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How P.K. Subban scored his goals in 2013 - Part 3 - Analysis

P.K. Subban began the season missing a few games due his contract negotiations lasting into the season, and ended it by winning the Norris Trophy for the NHL's outstanding defenseman. No big deal.

Look at this BAMF.
Look at this BAMF.
Tasos Katopodis

P.K. Subban is a whole other animal than all the people we've looked at in the last year, as his main weapon is his slapshot, usually from outside the scoring area. Considering how few goals he scores within the scoring chance area, it's astounding the rate with which he puts the puck in the net.

Goals by situation
Goals Goals on zone plays Goals off the rush Goals on individual efforts
13 10 3 2
Goals by shot type
Wrist Slap Snap One-timer Tip Backhand
1 10 2 7 0 0

Unlike a forward, a high scoring defenseman is unlikely to be versatile by shot type. You won't see many tips or backhands from defensemen, although it's pretty shocking how little Subban scored with a wrist shot this season.

What isn't shocking is that there are far fewer individual efforts than there would be from a forward. Scoring from the blueline is pretty tough without puck movement or screens, and although I could have given Subban one or two extra individual effort nods on a couple goals that were close, I think this is an accurate representation of what happened this year.

Similarly not shocking is that 76.9% of Subban's goals occurred on zone plays. It's been speculated that defensemen have very little impact off the rush other than breakout passes, and don't have a large impact on zone entries, and even with an excellent rushing defenseman like Subban, this holds true. There are usually just too many players in the way for defensemen to score off the rush, so they feast on powerplays and set plays once the team controls the zone.

Unsurprisingly, 53.8% of Subban's goals were scored on one-timers. Over the course of his career, Subban has gone from having a deadly one-timer to probably the best one in the entire NHL. He has a hard shot, there's no doubt about that, but what defines Subban's shot more than velocity is accuracy, and the ability to turn bad passes into good shots. So many of Subban's goals in his career would have even been shots for some elite players around the league. The first regular season goal of his career for example:


A bouncing puck; most players would try to control it and likely pass or put a wrist shot on net to try to get a rebound, but Subban just wires it and scores.

It's kind of hilarious to remember that fans get on Subban for having bad accuracy with his shot, when it couldn't possibly be further from the truth. I highly doubt there's a player in the league that could get similar accuracy on the velocity of shot that he has.

I was wondering though, if even as a defenseman that Subban's 15.4% rate of scoring on individual efforts was a bit low, and luckily we have two years of data to look back on. Prorated to an 82-game season, Subban would have had four goals on individual efforts, so that would be the benchmark.

2011-12 Goals by situation
Goals Goals on zone plays Goals off the rush Goals on individual efforts
7 6 1 2
2011-12 Goals by shot type
Wrist Slap Snap One-timer Tip Backhand
3 4 0 4 0 0

Subban scored far fewer goals in 2011-12, though he scored a higher percentage of them on individual efforts; up to 28.6% of his total goals. With that said, he was on-pace for double the individual efforts this year.

The biggest change from last season to this one was that Subban went from super unlucky, to getting some nice shooting luck. He shot at 8.84% this season, as opposed to 3.41% in 2011-12. It's highly unlikely that Subban's true shooting talent is almost 9%, but 7% is probably reasonable considering how ridiculous his shot is.

More than anything it was a lack of slapshot goals that impacted Subban's worst offensive year; bad luck and a poor powerplay managed by poor coaches no doubt had a big impact on that, as well. I doubt we'll ever see 42.9% of Subban's goals in a season not coming off of slapshots ever again, unless he substantially changes his game.

2010-11 Goals by situation
Goals Goals on zone plays Goals off the rush Goals on individual efforts
14 12 2 3
2010-11 Goals by shot type
Wrist Slap Snap One-timer Tip Backhand
0 12 1 10 0 1

Subban's rookie season was nearly identical in how it breaks down in comparison to his Norris-winning season, although Subban's scoring pace nearly doubled in 2013. Again, goals on individual efforts account for a low percentage, just 21.4%, so I think a 20% or lower mark there is likely normal.

2010-11 and 2011-12 resulted in identical zone splits for Subban, both with 14.3% of goals coming off the rush, and 85.7% coming on zone plays. This year goals on zone plays jumped up to 23.1%, which is really only a difference of one goal.

Subban has been fairly consistent overall in pretty much every respect, which is the first time we've seen that, really.