A Shot Mentality
“We need that 5-on-5 scoring. We’ve talked about that over the past three years, that it has to be significantly better… I think it starts with our shot attitude, mentality. We’re 27th in the league today. Pucks to the net, I think we’re averaging just a touch above 27 per game, and that has to be the start of it. Get more pucks to the net and better traffic.”
- Terry Murray 11.02.2011
This makes me want to beat Terry Murray with a dead horse every time he says it. He should just dictate this paragraph on a voice recorder for Rich Hammond to use every time he needs a quote about more scoring. His inability to adjust his response is not unlike his inability to adjust his offensive strategy.
Let’s examine this concept thoroughly:
- Currently, the Kings are 21st in the league in 5 on 5 goals scored with 16 in 11 games.
- The Kings are 19th in the league in shots per game at 28.8.
- The Kings winning percentage when they outshoot their opponents is .200%.
- The Kings winning percentage when being outshot is .833%.
This could just be a rare string of coincidences, but the more the trend of losing when outshooting opponents continues, the more I think it’s more than that.
The shots in the Colorado game were 32-16 in favor of the Kings. I believe that’s almost double. That margin suggests that the Kings dominated the Avs. Sure the team played a decent game, but dominated? I don’t think so.
I can recall a number of Colorado odd-man rushes that frightened me while watching the game that got somehow broken up or the shot missed the net; I cannot think of too many of these instances for the Kings. What I do remember about the Kings’ performance is a lot of shots from outside and no real presence in the high scoring area. Why is that?
My theory is that if you shoot the puck every time you get in the offensive zone, there is no possible way to setup a play and find someone in the scoring zone.
We’ve seen this on the power play for years. The Kings don’t move the puck around to find an open man, they move it to get an open shot from the point, hoping that either someone is screening the goaltender or will be there for the rebound. On the power play, this works because you have the defense outnumbered, and are more likely to get to the rebound.
So why aren’t the Kings winning games when outshooting their opponent? Is it because this offensive strategy is so easy to defend?
If you know a team is looking to shoot every time they get in the zone, the defense and the goaltender can adjust accordingly. And they do. And if any opposing coach scouts the Kings for even a period of hockey, the adjustment will be made in the practice before the game. What adjustment is made on the Kings’ part?
I haven’t seen any.
Justin Bourne wrote an article for The Hockey News in January called:
- “Shoot from anywhere” philosophy an outdated game plan -
Please give it a read, but here are some choice excerpts:
The root of this tired, beaten philosophy came about organically – your average hockey coach is generally at least a decade or so older than most of his players, meaning the last time he played hockey, be it in the ’80s or ’90s, goalies still let in a plethora of bad goals over the course of the season.
Terry Murray retired from playing in 1982. The Kings have eight players born before this.
Essentially, throwing the puck to the net against most of today’s ‘tenders, when there isn’t any traffic, is a turnover. Hopeless shots are the equivalent of dump-and-chase in today’s NHL – why are you giving your opponent the puck for free?
In fairness, Murray does acknowledge that the Kings need more traffic. To me, this is just an excuse as to why it’s not working. “The team DID outshoot their opponent and still lost? Oh. We, uh, need more traffic then to make the shots more difficult for the goaltender.”
Shots on goal are diminishing in value as a stat – it used to be a barometer of who carried the play and who had the most pressure. And while it still does represent offensive dominance to some (lesser) extent, it’s far more valuable to quantify quality scoring chances.
And Bingo was his name-o.
The best players in the game (take that Crosby character, for example) enter the offensive zone and, if they’re well covered, delay and wait for support. Third- and fourth-line grinders in that situation will invariably throw the puck towards the net, then take their pat on the back for a good shift when they get back to the bench.
That’s old-school foolishness.
I will be sitting behind the Kings’ bench in an upcoming game thanks to a terrific birthday present from the girlfriend, and I look forward to hearing the phrase ‘Keep shooting!’ over and over.
Let’s all step back and realize that “shooting from anywhere” is a cop out. Hang on to that thing. Look around. Really try to generate legitimate scoring chances.
“Shooting from anywhere” is just settling for nothing.
Watch players like Penner, Richards, Gagne. More and more, they are firing it from all areas of the offensive zone. Why? Probably because their coaches are telling them to.
These players have the skill to hold on to the puck and to create better offensive chances. But they are being held back to fit into the system. They are the brainiac students being taught Geometry and cutting triangles out of construction paper.
The Kings are making dioramas for the science fair hoping to take home first prize against precisely designed rockets.