Shot Reduction Could Be One Key to Jets’ Success
Much has been made about the Jets’ talent on defense, and make no mistake, that talent certainly exists. Even with such talent on defense, the Thrashers struggled to prevent shots against last season. In fact, the team has struggled in that aspect of the game for some time now.
Here are the Thrashers shots against per game and the team’s corresponding ranking among NHL teams over the past four NHL seasons:
|Season||Shots Against Per Game||Ranking in NHL in shots against|
Notice a trend? This team has been absolutely positively dreadful when it comes to preventing shots over the past four seasons. The best numbers (relatively speaking) above belong to the Thrashers of last season, which is, in a sense, encouraging. Craig Ramsay was a coach that stressed defensive responsibility; whereas, John Anderson and Bob Hartley are offensive coaches known to push offense sometimes at the expense of team defense.
Of course, the title of this article sounds overly simplistic and, to be honest, it is. Reducing shots on goal is a difficult task that requires many parts of a team working together. As the cliché goes, “offense is a good defense,” and that is absolutely true. The Thrashers have never really had a deep offensive squad. There have been stars like Marian Hossa, Ilya Kovalchuk and Dany Heatley but many of the team’s second, third and fourth line players were probably slotted above their respective capabilities. Improving the team’s depth up front certainly wouldn’t hurt.
More on this after the jump.
Implementing an effective shot prevention system is also important. The New Jersey Devils, the team that allowed the least shots against in 2011/12 were coached by Jacques Lemaire—someone who espouses defense; specifically, collapsing in front of the net and holding his team’s center high in the opposing zone to prevent odd-man rushes. The Jets need not extend to that extreme but some modicum of defensive awareness needs to be displayed if progress is to be expected.
What if the Jets were able to reduce shots against next season by two shots per game? That may sound insignificant but it would place the Jets at 14th in the overall standings based upon last season’s shot totals.
Reducing the team’s shots from 32.2 shots against per game to 30.2 shots against per game is a just over a 6 percent reduction.
Let’s now look at the shots faced last season by the team’s top two netminders: Ondrej Pavelec and Chris Mason.
|Goaltender||Shots Against||Goals Allowed||Save Percentage|
Now, let’s take 6% of the shots off the board and see how many goals the netminders allow using their 2010/11 save percentage figures:
|Goaltender||Reduced Shots Against||Goals Allowed based on 2010/11 Save Percentage|
As you can see, if the Jets were to cut down their shots against by about 6% next season they could, in theory, reduce team goals against by 14 goals.
The Thrashers allowed 262 goals against last season, which includes league high 15 empty net goals against. As well, third stringer Peter Mannino played in two games along the way allowing five goals.
If the Jets can cut down on shots against, the team has the ability to improve without relying too significantly on its average offense or a marked improvement in Ondrej Pavelec’s save percentage figures.
Claude Noel will have his hands full in his first season as an NHL head boss as he will be tasked with figuring out what system best suits this extremely young squad. As we mentioned last week, many of these players will be playing for their third coach in three seasons–so patience is very important for the Winnipeg brass and more importantly the team’s fanbase.
How well the team will play defensively is anyone’s guess but one thing is for certain, when it comes to defense there is only one direction to go and that is up.