Leafs Shot Location

ATLANTA, GA - FEBRUARY 27: Phil Kessel #81 of the Toronto Maple Leafs scores a goal against goaltender Chris Mason #50 and Mark Stuart #5 of the Atlanta Thrashers at Philips Arena on February 27, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

So after a long drawn out debate over the Leafs shut out loss against the Senators last Saturday, I decided that I honestly didn't know enough about where the Leafs were taking most of their shots on goal this season.  10 shots from dangerous parts of the ice seemed less than significant to me in comparison to the 47 shots they fired on Craig Anderson's net, but I'll admit, I was basing that on a pretty small sample of comparison - with the two previous games in the season.

Thus to that end, I decided I have time to kill this weekend so I might as well fill it with writing an article on something I haven't gotten into in a couple of months.  During the past off season I put up a couple of charts describing the Leafs Delta numbers, which is sort of like Corsi Number but is more related to shot locations taken and given up than it is just shot attempts in general.  Rather than look those numbers up, I decided to look at the team from the perspective of the entire season thus far.

So how have the Leafs fared this season? Well initially I'm only going to look at their own shot attempts.  I'm worried about the Leafs ability to generate significant offense at this stage, and I suppose I could look at the defensive results at a later occasion.

So in pursuit of this, I went through every ESPN game-cast and logged the number of shots the Leafs fired on net that were within 25 feet of the goal and generally located in front of the net (not along the goal line).  I ignored shot type, though I am well aware that rebounds, snap shots, and slap shots all have different odds of going in the net.  At this stage I just wanted a more granular picture of where the Leafs were firing their attempts on net from, largely to see if there's been any significant improvement, and how their recent play stacks up to earlier in the year.

So what do the results show? Well here are the key points.

  1. The Leafs are averaging 8.69 "good" shots a game, and 20.5 "bad" shots a game.
  2. The SH% for a "good" shot by the Leafs is 17.25%
  3. The SH% for a "bad" shot by the Leafs is 5.04%
  4. For the month of January the Leafs actually rattled off 11 straight games to start the month where they fired 10 or more "good" shots.  There were only 13 games in January, so they were playing excellently from an offensive opportunity perspective for the month.
  5. The majority in the variation in the Leafs shot totals from game to game is largely due to significant shifts in their "bad" shots from game to game, but they do occasionally play games where they have very few good scoring opportunities from in close. 
Part of the major portion of the debate that was being held was whether or not the Leafs were playing poor offensively by taking a larger portion of "bad" shots than "good" shots in the Senators game.  While I will concede that the proportion is irrelevant in the end result of a game if they get 9 good shots off on goal, I think it is supremely important to note the following:

The Pearson r correlation for good to bad shots was -0.26.  In plain English, after looking at 63 samples (games) that means that the two are NEGATIVELY correlated to a significant degree. That means that if the Leafs are taking more "good" shots, they tend to take fewer "bad" ones, and vice versa.  This makes logical sense as any "bad" shot taken is generally a lost opportunity to take a better one.  This of course precludes the concept of rebounds resulting from long distance attempts, but their frequency doesn't seem to be high enough to shift this result.

So overall I offer you the idea that despite the Leafs inconsistency, their consistency has drastically improved in the offensive zone this season over the course of the year.  Since Jan 1st, the average number of good shots is now 9.78, thus making a game like the one against the Senators (shut out or not) relatively typical from a shot perspective.  They didn't exceed expectations in that one game, but their standards have been improving, and they gave themselves a better chance to score within that game.

Here's hoping they don't tail off to end the year, though it looks like the numbers have dipped a bit in recent weeks.  The schedule does get a tad more difficult from here on in, and the Leafs have a younger group than they did in January following all those trades by Burke leading up to the deadline.

In the near term, I plan on looking at the number of "good" shots the Leafs have been giving up in an attempt to consider how much we've been leaving our goaltending hanging out to dry.  But that is a study for another day.
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