In part one of our series we took a look at the usage decisions made by Hitchcock and his staff during the playoffs last season. We noticed some interesting choices in who saw an increase in their ice time during the playoffs versus who saw less time than usual. In part two we broke down the team's possession numbers as expressed in terms of shot attempts (i.e. corsi and fenwick). Certain players stepped up and drove possession more in the playoffs than we saw during the regular season. While other players who have been accused of "disappearing" actually performed at the same level or better during the playoffs.
In part three, we are looking at the St. Louis Blues shooting during the playoffs. We are breaking it down by type, location, and result and doing that all by player and yes there is the fancy data viz at the bottom for you to play with. You should assume that unless I write otherwise, I am talking about 5 on 5 play in the discussion below.
Pietrangelo stole the show
What got into Alex Pietrangelo during the playoffs? I sure as heck didn't notice this while watching the games, but Petro took the most shots out of any other player on the ice during the playoffs. Counting all shots taken (on goal, goals, misses, blocks) Petro accounted for 16% of the team's total shot production during the playoffs. To put this in comparison to the regular season, Petro had roughly 7% of the total shots taken by the team. Not only did he take a lot of shots, but he shot from literally all over the ice. But the kicker is, he didn't score a single goal the entire playoffs. I know that we had been missing the offensive side of Petro, but I think this was a bit much. After Pietrangelo, the rest of the players shake out like you would expect (this is the chart at the very bottom with all the boxes): Tarasenko, Schwartz, Steen, Shattenkirk, Oshie. Well maybe not exactly like you would expect. Shattenkirk having more shots than Oshie or Backes or even Berglund? Something seems amiss when you have two defensemen in the top 5 of total shots taken by the team. It also makes me wonder if this reliance on offensive defensemen might have placed the Blues at a disadvantage when players like Petro and Shatty are down low playing offensively and the play shifts the other direction. But this would require a more in depth video review analysis.
Where is the net?
Good question because the Blues certainly could not find it during the playoffs. Out of all shots taken by the Blues 56% of them were either missed or blocked by the Wild. In contrast, while the Wild took less shots than the Blues did, only 46% of their shots were misses or blocked. I think we found another clue in why the Blues failed in the playoffs last season. They struggled getting shots on net. If you click on the "Block" header in the Blues type/result table in the dataviz, you will notice that almost all the shots blocked were right in the slot or at least in the "home plate" scoring chance area. The Wild blocked very few shots outside of the circles. They were very content to let the Blues shoot from outside the circles all day. And why not? Those are not high quality scoring chances. The Blues' misses were equally distributed across the ice. There wasn't a specific area that they shot from consistently that resulted in a miss.
Most of the shots that scored came from right in front of the crease with a few goals being scored stick side and a couple scored glove side from a distance. Most of the goals came from wrist shots and three goals coming from tip-ins.
Wrist shots were the most frequent type of shot the Blues took followed by slap shots and backhands. This was the same for the Wild as well. But then the two diverge. The Blues 4th shot type was tip-ins, which is what we would expect given their style of play (and as mentioned above three goals were scored off of those tip-ins). The Wild's 4th shot type was snap and they scored two goals off of that shot type. I can't help but think that tip-ins are probably the poster child for lucky goals. I know it is a skill that can be practiced, but it is such a chancy way to score. Could the reliance on tip-ins be a weakness that helped defeat the Blues?
What went wrong?
First the Blues had two defensemen in the top five number of shots taken for the team during the playoffs. Second, the Wild blocked a lot of shots taken by the Blues and the shots they blocked were taken in the prime scoring areas. The Blues also missed a lot of shots they took. Hard to score goals when you can't hit the net. Finally, they relied on tip-ins as a means of goal scoring. And while they did score three goals that way, it still seems like a very low quality type of shot.
You can play around with the heat map and use the lasso tool to draw a loop around the shot locations you want to look at and filter the chart and table for the team. You can click on headers of the table, or on a player's box at the bottom to filter the dataviz by shot type, result (or by shot type AND result) or by player. I am interested in seeing what you think of the Blues' shooting and lack of goal scoring during the playoffs.