carolina forwards

The Hurricanes and shot quality

I have been tracking scoring chances for the Hurricanes for almost two years now and the way I usually present them in on here is in the form of plus/minus, showing how many chances the team is recording and giving up while a certain player is on the ice. The reason why I do this is to show how good or bad a player is at territorial play when it concerns creating and preventing scoring chances. There is obviously more to creating scoring chances than just the player who is taking the shot, which is why I look at on-ice differentials to see everyone who was involved in the play instead of who finished it.

However, it's possible that there could be some value into looking at who is creating the most scoring chances for each time. I've mentioned a few times recently that the Hurricanes scoring chance numbers are somewhat different from their shot differential stats. Going by just their Fenwick or Corsi numbers (shot attempt differentials), the Hurricanes look like a very good possession team, but they are barely breaking even in scoring chances (50.5% during even strength play). So while the Hurricanes are possessing the puck in the offensive zone and getting a lot of shots off, not enough of them have been scoring chances. It's been shown that Fenwick (5v5 shots on goal & missed shot differential) has a strong correlation with scoring chances, so it's possible that the Hurricanes scoring chance differential will improve as long as they continue to drive possession. We haven't been seeing it lately, but the numbers remain on the Hurricanes side as of right now. 

The whole issue of "shot quality" has been beaten to death by the hockey statistics community because it's something that has yet to be proven by anyone, but it appears to be an issue with the Hurricanes right now. No one has ever denied that some players have the ability to get into scoring areas better than others, but their ability to repeat it over a long period of time hasn't been proven. With that in mind, we're going to take a look at which players have been creating the most scoring chances for the Hurricanes this season, where their shots are coming from and if there is a relation between this and Carolina's recent offensive struggles.

The other day, I looked at which players on the team were hitting the net with their shot attempts and we're going to build on that study by looking at who is creating the most scoring chances with their shots. I'm also going to include what percentage of their scoring chances were goals to show who might be due for some good bounces and which players are more consistent at producing chances. Normally I only look at even strength play, but I'm accounting for all three playing situations here.

Player Chance% Conversion% Chance/60
Jeff Skinner 72.7% 9.1% 9.36
Eric Staal 75.3% 13.4% 7.11
Jordan Staal 76.3% 9.2% 5.92
Jiri Tlusty 70.4% 14.1% 5.72
Alexander Semin 57.1% 7.1% 5.42
Zac Dalpe 87.5% 0.0% 5.27
Drayson Bowman 54.7% 3.8% 5.13
Chad LaRose 62.5% 6.3% 5.10
Patrick Dwyer 61.1% 9.3% 4.44
Jeremy Welsh 50.0% 0.0% 4.11
Jussi jokinen 53.6% 8.9% 3.87
Tim Wallace 63.2% 5.3% 3.38
Riley Nash 47.6% 14.3% 2.85
Tim Brent 56.3% 0.0% 2.75
Brett Sutter 50.0% 0.0% 2.40
Andreas Nodl 33.3% 0.0% 1.77
Bobby Sanguinetti 34.5% 3.4% 1.71
Ryan Murphy 28.6% 0.0% 1.42
Justin Faulk 20.4% 6.1% 0.92
Joni Pitkanen 22.2% 3.7% 0.91
Joe Corvo 11.4% 4.5% 0.70
Jay Harrison 21.9% 9.4% 0.68
Jamie McBain 16.7% 4.2% 0.54
Tim Gleason 9.5% 0.0% 0.25

Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty have been Carolina's top goal-scorers this season and while they've gotten the help of some lofty even-strength shooting percentages, they have done a very good job of creating chances in all three areas of the game. Staal has been much better than Tlusty at being able to consistently create chances but over 70% of their shots on goal have been chances, which is a very good thing. Jeff Skinner and Jordan Staal have been doing similar things only they've gotten a little less lucky when it comes to finding the back of the net. Both of these players have been taking some harsh criticism for fans lately, but I think most of it is unwarranted. The goals will come to them eventually if they can continue to produce this many shots and chances per game. Skinner being able to record scoring chances on over 70% of his shots is very impressive when you consider that he shoots the puck more often than anyone else on the team.

Alexander Semin is a much more interesting case. Clearly he is snake-bitten when it comes to shooting percentage and he does produce a lot of scoring chances, but less than 60% of his shots this year have been quality chances. Semin also misses the net on a lot of his shot attempts, which makes him having one of the highest scoring chance differentials on the team a little interesting. Drayson Bowman has been seeing similar issues this season and has been getting very unlucky with his shooting percentage.

A couple of guys who would be better served to shoot the puck a little more are Patrick Dwyer and Tim Wallace. Both have been able to produce chances whenever they get it on net, but neither are shooting enough to do it consistently. Dwyer's been getting top-six minutes on the Jordan Staal line, so he's definitely had the opportunity to get it on net plenty of times while Wallace's role has been more limited.

On the subject of players with limited roles, the Hurricanes could really use Zac Dalpe whenever he returns from his injury. He's done just about everything right but score in the NHL this year and his ability to create scoring chances is much needed. It's just too bad that his services are unavailable right now.

Next thing we are going to do is look at where most of Carolina's players are shooting the puck from during even strength play and how much results they've gotten out of it. The general cliche is that you are more likely to score goals if you go to the net, so we'll see if that has been true for the Canes this season. Robb Tufts from St. Louis Game Time made an excellent post showing a graphical view of the Blues even strength shot stats and I'm going to do a similar thing with the Hurricanes players. The one difference in mine from his is that I'm separating forwards and defensemen to make it less cluttered.

Chart Notes: X-axis = Distance from net (feet), Y-axis = EV shooting percentage, Bubble size = shots per 60, Bubble color = EV goal total (light to dark)

A reason why Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty have been scoring more often is because most of their shot attempts have come relatively close to the net, at least compared to the other forwards. Jordan Staal is also doing the same thing but getting fewer results. You may also notice that guys like Bowman, LaRose, Jokinen & Dwyer are getting similar success and are shooting the puck from about the same area. The one exception of that grouping in the middle is Jeff Skinner, who has more goals and shoots teh puck way more often than those four.

Alexander Semin's name also sticks out here because most of his shots come further away from the net than the majority of the forward corps. This partially explains why under 60% of his shots are registered as scoring chances and could partially explain why his shooting percentage is rather low. It's not like he is shooting from the boards or the blue-line all he time, but an average shot distance of over 35 feet is kind of high for a forward. Not that this has prevented him from scoring a lot in the past, but it certainly wouldn't hurt if he got closer to the net.

Defensemen are a little more difficult to judge because most of their shot attempts are going to come from far away since that's where their position is, but there are some who have a habit for pinching in and creating chances from somewhere in the slot rather than trying from long range. Are any of these players on the Hurricanes, though?

I think most Hurricanes fans would agree that Joni Pitkanen pinches more often than any other defenseman on the team, but most of his shots have come from long-range despite that. Faulk and Sanguinetti are the ones who have been shooting closer to the net (by comparison) and neither have been rewarded for it. Sanguinetti has only one goal on the season and Faulk has only scored once at even strength. I know that Sanguinetti has gotten close to finding the back of the net a few times but has either been robbed by the goaltender or hit the post with his shot. He's definitely had some shortcomings this year but his lack of offensive production has been sort of out of his control.

An interesting observation is that Tim Gleason has actually been shooting the puck quite a bit compared to the rest of the defense. Kind of surpsing for a guy who has never been known to produce much offense. Meanwhile, Jamie McBain hasn't been shooting the puck much at all and is tied with Jay Harrison for the fewest amount of shots per 60 minutes among Carolina's regular blue-liners.

So, while "shot quality" has been a problem for the Hurricanes in recent games, there isn't much proof of how sustainable it is in the long run. History suggests that if the Canes can continue to win the territorial battle, then the chances should come and hopefully more goals along with it. The one major issue here is that shot quality issues can show up in a small sample size, which is what the Hurricanes are dealing with here since there are only 18 games left in the season.

Stats courtesy of Behind the Net & yours truly

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