently sits atop the Western Conference and second overall in the league standings but, by advanced shot metrics, aren’t dominant. They’re a middle-of-the-road team in terms of shots for/shots against statistics, masked by the fact they have several d-men that excel at blocking pucks: Sami Vatanen leads the team and sits 17th overall in the NHL this year; Beauchemin finished 11th in the league last year, Ben Lovejoy 25th.

Add it all up, and the chance for injury is high. Murray’s seen it first-hand this year, and few teams have undergone more changes on the defense: In addition to the Brewer and Robak deals, Anaheim also traded away veteran Bryan Allen and was forced to rely on pair of AHL farmhands in Josh Manson and Mat Clark.

All this has kept Murray busy. He’s been one of the league’s most active GMs over the last 30 days, wheeling and dealing to replace injured bodies and keep his Cup-contending team afloat.

“I’d hate to have [Murray’s] job right now,” Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said, per the O.C. Register. “He’s earning his money this month and he’s got a lot of work to do. All we can do is keep playing.

“We’ve got a lot of depth in our organization. We’ve proven it over the years. Whatever group we put on the ice, we feel pretty comfortable going out there with a chance to win.”