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Blocking shots: Mad genius or just mad?

Feb 14, 2012, 8:30 AM EDT

Chuck Kobasew, Gabriel Landeskog, Kyle Quincey, Jason Garrison AP

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.

  1. zabala81 - Feb 14, 2012 at 8:46 AM

    So, it’s better not to shot block as it does not help in the standings but increases incidence of injury

    • miketoasty - Feb 14, 2012 at 9:03 AM

      Columbus is 28th in shot blocking and 30th in the league. I think it’s important but obviously is not the only thing that wins games.

    • abrienza428 - Feb 14, 2012 at 9:09 AM

      The “bad” teams are getting more shots thrown their way due to lackluster defense, so by common sense they’ll have more blocked shots in the long run. Good teams play better defensively and don’t allow as many shots towards the net in the first place.

      And Columbus is just so bad they can’t block the shots.

  2. rwmilli - Feb 14, 2012 at 9:03 AM

    Yeah but without a comparison there’s no legitimate argument, maybe if
    You could show me stats of these teams
    W/O any shot blocks we could see how many of those that were blocked would of went in…I don’t think it’s ever going to die and I don’t think it has anything to do with a defensemen being out of position…if he gets infront of the shot what better position could he of been in? It’s not like guys come flying out of nowhere like theyre taking a bullet for the pres or something…it’s a practiced technique you learn it in junior hockey, a defenders job is to keep the puck out of the net..he will do it at all costs

  3. dsd3 - Feb 14, 2012 at 12:31 PM

    What if you used these numbers with an adjustment for how many shots these teams are facing? Numbers alone don’t tell much of a story, but maybe a % would tell us more. (I’m too lazy to compute the numbers for all the teams, though it wouldn’t be that tough)

  4. brian32556 - Feb 14, 2012 at 2:31 PM

    The stats above obviously show that shot-blocking has no corelation to success. As I follow the Rangers, and they are seemingly outshot every night (shots that get to the goaltender), it would just mean the King would have to deal with more, which might lead to more rebounds, and possibly more inclose attempts. Instead shot blocking keeps the puck outside.

    In the case or NYR, I disagree with the view that it is “often the sign of a last-resort move by a defenseman who’s out of position.” It is a defensive tactic that some teams use and others do not. Same as the trap, two-man forechecking, etc.

    Maybe for the less successful teams it is an act of desperation vs. designed into the scheme.

  5. hockeyflow33 - Feb 14, 2012 at 2:48 PM

    and this is why we don’t use the NYT as a sports reference guide

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