To take a break from the scoring chances for a couple of days, instead I want revisit a topic I looked at over the summer. Refreshing the memory a bit, in August I looked at the amazing consistency of NHL players to get shots on goal at even strength. What stood out most from the analysis of the team was the troubling decline in their per minute shot rates. I offered a possible explanation of adjustment to the Tortorella system, and others agreed that another year in the system should help everyone involved. A little over a 1/3 of the season is now gone, so there should be enough data to take a look.
In the previous three seasons in the 'Behind the Net' era, even strength shooting per 60 minutes, or ESS/60, has remained relatively constant. The 2010-11 season has proven to be no different, as you can see in the following table:
For the fourth consecutive year, shooting in the league is up slightly. Proportionally, however, the rates are staying roughly equivalent. Forwards get about 4 more shots per 60 than defenseman, wingers get 0.8-1.0 more than the centers. How about individually? Follow me to the comments area.
For simplicity, I'll bring in last year's table, and tack on this years information, which can be found here.
*Numbers in red indicate seasons not with the Rangers
On the surface, it looks like the theory of players getting used to the system is holding up, Nearly all of the top nine forwards have seen an increase from last year. Perhaps it is merely coincidental with the increase in the league-wide shooting, but some are up even above their rates from two years ago, which suggests that there is actual improvement in play going on. There are a couple of players, on the other hand, that have not bounced back, and strangely, they're arguably the MVPs among the two units.
Brandon Dubinsky has been a force for the season, but more than ever he has been relying on his PP time for production, in some ways very similar to the season that Ryan Callahan had last year. Lack of shooting is not a new thing for Brandon, but it has reached a new level this year. The other player, of course, is Dan Girardi. He has always been above average by this metric, and he is on pace for his highest SOG total since 07-08, but he is another player relying on the PP to bolster his numbers. It mostly defies logic at this point, so I cannot offer a reliable explanation for it.
Another player to look at is everyone's favorite topic of conversation right now, one Alex Frolov. Tortorella has asked him to shoot more, and well, I'm not sure what to make of it. He's at his highest rate in four years, although 14 of his 42 SOG are attributed to backhands, deflections, and (wait for it)....wraparounds! Of course, digging up Frolov's numbers from previous seasons, we see 48/135, 33/102, and 40/118, so this does seem to be typical of his game. The coach can ask him to shoot more, but when he is already above his career norms, there's not likely to be alot of room for growth.
One last group worth looking at is the pivots. Brian Boyle's 11 goals have come as a big surprise, but should it have? Even with limited playing time, Boyle has always done an above average job of getting shots on goal. Artem Anisimov is progressing as one should, getting better as he ages. Derek Stepan has been slightly below average, but above what one would expect for a player who did not shoot or score much at Wisconsin. Finally, there's Erik Christensen, who gets yet another demerit when it comes to evaluating his season statistically. I'm not sure how many demerits equals expulsion (from the lineup), but we must be getting close. Then again, every time it gets close, he does something like this, and all is forgiven.
Now as I said last year, this is not the end all statistic at the individual level by any means. Henrik Sedin, with a 6.18 last year, is down to 6.02 this year. Your current leaders in the clubhouse are David Booth (13.6) and Joe Pavelski (13.4), with a solid 8 ES goals total between them. So take it for what it's worth, but keep in mind that shots on goal do lead to goals (unless you're Sean Avery this year), and goals lead to wins. The New York Rangers have been able to win in spite of this so far (they are 26th in the league in 5v5 SF), but it's a dangerous pattern to keep up.