Critics of the possession statistics that have made their way into the mainstream of hockey analysis are quick to point out that not every shot towards the net counts the same.
And of course, no one is saying that they do. However, if you want a game that encapsulates that, Wednesday’s Montreal Canadiens loss to the Colorado Avalanche is it.
Montreal dominated five-on-five possession. They had 65 shot attempts towards net against just 38 for Colorado. They outshot the Avalanche 32-24 in that same situation. But when it came to high danger scoring chances, Colorado led 12-4, and they did a great job at holding the lead they earned in the opening minute of the third period. Montreal did not get a high danger scoring chance at five-on-five in the third period.
High danger scoring chances are counted as shot attempts from the “home plate” shaped area between the two faceoff circles in the offensive zone and funneling into the crease.
By looking at this image, you can see exactly where the difference is. The red dot in Colorado’s offensive zone shows that the majority of their shots came from the slot (including their two goals) and almost all of their attempts came from between the two circles.
In Montreal’s offensive zone, you see it is more spread out, with a notable hole on the left side of the high danger area. Even the high danger areas they did get attempts from are not as concentrated as other areas on the ice and are farther out.
The Canadiens have actually done a better job at generating and stopping shots from these areas this season, but their struggle to do so on Wednesday night is one of the reasons they were able to muster just one goal on the night. They are seventh in the league in five-on-five high danger chances for and are 12th with 51.43% of five-on-five chances for.
Wednesday’s loss was better from a pure possession standpoint than Monday night against Boston, but they need to get back to playing for those high danger chances which has been an actual strength for most of the season so far.