The Firing Line: Out-Shot Teams That Win

It's no secret this season that the Avalanche haven't been shooting the puck very much.  They've been out-shot in 28 of 35 games so far.  Though the last two games (34-22, 35-21) indicate a turn for the better, the Avs have been reliably behind their opponents when it comes to firing pucks at the net.

But so what?  How important is out-shooting an opponent when it comes to winning games?  The Avs record is 19-10-6, and they sit atop the Northwest Division and in second place in the Western Conference with nearly half the season complete.  Apparently the shooting deficits are not hurting them too much.

I decided to look at the shooting stats of each NHL team, compared to each team's point percentage.  "Point percentage" is the percent of games played in which a team scores at least one point. 

The categories, in order, are shots for per game (SF/G), shots against per game (SA/G), shots ratio (SF/SA), point percentage (P%) and point percentage rank (P%Rnk).  Teams are ordered by shots ratio.

Team SF/G SA/G SF/SA P% P%Rnk
CHI 32.5 24.3 1.34 0.694 3
DET 34 27.9 1.22 0.578 16
PIT 32.4 27 1.20 0.682 4
PHI 31.6 27.9 1.13 0.483 27
TOR 34.1 30.8 1.11 0.453 29
NJD 29.8 27.1 1.10 0.726 1
WSH 32.3 30.1 1.07 0.697 2
LAK 29.1 27.3 1.07 0.662 7
PHX 29.3 27.5 1.07 0.625 10
BOS 31.2 29.3 1.06 0.613 11
MIN 30 28.2 1.06 0.516 21
VAN 30.9 29.1 1.06 0.563 17
OTT 30.1 28.4 1.06 0.581 15
DAL 32.1 30.3 1.06 0.594 13
BUF 32.1 30.5 1.05 0.667 5
NSH 30.9 29.5 1.05 0.609 12
SJS 31.3 30.9 1.01 0.662 6
CAR 29.9 30.7 0.97 0.313 30
CBJ 29.8 31 0.96 0.531 18
NYR 29 30.3 0.96 0.484 25
STL 29.9 31.4 0.95 0.517 20
ANA 29.2 32.9 0.89 0.484 24
CGY 27.2 30.7 0.89 0.656 8
TBL 27.8 31.5 0.88 0.484 26
NYI 29.3 33.2 0.88 0.484 23
EDM 28.3 32.7 0.87 0.531 19
MTL 27 31.6 0.85 0.5 22
ATL 28.7 34 0.84 0.583 14
FLA 28.5 35 0.81 0.47 28
COL 26 32.1 0.81 0.629 9

Colorado and the Florida Panthers are the worst teams in the league for shot ratio, but their point percentages are drastically different.  Colorado is the ninth-best team in the NHL for scoring points in the standings, while Florida is 28th.  Another team with a similar contrary relationship between shooting and success is the Calgary Flames

On the flip side, the Maple Leafs and the Flyers regularly out-shoot their opponents (Toronto leads the whole league with 1092 shots for), but are near the bottom of the league in points overall.  Detroit is also a high-shooting team that still sits outside the post-season cutoff line.

Overall, there is a correlation between out-shooting opponents and winning games or making it to overtime.  But that correlation is not causal, and any claim that teams that can't out-shoot their opponents are destined for defeat is just not accurate.  Seven of the sixteen teams that reached the playoffs in 2008-09 had negative shot ratios during the regular season, including the Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins (.96). 

It should be noted, however, that the lowest shots ratio of those seven playoff teams was the .92 of the Philadelphia Flyers, who averaged 29.8 shots per game.  While St. Louis averaged the second-lowest number of shots for in the league during the regular season (27.7) and still made the playoffs, no team with a shots ratio below .90 made the post-season in 2008-09.  The Avs are currently below both benchmarks. 

While taking few shots and being out-shot by opponents is not determinative of a team's ultimate success, those categories shouldn't be ignored.  If the last two games are any indication, the Avalanche aren't ignoring them.  Hopefully that is the case.  It definitely couldn't hurt to put opposing teams under more pressure.

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