Does the Thrashers shot gap deficit really matter?

The Thrashers prepare for a good old-fashioned cat fight tonight as the Florida Panthers make their first of three scheduled appearances in Philips Arena. Florida comes in with a record of 10-11-4 for 24 points and fresh off Saturday’s 4-1 loss in Nashville. Atlanta is 13-7-3 with 29 points and will hopefully be riding a rush from Saturday’s thrilling 1-0 victory of the Flyers. We trail division-leading Washington by seven points with three games in hand. 

Atlanta also claims the seventh overall spot in the Eastern Conference…one point behind Ottawa and Buffalo. The Senators have played one more game than the Thrashers and Sabres.

And speaking of cat fights…we here at the AJC Thrashers Cyber-Office had to break up a…well…er, ah…a very heated discussion between Trixie and Vivlamore’s cyber-secretary Scarlett just this morning. I mean, not even a couple hours into the workweek following a long Thanksgiving weekend and already those two were into it!

Seems the subject of their debate circled around this whole issue regarding how many shots the Thrashers defense allows each game versus how few they average taking. Trixie seems to think it doesn’t really matter much given the Thrashers record. Scarlett believes it is indeed a serious cause for concern.

They expressed their thoughts on the matter while sipping their morning coffee…opinions differed…word were exchanged…insults were hurled…feeling were hurt…lipstick was smeared…all in all a very ugly scene.

Here is the situation…after 23 games played the Thrashers are averaging 28.5 shots per game and allowing a league-worst 35.6 shots per game. Now, if prior to the season someone would have told me this was going to be the case, I would have thought this team would be off to a start of something like 7-13-3…not the direct opposite.

The reason that they find themselves in such a favorable position at this time, despite the shots gap deficit, is thanks to their outstanding goalkeeping and offense thus far. Because of it the Thrashers’ are giving up only 2.74 goals per game. At the same time, the offense is pumping in goals at the rate of 3.44 per game. That’s putting the biscuit in the basket once every eight shots or so.

Between the pipes, Ondrej Pavelec has worked his way to a record of 8-5-3 with a 2.84 GAA, .920 SV% and his first two career shutouts. In doing so, he’s also worked his way into the team’s top goalkeeper spot…Kari or no Kari.

Johan Hedberg has been outstanding as well going 5-2-0 with an outstanding 2.33 GAA and .930 SV%. His most recent start…a 34 save shutout last Saturday night… put a halt to the 14-game losing streak to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Combined, the two sport a 2.68 GAA, .924 SV% and three shutouts…which is very nice, indeed.

Also, they have gotten excellent play from their special teams…the power play is successful 23.1% of the time, which is the seventh best in the NHL. And their penalty kill unit has denied opponents the ability to score an amazing 85.0% of the time…only San Jose shuts the door more often when a man down.

Regardless…the one big concern most have about this team is the “Shot Gap Deficit”. How can a team that allows 7.1 more shots to be taken than they fire off themselves continue to win at the rate the Thrashers have over the course of an entire season?

Does the current "shot gap deficit" concern you?

  • Scarlett's right! They gotta close it or we're doomed (50%, 35 Votes)
  • Trixie's right! We are winning despite it so it's no big deal (39%, 27 Votes)
  • Why not take the same approach the government does to deficits and qualdruple it in order to "fix it"? (11%, 8 Votes)

Total Voters: 70

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Well, there are two simple responses to such an inquiry.

1. They don’t. They either close that gap significantly or any post-season dreams they have are toast…as Scarlett argues.

2. If it hasn’t made much of a difference to date…why should it matter over the course of the remaining 59 games? This is Trixie’s take on the matter.

Now in the past, any time such a stat was this far out of whack it would just bug the snot outa me. Last season the shot gap was -4.6 as they averaged 28.1 shots taken per game and 32.7 shots allowed. The season prior, the shot for/against deficit was -8.1 as they took an average of 25.8 shots per game and surrendered 33.9.

As we recall, both campaigns ended in Lottery City for the Thrashers.

But this year…well, it’s different. First, we have a starting goalie that seems to be very comfortable facing so many shots. Second, the offense is good enough and consistent enough to cover if Opie or Moose do have an off night…or the opposition scores three or four times simply because of the law of averages.

Oh, this isn’t to say that I think Anderson and Company wouldn’t do themselves a world of good to cut down on the SA/G and fire more on opponent’s nets to close the gap…but I figure the more they win, the less of an issue it becomes.

So…the Thrashers’ great shots deficit…who’s do you side with, Trixie or Scarlett?

109 comments Add your comment

Bob

November 30th, 2009
10:19 am

If we are to be any kind of a threat in the real season, the shots against must come down. Defense wins playoff games.

A2B

November 30th, 2009
10:19 am

Trixie… I have also noticed that a lot of those shots are from poor scoring angles that are easy saves for Moose and Pavs.

buzilla in ct

November 30th, 2009
10:24 am

Dwayne

November 30th, 2009
10:24 am

we b winning, it do not matter!!!
how bout Kovy to the Canadiens for Cammalleri, Gorges, Price and a first rounder?

Buzilla in CT

November 30th, 2009
10:25 am

B R O N Z E!!!!!

Otey

November 30th, 2009
10:28 am

Clearly the SOG gap matters. You can’t allow that imbalance and continue to win consistently.

The more interesting question is what you do to fix it? If it is just a matter of our players not being as good as their players, that’s one thing. Not a fix, but it’s an answer.

But if there are structural reasons – playing strategies, for example – that’s another thing. That can be fixed.

FormerIslesFan

November 30th, 2009
10:38 am

In the past, I’ve been one of the loudest voices expressing concern about this particular stat. Honestly, my concern has always been more focused on shots for rather than shots against, but they are different sides of the same coin. In watching Le Thrash play this year, I have honestly started to drift away from the SOG against stat being overly important (yes, it is important, but I honestly think I’ve been emphasizing it too much). The reason I say that is that, at least in my observation, many of the shots are not “quality” shots but are perimeter or bad angle shots that the goalies should stop.

Maybe I’m being a little “pie in the sky” because of the Thrashers’ success thus far. However, as long as the quality shots/scoring chances are relatively even, I’m far less concerned than a simple comparison of shots on goal.

That being said, I STILL want to see the Thrashers shoot more…

Shawn@GSG

November 30th, 2009
10:45 am

From what I see – it has to do with getting the puck out of our end. It seems our defencemen like to send it along the boards only to have the other team waiting to receive it and blast a shot from the point. We need a better strategy….

FormerIslesFan

November 30th, 2009
10:45 am

Dear Mr. Kovalchuk,

This open letter is addressed in this forum because I thought it important to bring something to your attention that you might not have known about or at least to remind you in case you forgot. Today is November 30, 2009. What makes this date of significance is that it is the date that I have in Brandon’s pool for when you to sign your next contract.

So, let’s review shall we? You asked for players to be brought in to make the team competitive. Check. You asked for a solid draft and foundation for the future. Check. You asked for the team to play Coach Anderson’s system. Check. You asked for the team to play as a team. Check. You asked for early season success. Check. You asked for a measure of the team in your absence. Check, although you did not have to go to the extreme of breaking a bone in your foot to verify this.

In anticipation of your re-signing today, the Thrashers were kind enough to timely receive and respond to my request and post three (count ‘em, three) shutouts in the last eight games, a 5 goal, third-period come from behind victory to illustrate their mettle and an end to a 14-game losing streak to a conference opponent.

I believe that what you had requested has been presented. Now, if you would be so kind as to ink your name on the dotted line this afternoon so that I can claim yet another of Brandon’s pools, it would be greatly appreciated.

Please contact me through Trixie if you have any questions or concerns. Otherwise, I look forward to cheering for you as an Atlanta Thrasher for the rest of your career.

Sincerely,

–FIF

Alan R.

November 30th, 2009
10:52 am

How about Kovalchuk to the Thrashers for a nice long contract?

Riceowls8891

November 30th, 2009
11:22 am

The differential is due in part, to a difference in attitude. Our top shooter, Ilya, has publicly stated he tries to only take quality shots, rather than emulate his fellow Russian, Ovechkin, who shoots like mad. And I wonder if this year’s numbers are not a reflection of the last two years; i.e. an attitude by other teams that our goalies let in soft goals so just throw it at the net. The longer the save percentage stays high, the fewer shots opponents will take.

To me, whats important is goals for versus goals against. The bigger that differential, the better.

KovyRules

November 30th, 2009
11:34 am

Trixie must have watched the LA Kings game like I did, where we were outshot 2:1, but not outplayed or outchanced 2:1. And you all know the final result of that game. SOG is one statistic among many that might be telling or might mean nothing in any particular game. And if you watch closely, you’ll see the SOG criteria vary widely from arena to arena. So the only meaningful stat is your record. And the best way to improve that? Have a good system, with the right players to implement it, and work hard. Some nights the Thrashers do that for 10 minutes. Some nights they do it for 50 or more. I worry far more about the effort level than the SOG.

And FormerIslesFan, I’m pulling for you in the pool! Or anyone else with a pre-Christmas signing date!

Otey

November 30th, 2009
11:39 am

The SOG imbalance is as much a problem with with failing to stay in the O-zone as it is a problem with failing to clear the D-zone.

SOG is just another way of saying, on balance, that one team spends more time in the O-zone.

Shorter version: it’s both an offense and defense issue.

hip czech

November 30th, 2009
12:00 pm

I’d rather be outshot game in and game out if it means no changes on the offensive end. If in order to bring the SA/G total down we have to alter the offense, forget it.

The one thing that we have never had is a decent puck handling goalie. Pavelec and Hedberg (and Lehtonen) all just shoot the puck on the forehand up the side boards…ALWAYS. Moose MAY pick his spots on the penalty kill and try something different, but the majority of the time it is up the side boards. This leads to more time in our end because the clear rate on those ‘passes’ is probably about 20%.

Other than that I don’t see much that needs to be addressed.

Spud Webb

November 30th, 2009
12:01 pm

Isles fan, classic blog!!!
I forgot what my date is, DOH.
I’m not nearly concerned w the SOG as I have been in the past. Different system for us, with a bit more risk involved. That said, who wouldnt want the SOG to come down??

World Be Free

November 30th, 2009
12:19 pm

The shots have to be reduced. Logic dictates that quality scoring chances increase with the number of shots allowed. We can’t lean on goaltending all season.

Bob’s right-defense wins playoff games. We can expect the last 10-15 games of the season to be JUST LIKE playoff games. Defenses will tighten up. We had better be prepared to do the same. Not that I am complaining about this team because they are really alotta fun to watch.

Bill, its great to see women who have a passion for hockey!?

Viking

November 30th, 2009
12:21 pm

While we enjoy a nice position in the “real standings” taking in account for played games, (5th place in the Conference with a 103.32 point projection), I am sure that the correlation between Shots On Goal / Shots Against and Success is well established statistically.

23 games in we are fine, but in the long run it is not looking good. The question is if we are going to improve or if this statistically impaired streak is going to hold up for remainder of the season.

However, surely there are factors that make stats lie short term and team wise. Here are some that comes to mind:

1)An absolute definition of SOG does not exist (that I am aware of). It is up to the official scorer to make the decision and what he/she thinks is “intent to score” or whatever the criteria used. I am sure there are a deviance in this respect between the arenas and how the official scorer judge the home team and the opponents. The only time you hear about it is that a puck that caught the iron does not count. In other words, we might have a more stringent home official for our guys than what is the case for the home teams when we play away and how they score the opponents.

2) Great goal tending makes a difference. Keep in mind that injuries or psychological goalie funks (good or bad) play a part in this too.

3) A great defending team will make a lot of shots less harmful.

4) A teams affinity (or decision to make it worthwhile) to attempt a shot will also affect the SOG stat. (Think Enström)

Anyway, I think our SOG/SA is going to catch up with us, but I do not think the reality behind the stats are as bad as it is recorded.

Adam

November 30th, 2009
12:40 pm

Unless work is done to shore up the SOG deficit it will haunt us against the top tier teams as the season continues. <–PERIOD

The funny is that so far when they've played current division leading teams there hasn't been a large differential except the Boston game. But the fact remains when you give a good team to much time in your D zone they will find a way to score sooner or later. Teams will be viewing more tape on us from here on out and exploit that weakness.

If they can keep the quality shot chances low like they have and clear the zone more efficiently I believe they can give the Caps a run for the division.

GaVaHokie

November 30th, 2009
12:44 pm

I think it’s a consequence of having a Defense that has the green light to join the rush… as long as our Defense is amongst the league leaders in goals, I’m fine with it. If they were not contributing, I’d prefer they stay back and help cut down on Shots Against.

GaVaHokie

November 30th, 2009
12:48 pm

Viking… a shot on goal is a shot that will enter the goal if it is not stopped by the goaltender. A shot on goal must result in either a goal or a save.

Viking

November 30th, 2009
12:54 pm

I agree with the recent comments, but I think Moose is really good at handling the puck overall.

Viking

November 30th, 2009
12:58 pm

GaVaHookie, a definition that seems OK, but hard to implement.

Viking

November 30th, 2009
1:14 pm

GaVaHookie, I should add that I do not think – in general – the officials abide with this definition, and what shot is considered being on goal is up to question.

hip czech

November 30th, 2009
1:19 pm

just to put the goals/game stat in perspective…the ‘05-’06 team (in my humble opinion the best offensive team we’ve had) scored at a 3.37 GPG clip.

That team was +.05 (30.8 vs 30.3) in SOG vs. SA/G…the playoff team was a -1.8 (29.7 vs. 31.5).

If this team were to make the playoffs it would be nice to decrease the shots against, but I think the nature of playoff hockey alone would even the shots out some (or at least it should).

Midfield

November 30th, 2009
1:27 pm

In a couple of recent games, Thrashers got badly outshot in the first period with little or no offense to show for it. Also, Anderson’s philosophy is that by increasing offensive zone time, Thrashers should decrease defensive zone time, and therefore shots against. Unless of course the shots come from behind the red line – as in that game against Washington. But, hopefuly, we won’t let too many of those go in, won’t we? So, this stat is no good anyway you look at it. My observation is that the team is not quite in sync executing the system – at least, not consistently. Sometimes, they look like they are just plain not ready to play the game.

3stripes

November 30th, 2009
1:30 pm

Is there an official stat for scoring chances (vs. SOG)? That to me is far more indicative of potential issues. I mean, not all SOG are created equal in my book. I’d be much more interested in a scoring chances/game stat (which is probably more subjective than SOG, but might be a better indicator.)

Dwayne

November 30th, 2009
1:48 pm

I vote for more pictures of girls fighting.

Cornbread

November 30th, 2009
1:49 pm

As a former off-ice official I can tell you there is an absolute definition of SOG. GVH got it right in his definition. Now are there Homers that are going to credit the home goalie with making a save off a questionable SOG while denying an opposing goalie a save? Sure, but it evens out in the end.

The stat I would like to see compared is Scoring Chances For versus Scoring Chances Against. This takes away the often mentioned argument “yeah but the shots were all from far away or bad angle”. If the Scoring Chance stat is heavily skewed in favor of the opposition than the Thrashers really should be worried.

Still, I’m troubled by SOG F/A stat as the Thrashers are in the bottom of the League for both which is un-good. Most likely the Chances stats are similar. Teams will tighten-up defensively as the season moves along and the Thrashers will have even less shots and chances. If the Thrashers don’t change and play tighter and more responsible in their own zone they will once again be on the outside of the play-offs looking in.

This starts with Kovalchuk. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, “there is not a more irresponsible player in the NHL in his own end than Kovalchuk”. It is his mind-set. He is always thinking “score” even when his team is getting run-ovwr in their zone. Watch him cover, or not, the point. As a wing there is not an easier defensive position to play in the game. (Most defenders will say it IS the easiest position to play in ALL of the game.) Kovy is usually not covering his man and is off skating around looking for a miricle pass from a heavily forchecked teammate. He is always looking for HIS own space instead of taking it away from the attacker. This leads to a failure to clear the zone, defenders getting tired and worked over, penalties, more SOG, and goals.

Kovy is one of the most talented players in the game. He has the skills to easily correct this but it starts with the way he thinks the game. With the amount of 5/5 ice time he gets he must change. He will still get his scoring chances while denying the opposition more often than what is currently going on. Most will argue his scoring chances will go up when he and the team plays better in their own end. Don’t change it and the Thrashers are going to be in trouble.

What’s the Thrashers’ Corsi numbers looking like?

Alan R.

November 30th, 2009
1:51 pm

Thrashers climbed to 11th in the ESPN power rankings. As of this posting, TSN has yet to update theirs.

Rawhide

November 30th, 2009
1:53 pm

For those of you who will not be able to attend the game tonight and will listen on the radio…John Kincade will join Dan Kamal in the booth, filling in for Darrin Eliot.

World Be Free

November 30th, 2009
2:07 pm

Two reasons we give up so many shots?

Too many shots from the points because the wingers do not cover the visiting “D” and our centers do not cover the high slot properly.

Dwayne

November 30th, 2009
2:09 pm

Question, does a goalie get credited for a save when he catches a puck with his glove, that is clearly going to miss the net/post?

Smoothie

November 30th, 2009
2:10 pm

Last year, from the time we acquired Rich Peverley off of waivers, we only outshot our opponent by a margin of 5 shots or more 6 times.

Our record in those 6 games?

An even 3 – 3 – 0 with one of the wins coming in a shoot-out vs TBL.

This year so far, we are 1 – 2 – 0 (with a S/O win over St. Louis) in the 3 games in which we outshot our opponent by more than 5 shots.

Looking at ALL the games A.P. (After Peverley) in which we had more shots on goal than the opponent, we have a combined record of…..

….9 – 11 – 0 (1 – 3 – 0 in the current season), which makes this whole argument seem less pertinent than before. But I’m all for chicks in business attire wrassle on the floor so let’s ramp this argument up a few notches! Trixie, you’re absolutely nuts to think this shot deficit is a serious problem!! :wink:

Midfield

November 30th, 2009
2:11 pm

By the way, good news from the league: Cooke is suspended for 2 games for the deliberate check to the head against Anisimov from NY Rangers. Cooke was assessed only minor interference penalty during the game, even though Anisimov left the game due to an injury (compare this to a billion minutes Armstrong got assessed for his hit on the Dyke).

The Real Thrash

November 30th, 2009
2:17 pm

Our goalie who is in his first season as a starter:

31st Goals against average.
Tied 8th Save%
Tied 16th Wins
Tied 39th Shootout%

If we are to keep him fresh and healthy we have got to decrease the differential!

Glovesave29

November 30th, 2009
2:37 pm

The quality of the opponents shots has diminished. More of them are long range bombs than in the past. Fewer are extended goal mouth scrambles with 3 and 4 rebounds. As we run an offense predicated on the counter attack, the wingers often begin the break out too early, thus the occasional pick off of a clearing attempt at the blue line and continued pressure by the opponent. Extra efforts by the wingers could decrease the SOG against…but would it be at the expense of more offensive pressure by the Thrash? I for one would like to see the number come down a bit, but I can live with facing 35 long range bombs with a clear line of site and some hulking D men to clear my rebounds…as long as the defenseman in question is not named Valabik. JA is also doing right by his goalies and spreading the work around. I’d be more concerned if one was facing all these shots and play 70 games out of 82. We would have a tired keeper come the stretch run and possible playoffs. As a team we may have surrendered the most shots, but our goalies will be way down the list individually for shots faced.

Cornbread

November 30th, 2009
2:47 pm

Dwayne- “Question, does a goalie get credited for a save when he catches a puck with his glove, that is clearly going to miss the net/post?”

No. It could be credited as a Scoring Chance by the attacking team if the attempted shot was taken from inside the top of the face-off circles and dots.

Alan R.

November 30th, 2009
3:03 pm

Update: Atlanta is #4 in TSN’s power rankings. This is the highest I can ever remember seeing them, and the first time they’ve been #4 in anything since the draft.

Nate

November 30th, 2009
3:10 pm

Alan R. – Have you read TSN’s explanation of the power rankings? It’s really interesting and explains why our ranking is so high. He bases his team rankings on the statistical value of individual players. Since we have the best statistical offense in the league and both goalies rank in the top ten in save percentage it makes sense for the team ranking to be so high. Still can’t believe the Canadian boys haven’t manipulated the formula to exclude us. It’s nice to see though.

five_hole

November 30th, 2009
3:26 pm

There are shots and then there are shots. As ,A2B and Glovesave29 pointed out, a lot of these are from poor scoring angles, or are from the blue line. These are hardly quality scoring opportunities. As long as we can keep the goalies sight lines clear, Opie & Moose should be able to make the saves. And we also have a big defender in Kubina to keep their guys out of our crease.

John Anderson’s game is speed and offense, which does open us up to allowing more shots from the other guys. That’s a fact. But, IMO, our brand of hockey is much more exciting than the stifiling styles of Boston or New Jersey, where they clog the middle and people in the stands can knit sweaters waiting for something to happen.

Alan R.

November 30th, 2009
3:28 pm

Nate, yeah, I’ve read it. We have great statistics. I’m just impressed, like you, that TSN hasn’t screwed the Thrashers around in their rankings.

Miami Screaming Eagle

November 30th, 2009
3:57 pm

When I see those power rankings, all I can think is “man that Don Waddell is doing a great job”.

Do you think he will be in line for NHL Exec of the year?

Bob

November 30th, 2009
4:26 pm

“Do you think he will be in line for NHL Exec of the year?”

lol. Mabye Dudley. Wadell? lol

R. Stroz

November 30th, 2009
4:38 pm

I thought the chick on top was Scott Hartnell.

KovyRules

November 30th, 2009
5:00 pm

“But, IMO, our brand of hockey is much more exciting than the stifiling styles of Boston or New Jersey” – hell yeah! We are watching one of the most exciting teams in the game! And this whole thing is about entertainment, after all.

I think JA’s system is prone to shot deficits, but creates better scoring chances. While some systems eat up the league in the regular season and consistently crash in the playoffs, JA has lots of proven playoff success (though below the NHL level) with his system. So I see us succeeding throughout the season.

Thanks for the typically stellar number crunching, Smoothie. That shows our style, and the accompanying shot deficit, WAS successful at the END of last year. So I’m less worried about the “playoff style” defences shutting us down and more concerned about keeping everyone healthy and fully commited to this system.

Smoothie

November 30th, 2009
5:10 pm

You’re very welcome KovyRules!

Paminski

November 30th, 2009
5:14 pm

I would like to see the deficit come down just a little. However, it seems to keep OP sharper when he’s facing a good number of shots. Otherwise, he sort of goes into a trance like he’s watching the team skate the “Nutcracker” (Crosby’s favorite Christmas tradition?).

FYI, NHL.com has free jersey customization today for online orders. I ordered one since I’ve been kind of swimming in the old one after losing a few lbs.

Dwayne

November 30th, 2009
6:11 pm

Nutcracker….good one. I feel Doris is curled up in a fetal position calling for Mommy.

Tom

November 30th, 2009
7:09 pm

The shots are not a problem to me. Look at the combined stats of shots – shots blocked – missed shots . We tend to be fairly even when all 3 are combined. We score at a much higher rate than the rest of the NHL on goals per shot. We also do not block as many outside the net allowing long shots to get through for easy saves.

Sometimes the system makes stats look bad, when in reality they are not bad at all. Just a little different.

Tom

November 30th, 2009
7:37 pm

That was messed up, Keith Ballard swung his stick in frustration and hit Voukon in the head. I saw blood coming out of his ear.

My prayers go out to Tomas.