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Blocked Shots Against - Bad As They Seem?

Spoiler Alert: It missed the net.
Spoiler Alert: It missed the net.

So we've all borne witness to the Leafs atrocious results in the two most recent outings. They were manhandled by Philly on Saturday and played like warm garbage against a more competitive Rangers side in the middle of last week. The most obvious thing about those two games was the following: the Leafs had more shots blocked than Mugsy Bogues trying to shoot past Dikembe Mutombo (forgive the basketball reference). Despite that fact, the Leafs kept hammering shot after shot into the waiting shin pads of the opposition often leading to rushes the other way and the occasional goal.

In the past three games, the Leafs 7 top D men have combined to fire 34 shots towards the opposition net only to see them blocked. Their top 5 offensive forwards (not including the not shooting Bozak) have had 22 shots blocked. Together that's 56 overall or an average of 18.6 blocked shots against per game. That may seem like a lot, but is it?

Well, considering their overall average on the season currently sits at 12.7 blocked shots against per game at 5 on 5, then yeah, it probably is. What makes it more clearly ridiculous is when you recognize that the Leafs currently have the highest per game average of blocked shots against in the NHL at 5 on 5, at again, 12.7. There are only 12 teams in the NHL with over 10 blocked shots against per game at 5 on 5. Florida (12.5), Washington (12.13), and Detroit (11.43) are the only teams to even come close at even strength.

The other main issue with the trend is, it's largely being driven by one player - Dion Phaneuf. Phaneuf has had 17 of his even strength shots blocked in only 7 games. That puts him 2nd in the NHL for blocked shots against, right behind Alex Ovechkin, except Phaneuf hasn't scored any goals, and Ovechkin has 4, to go along with a few Rocket Richard trophies. No other Leaf is over 10 blocked shots against at 5 on 5 yet this season.

Overall, Phaneuf has had his shot blocked 21 times so far this year, and he's missed the net on 14 occasions, while hitting the target 24 times. That means he's hit the mark 40.6% of the time. Compare that to the likes of Duncan Keith, Zdeno Chara, or Shea Weber and you see the following:

Keith: 21 S, 22 A/B, 20 MS = 33.33% on target

Chara: 25 S, 12 A/B, 13 MS = 50% on target

Weber: 19 S, 8 A/B, 11 MS = 50% on target

So apparently Phaneuf isn't the only blue liner that has a hard time hitting the net (Keith isn't doing much better), but he doesn't have the same supporting cast as Keith, and frankly can't afford to be subpar offensively when he's suffering at the defensive end of the ice. Overall this shouldn't be a huge area of concern for the Leafs, but they do need to get more shots on goal in the near term. Think of this as one of the many things that will fluctuate pretty widely over the course of a season. Early on the Leafs were hitting the net with regularity, and their shots weren't blocked that often, now they've been blocked a lot for a few games in a row. Eventually things will trend down again, and the team will look more capable offensively. In all likelihood the trend will be upwards within a few games from an offensive perspective.