Habs Goal Scorers 2011-12: Conclusions

Jim McIsaac

After breaking down 135 goals by 6 players, let's see what we can learn from this exercise.

First off, I want to send a bit of an apology to mobile users. I don't know how it is on Windows phones, Androids, or Blackberries, but I noticed midway through this project that the videos don't show up for iPhone users when they're embedded. I should have done hyperlinks as well throughout. Sorry that 3 weeks worth of content was mostly invisible to you guys.

When I started this project, I didn't know if I would find anything interesting, but I think I have. From Plekanec to Eller, we've looked at 135 goals in the last couple of weeks. Before we do anything with the individuals, let's look at how the totals broke down:

Goals Goals on zone plays Goals off the rush Goals on individual plays
135 64 71 46

Observations:

  • 34.1% of the goals scored by these six players were individual efforts.
  • 52.6% of the goals were scored off the rush.
  • Because I've only looked at 6 players on one team, I'm not sure how indicative this is of the Canadiens overall scoring, however just going off of memory (flawed I know), I think this split is indicative of how the Canadiens scored overall last season.
  • Only looking at the Canadiens, it's tough to say whether other teams would have similar splits, however due to a struggling powerplay all season, I would be willing to wager that most teams score more goals on zone plays than off the rush.
  • Eric T over at Broad Street Hockey and NHL Numbers has theorized that gaining the zone with possession is extremely important to scoring, which may be why the zone play scoring was down last year, as Randy Cunneyworth preferred the chip and chase method.
  • This may be proven wrong in the future, but I don't think goals off the rush are as reliant on systems of zone entries because they're usually on odd-man rushes or breakaways. Basically on most of those goals, you're guaranteed an easy zone entry.

So let's get back to the individual players. How did they break down? The leader in each category has been bolded and italicized.

Player Goals Goals on zone plays Goals off the rush Goals on individual efforts
Erik Cole 35 19 16 11
Max Pacioretty 33 14 19 9
Tomas Plekanec 17 7 10 9
Lars Eller 16 8 8 8
David Desharnais 16 9 7 5
Rene Bourque 18 7 11 4

Observations:

  • Unsurprisingly, Cole or Pacioretty lead in every category. They did score a lot more than everyone else, Pacioretty with a 15 goal lead on Bourque.
  • Tomas Plekanec was actually the least successful center in the group on zone plays. This is especially surprising since he had as many powerplay goals as Desharnais and Eller combined [5]. This could be due to a variety of reasons, but because of the extreme split in his zone play goals from the first to second half, I'm inclined to believe that strength of competition with weak linemates is a major factor. I fully expect Plekanec to score on zone plays more often next year, somewhere in the 9-12 range.
  • Everyone remembers all the times Cole barreled down the right wing to score a beauty, but Pacioretty is actually the Habs' most dangerous shooter off the rush.
  • Desharnais is the least dangerous scorer off the rush in this study, however he is by no means not a danger off the rush. DD is a pass first kind of guy, and he left his footprints all over Pacioretty and Cole's goals last season. As I mentioned before, going over these goals, I have a new found respect for his hockey sense, it's unreal.
  • Eller had a similar talent gap between him and his wings to what Plekanec had, but he was even across the board. What's surprising though, is that even though he's not a big time scorer yet, he scored a lot of individual goals. Only Plekanec had a higher percentage of his goals on individual plays. This breakdown seems to justify what EOTP has been saying for months, get this guy some linemates.
  • Bourque is an interesting player. He is quite clearly not an individual talent, but given good linemates he can score a lot. I don't think 20 goals is out of the question for him to hit again, and he could gust up to 25 if he's on a line with Desharnais and Cole in an exploitation role. I'm not sure what he can put up for assists, but he can put the puck in the net. He could be a useful player in the right scenario.
  • This is by no means a proven statement because this study is so limited, but it seems to me that even very good goal scorers, guys who can push 35 goals, can't do it all on their own too much more than 10 times a season. The competitiveness of the NHL just doesn't allow for that many opportunities. With that said, I'm doubly impressed with how often Eller scored on his own merit.
  • I wonder now how many individual goals a player like Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin or Steven Stamkos scores.
  • Due to the fairly consistent range of 8-11 individual goals among good goal scorers (I think anyone who can consistently push for 20 goals is a good goal scorer), I'm inclined to believe that this number doesn't fluctuate too much, and it's the team based goals that fluctuate wildly from season to season. Olivier Bouchard is going to be adding these definitions to his scoring chance counts next season, so we may have the answer to that soon. I may also revisit older seasons and publish the results.
  • It's important to note that I don't think scoring on the rush or on a zone play is any better or worse than the opposite, a goal counts either way. I would be interested to know however, which number is more sustainable over multiple seasons.

Now that we've broken down each goal scoring play, I figure just for fun, let's see what kind of shot each player uses to score most often. I figure we can safely break each goal down as either a wrist shot, slap shot, snap shot, backhand, or tip/deflection. I'll also note that a goalmouth scramble where a wild stab at the puck causes a goal will be called a tip/deflection. One timers will be listed in the slap shot column in [square brackets]. Leaders in each category will once again be bolded and italicized.

Player Goals Wrist Slap Snap Tip Backhand
Cole 35 9 3 [6] 8 11 4
Pacioretty 33 14 0 [6] 11 4 4
Bourque 18 8 2 [3] 4 4 0
Plekanec 17 5 3 [1] 4 2 3
Eller 16 7 1 [2] 4 2 2
Desharnais 16 7 0 [0] 2 5 2

Observations:

  • I know it looks like I'm contradicting myself in saying Pacioretty scored zero goals on slap shots but had one-timer goals, but all 6 one-timers were on snap shots. Same thing goes for the disparity in other's numbers. For whatever reason, Pacioretty doesn't use slap shots. Or if he does, he doesn't score with them. Odd but true.
  • Cole had a bunch of tips, but many of those were him batting pucks in at the goal mouth. When Cole was struggling to score at the beginning of the year, he did the right thing and just drove the net constantly. 9 of his first 19 goals were tips, deflections or swats at loose pucks.
  • Desharnais surprises people constantly, and here's another one. 5 tips? This little guy goes to the net. He's always there getting his nose dirty. I'm still skeptical that Desharnais can repeat last season as far as point production goes, but you can't say he didn't earn it.
  • Once again the leaders in every category are either Cole or Pacioretty, although Plekanec tied Cole in slap shot goals.
  • Every single player preferentially scored by wrist shots.
  • Plekanec was a heck of a versatile scorer, with numbers close across the board. He also scored on fewer wrist shots than anyone else, maybe his wrister is a bit weak?
  • Eller's 2 one-timer goals were in the same game, his 4 goal game against Winnipeg.
  • Judging by results, Eller and Plekanec play a similar positioning scenario in the offensive zone, neither goes to the net a ton, preferring to control the puck further out.
  • Eller has a much better wrist shot than Desharnais, but little Davey gets himself into better scoring position, so they come out even.

Since we've come this far, why don't we look at how the goals break down when we add all 6 of these guys together.

Goals Wrist Shots Slap Shots Snap Shots Tips/Deflections Backhand Shots
135 50 9 33 28 15

Observations:

  • Kinda shocking isn't it? 9 out of 135 goals were scored on slap shots. Nine! That's just 6.7%. The slap shot gets huge velocity, but in the end it's just really inaccurate. My buddy Chris in Florida is probably sitting back and saying "damn right!", as he's always talking about how the slap shot is an overused tool. Not that many goals are scored on slap shots in the NHL.
  • More goals on backhands even than slap shots, and no one ever uses backhands anymore with curved sticks. Crazy.
  • I suspect if we did this for defensemen, the slap shot goals would be a much higher percentage, but still not as high as you'd initially think.
  • Lots of tips, deflections and goalmouth whacks that end up in the net. The old adage about going to the net and good things happen, it's true. Almost as likely to score as with a snap shot.
  • The ultimate tool for scoring in the NHL is still the wrist shot. The combination of velocity (especially with those new composite sticks the kids are always talkin' about!) and accuracy is unmatched by any other shot. A good wrister can take you a long way in the NHL.
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