Blocked Shots: A Rangers Forté, But a Double-Edged Sword

Blocking shots is an integral part of the game today. With today’s shooters getting more power from lighter sticks and improved workout techniques, shots are getting harder and more accurate. In today’s game, if you leave a good player with a decent look, he will hit his spot, and he will score. Getting in the opponents shooting lanes is become more of a science, and less of a "throw your body there and pray he doesn’t hit you in the face" tactic. The Rangers are tops in the league at blocking shots, with 223 attempts hitting our Blueshirts, which is a testament to the willingness of the team to throw the body in front of frozen pills. The next best team is Chicago with 209. That is no small gap.

As important as blocking shots is, it is not necessarily a characteristic of a winning team. Last year, three of the top five teams in blocked shots wound up with lottery picks. Also, five of the top ten teams in blocked shots missed the playoffs. So naturally, take blocked shots with a grain of salt. The Rangers are the most adept at it this year, but that means they are also allowing opponents to take a lot of shots on net. Although total blocked shots may not matter much in the standings, for the Rangers, blocked shots equals wins:

Date Opponent Blocks Result
10/9 Buffalo 19 W
10/11 Islanders 14 L
10/15 Toronto 12 OTL
10/18 Colorado 8 L
10/21 Toronto 30 W
10/23 Boston 15 W
10/24 New Jersey 21 W
10/27 Atlanta 14 L
10/29 Carolina 22 L
10/30 Toronto 35 W
11/1 Chicago 33 W

It’s an interesting trend for the Rangers. Breaking this down, when the Rangers block 20 or more shots and they are 4-1-0; and when they block less than 20 shots and they are 2-3-1. We are victims of a small sample size here, but it appears that when the Rangers block shots, they win. That goes against the general league standard that blocked shots equals wins.

Breaking it down by player, the Rangers have seven players that have 10+ blocked shots on the season. The usual suspects are there, but in the top seven are some surprises, specifically Michael Del Zotto and Steve Eminger:

Player Blocks
Dan Girardi 41
Michael Del Zotto 24
Michal Rozsival 22
Ryan Callahan 20
Marc Staal 17
Steve Eminger 16
Brian Boyle 13

That MDZ is on this list may not be too surprising, considering the amount of playing time he gets. However, the fact that he is second on the team in blocked shots may surprise a lot of people, considering he only had 92 blocks last year. MDZ is on pace to shatter that mark by at least 50 blocks. Dan Girardi at the top by such a wide margin is right in line with his previous campaign, when he was tops on the team by 50 blocks.

It’s tough to quantify blocked shots in the NHL. The more blocked shots a team or a player has, it means that more shots are directed at the net while that player is on the ice. Generally, that means the opposition is getting more scoring chances, and thus will be able to score more goals on our beloved Blueshirts. The reason why this hasn’t happened for the Rangers is because of stellar goaltending. In each game that the Rangers have blocked 20 or more shots, the goalies have faced a minimum of 25 shots on goal. That equals at least 45 shots that hit a Ranger in some capacity, and this doesn’t include posts or shots that miss the net.

There is a difference between correlation and causation. The Rangers ability to block shots is not the cause of their victories, but it certainly does correlate to a few wins. Generally speaking, an NHL team does not necessarily win games due to volume of blocked shots. In fact, it appears to be the opposite for the reasons mentioned above. The Rangers are currently playing to the tune of over 1,600 blocks this season. If the correlation between Rangers blocked shots and wins starts regressing to the mean, then the Rangers could be in big trouble later in the year.