FanPost

Shooting Tyler Bozak.

Is this dude a sniper? - Jared Wickerham

People say a lot of stupid things about Tyler Bozak.

But in terms of Flowzack (TM) & his overall game, his role as a 1st line Center and whether he's worth his contract, Imma leave those grand kinds of questions aside, for greater minds and deeper thinkers than myself (Kanye?) to answer.

For me, my aim is humbler - to sort out the question of Bozak's shooting ability.

INTRODUCTORY FREAK OUT.

We'll begin with the fact that Bozak has a shooting percentage of 22.6% - 2nd best in the NHL today. Pretty much that one, single fact is enough to make people on both sides of the Tyler Bozak Love/Hate dichotomy freak right the frack out:

  • Bozie's fans, for instance, see that 22.6% shooting and, to them, it confirms that their guy is a top-notch sniper and fully deserving of his place as 1C for Kessel.
  • Whereas haters of the Flow see him as a goof who's not only been lucky just to get to play with Kessel, but who has also now been blessed with incredible shooting luck.

Now, obviously, both of these groups are idiots.

But before we get into all that, let's make things Relatively Easy. Jason Isbell.

1. SOME SHOTS ARE EASIER TO SCORE ON THAN OTHERS.

Now, by NHL standards, Bozak has an ok shot. Is he a sniper? Well, based just on my own personal viewing, I can't say I'ever ever seen him snipe one like a Phil Kessel, or like a Steven Stamkos or an Alex Ovechkin. But still, it seems like an ok, NHL-quality shot, right? And he doesn't seem to be a protypical crease-bashing, power-forward - either a Cam Neely or a Milan Lucic, or a Dave Andreychuk type - who would get a lot of garbage goals, right?

So, from what I'm seeing of Bozak's shot and his size, these things just don't seem to me to explain his extraordinarily high shooting %.

But, there are other reasons, other ways, a player might use to get his extra-high shooting %. Like, the type of shot he takes - namely, that he takes high percentage ones, ones with a good chance of scoring.

And yes, I'm just gonna call it "type" of shot because as soon as we start calling it "shot location" or babbling on about "shot quality," we end up with people Burtching the shit out of each other and referencing some medieval hockey manuscript by some dickwad in Edmonton.

So, let's stick to our task - Tyler Bozak and what makes his shot tick.

Fundamentally, we know that some types of shots do better than others. For example, the shooting %s of defencemen tend to be a lot lower than for forwards. e.g. Every Leaf defenceman is below 6.0% in shooting, whereas 12 Leaf forwards are over 10%.

Now, why is that?

Obviously, part of it is that your average forwards are faster, smarter and (a lot) better-hung than your bog-standard defencemen. But that's only 1/2 of the story. The other 1/2 is that forwards get to skate in closer to the net before they shoot.

It's a bit like in basketball. (Which, I agree, is a stupid game. But as a gesture to our American friends, who tend to understand basketball analogies, I'm going with it. It's the same reason we all tend to speak slowly when Americans are around. It's just common courtesy.)

Anyway, the comparison is that NBA players shoot for a higher percentage from the foul line than from behind the 3-point line, right?

Well, it's the same for hockey. A shot from outside the blueline, for instance, will almost never score. Unless, of course, the goalie is named Vesa Toskala. Or Jonas Gustavsson. Or Jonathan Bernier. Ok, look. A shot from outside the blueline isn't gonna score against a normal team. Against the Leafs, it's got a chance. But usually, a shot from that far out isn't going in, right?

Even your average shot from the point has very little chance of scoring.

But with every stride a player takes from the blue-line in toward the net, their chances of scoring go up. Until ultimately, if you give a forward the puck within, say, 6 feet of the net, their chances rise to well-above-average. So distance to the net matters, when it comes to increasing your shooting %.

Now, added on top of factors like distance-to-the-net, your chances of scoring also go up:

  • If the net is empty; or,
  • If the goalie is moving across the net; or,
  • If he's screened; or,
  • If the D-men have gone a'hastening off to the corner for some reason; or,
  • If you're not jammed up against the dorkwad goalie's pads, but have room to lift the puck; etc.

To me, the ideal shot - percentage-wise - is probably if you find a loose puck right on the goal-line, and the goalie is lying prone somewhere, and you only have to tap it that last inch across the line, right? Like this:

Now, some would argue that an empty-net goal is even easier than that, because you don't have to worry about the goalie making some miraculous kick save, you just shoot it into the empty cage, right? Like this (start at 4:55):

And a 3rd kind of easy goal is the... an accidental goal. You know, where a shot hits you in the ass and goes in. Or you're trying to pass it to some guy and it hits a stick and goes in by accident. And all your team-mates laugh at you. Like this:


So, that's 3 kinds of really super high percentage "shot." Get a few of those, and your shooting % will soar, right? But it's not like you can build your game around shots off your arse, or finding those 1 inch gimmes, or empty net goals.

I mean, those are hard shots to "create." So let's look now at more normal shots, and try to spy out which kinds are the easiest, alright?

For me, I always liked "garbage goals." Ones where somebody else took the shot, and the rebound bounced to me, and the goalie was down and out, and basically, I just had to whack it at the empty net, and hope it never hit a defenceman's leg or a loose stick.

Now, getting these kinds of goals takes skill. But it's more the skill of positioning yourself, and anticipating shots and angles, or of being strong enough to hold off a defenceman. Not really so much the same kind of skill as what we normally think of as "shooting." Let's look at a couple of examples.

In this one, the Leafs are blasting away from everywhere, the Devils goalie has had to stop a Kessel shot and so is still prone, the opposing D-men are headed toward James Van Riemsdyk but he manages to pass the puck through to where a team-mate gets to to basically dunk it into an open net, from about 5-10 feet away. Now, personally, when I'm playing, those kind of shots are pretty high percentage.


Or this kind, where Carl Gunnarsson lets loose a long shot that hits Tuukka Rask in the pads, but it rebounds right off to the side... and onto a Leaf stick!

And sometimes.... well, sometimes you just have really talented linemates, who draw so much defensive attention that when/if they finally pass you the puck, all you're really left to do is to shovel it in, right?

Like this:

Or you break-out and go in 3-on-1 and all the attention goes to some speedy winger sniper guy, and you just wander in late and commence to shovelling.

Or you're up against bone-heads like Zdeno Chara and Rask, who're not only Beantown stupid but also Boston ugly, and they forget all about you, and so you get to just sneak in and wait for the puck to come to papa.

Or like this. Man, it's great when this happens:

Another kind of goal that has a weirdly high shooting % attached is the tip-in. I mean, they're not easy, it's definitely a skill. But. In terms of shooting percentages, they're actually pretty durned good.

You see, you can miss a tip entirely, or you can block it accidentally, or tip it away from the net, or tip it into a defender. And all are failed tips. But none of those failed tips count as "shots" taken by you, right? So you could fail all night, and it wouldn't hurt your shooting %.

The only tips that count as shots are the ones that get through to the goalie. And a fair % of them are gonna score. Because if a tipped shot actually reaches the goalie, he has almost no time to react, the direction and speed of the shot has been changed, and often, he hasn't even seen where the tip takes place.

Here's one from far out:

And one from in close:

Finally, the fan favourite high-percentage shot has to be... the breakaway. After all, you've got no defencemen in the way, you get to think about your move beforehand, you have the initiative, PLUS you get to shoot from in really close. Like so:

Ok. Let's recap.

Of all the types of shots you can take, some of the higher percentage types are: empty-net goals and tap-ins from an inch away; rebounds and cross-ice passes that set you up for a shovel-in; tip-ins and, break-aways.

But the thing is, when we talk about how good a guy's shot is, when we tend to talk about a guy like Phil Kessel or Ovechkin or Stamkos or Bobby or Brett Hull or Mike Bossy or Zdeno Chara, we're almost never talking about those kinds of shots, are we?

Instead, we think of a shot from 20-50 feet out, where the shooter just has an incredibly quick release or great accuracy or a 100 mph plus blast.

THOSE are the skills we normally think of as making a "great shooter."

What we're not talking about, when we discuss a guy's shooting percentage, are things like how many empty-net goals he's likely to get... or how many 1 inch tap-ins... or that sort of thing.

Proof? Jay McClement.

Almost any Leaf fan will tell you that Jay's not a guy with a fabulous shot, and certainly not someone you'd predict would shoot 16.7% or be up amongst the league leaders, right?

Except, that's where Jay was last year. One of the NHL's best shooters. Which makes absolutely no sense, until you notice that of his 8 goals, 3 were scored into an empty net. Which - if removed - reduced his Sh% to 10% or so, which seems more sensible.

So. We now know that a player can probably rustle up a higher-than-expected shooting % if he is given - or positions himself for - opportunities of the very high percentage types listed here.

ANNNNNYWAY. My much subtler point is that if you reviewed the 12 randomly-selected videos I set out above, you may find it easier to imagine how many of those kinds of "easy" goals a player like a Tyler Bozak might have managed to score this year.

Because, in fact, Bozak also seems to have scored - totally coincidentally - 12 goals. Gee. I wonder how many of them were of plum-picking easy types outlined above?

I donno. Someone should check.

Anyway, no time for that. Still, from what we've just seen, it does seem likely that a player could take more high percentage shots, and that would raise the numerator in his shooting % calculation, and so, his shooting % would be higher than it otherwise would, right?

Cool. But listen up ---> there's another way a player can raise his shooting %

2. NOT TAKING LOWER % SHOTS ALSO HELPS YOUR SHOOTING%.

See, he can also reduce the denominator. That is, he can... take fewer shots overall, and in particular, not bother with so many lower percentage shots. Or, as the French call them, "Shots comme that idiot Jason Blake lololol."

But it's such a coincidence that this issue should come up, what with us talking about Tyler Bozak and all. Because out of the 154 NHL Centers who have the most ES minutes this year, Bozak ranks almost last - 150th - in the number of shots he takes per 60 minutes. Which is kind of surprising, right, given that he plays on such an up-tempo, run-and-gun line, eh?

I mean, it's easy to understand why a Jay McClement takes so few shots, with just 3.7 per 60 minutes. And why guys like Jeff Carter take more than 10.

But Bozak takes as few as McClement, just 3.7 per 60. And last year, it was the same pattern - Bozak took the 5th fewest shots of all Centers. And the year before? 7th fewest.

How strange is it that he'd take so few shots, what with having an incredible 22.6% shooting percentage this year, and shooting 19.7% the year before, and 16.5% the year before - each year, an incredibly high shooting %.

Then again, we all know that Bozak looks for Kessel and JVR, first and foremost, to the extent that we're all used to screaming at him to shoot.

And... hey, wait a minute.

CONCLUSION: MID-RANGE FREAK OUT.

What if you put those two parts of the equation together:

1st, What if Bozak is a guy who takes very few shots, and who feels like he should look to pass first, to a guy like Kessel or JVR; plus,

2nd, And what if Bozak is a guy who when he does shoot, it's only really because it's screamingly obvious he should do so, like on a break-away or at an empty net or is a tap-in or a shovel-in.

Then... for Bozak, or anyone else who played like this, wouldn't that be pretty much the recipe for creating a really high shooting %?

Why yes.

Yes, it would.

So. Tyler Bozak:

1) Isn't much interested in even taking low percentage shots. And,

2) Gets a fairly high number of higher-percentage opportunities.

Yeah, that maths out.

In fact, it videos out too. For 12 goals in a row.

So, is it still a skill, what Bozak does?

Well, sure, some of it is. Breakaways and tip-ins certainly are. Getting positioned for rebounds and tap-ins, absolutely. Even empty-net goals, you usually get those chances because you're working hard defensively.

It's just that none of these skills are primarily what we think of as being "shooting skill." In fact, thinking of it as a "shooting" thing seems to be leading us down the wrong mental alley-way, imagining that somehow his high shooting percentage means Bozak shoots like Stamkos, or worrying that his shooting will "regress" in the same way a more standard shooter would.

Because... that's not at all clear.

I mean, look, Bozak's 11 goals (not counting the ENG for the moment) probably didn't travel 100 feet in total.

And NOT ONE GOAL was what we'd really call a "shot" that "beat" a goalie who was face-up with Bozie. At least, none of the 11 that came at even-strength.

So. Do tip-ins and tap-ins regress to the same level as shots off the wing? I'm not sure.

I think of it this way. In basketball, a 7 foot center who plays in close and works for 2 foot dunks off rebounds or high passes isn't expected to shoot the same % as a 3 point shooter. And in the NHL, we don't expect a defenceman to have the same kind of shooting % as a forward, do we?

Well... in the same way, we don't really think a Dave Andreychuk who pots their garbage goals from a lawn chair in front has to have the same shooting % as a predator like Phil Kessel, who fires all night from wherever he happens to be.

This debate is young, I think. I mean, we don't even really have solid names yet for the different kinds of forwards and the styles or the roles they're actually playing.

But to me, what Bozak actually does... looks a lot closer to what an Andreychuk used to do, or a Dornhoefer or those other deadbeats who lived off of the chickenfeed spread around the crease.

Flowzack just doesn't LOOK the part, but he's a garbageman.

Maybe we better update the label - Bozak's a recycler.

Anyway, whatever you call him, he's a guy who gets a lot of garbage goals, tap-ins, shovel-ins. Plus... a couple of break-aways and a few tip-ins a year.

OK. HERE'S WHERE YOU SHOULD ALL FREAK THE FRACK OUT.

For reals.

Watch the viddys above, and put these pieces together, and maybe you won't be so surprised to hear that, when we rank NHL'ers over the last 3 years, the player with the highest overall shooting percentage (minimum of 150 games), the #1 in the league, is not Stamkos or Kane or Crosby or Malkin or Sedin or Tavares or even Kessel or Ovie, it's...

... Tyler Bozak.

With an incredible 18.8%.

Bonus Action Photo! Bozie Teaches The Less-Sniperly-Abled! Since this lesson, Mike Brown's shooting % has gone up 20%! YOURS. CAN. TOO.

Mike_252bbrown_252btyler_252bbozak_252bgun_252bcall_252bof_252bduty_252bleafs_medium

And yup, judging from the videos, that 18.8% shooting % is pretty damned hard to explain in terms of Bozie's shot.

And it's also pretty damned hard to argue that he's got to regress, given that, at 150+ games over 3 years, we're not really in the land of the Small Sample Size anymore, are we?

Nope. Bozie's doing something else, playing a different kind of game, and straight-up measurement of his shooting % or talk about the quality of his "shot" ain't gonna give you any traction.

So say what you will, but what Bozak is doing is running hotter these last few years than even Stamkos, with his 17.5%. Hotter than... Gretzky's 17.6%.

In fact, Bozak's 18.8% pace continues, it will put him in the Top 20 shooters of the last 50 years, just behind Mike Bossy (21.2%) and Jari Kurri (19.1%.)

Ok, last weird though. One that may help soothe your nerves, though.

Did you know that the guy who ranks as the #19 all-time best shooter is Ray Ferraro (18.9%)? Or that #4 is Paul MacLean (21.4%)? Or that #1 all-time is... Craig Simpson (at 23.7%)?

Which made me wonder if, since Bozak's apparently now in that sort of company, then maybe there's a chance that - after his retirement - we could see him come back as an announcer, or as a colour guy.

I mean, Cherry may know suits.

But Flowzack knows... Flow.

Let's give the last word to Blind Willie McTell, master of the odds, in The Dyin' Crapshooter's Blues.

"I want nine men going to the graveyard, bubba
And eight men comin' back."

Update:

Just because I have a sick & twisted mind, I thought I'd take a brief scan through Bozak's goals from LAST year, 2012-13, to see if they confirmed or busted the pattern we've spied.

Let's just say, pattern confirmed.

12 goals:

  • 1 bounced in off Bozak's ankle.
  • 2 were break-aways.
  • 8 from scored from the crease or the doorstep, either off a rebound or converting a pass that left the net wide open.
  • But BIG NEWS, folks! There was 1 goal off an authentic shot, from the slot! It was against Buffalo, and JVR had the goalie completely screened, but the Buffalo announcer still sounded completely shocked. "WELL, Ryan Miller was down on his knees... and he... never even moved? And the puck goes right over his right shoulder."

Anyway. A traditional "shot" from Bozak, from the dots, that scored. Everything else though, over the last 2 years.... break-aways, shovel shots, tip-ins and ENG's.

Bozie - Our New Age Trashman.

PensionPlanPuppets.com is a fan community that allows members to post their own thoughts and opinions on the Toronto Maple Leafs and hockey in general. These views and thoughts may not be shared by the editor of PensionPlanPuppets.com.

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