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The Price of Schwartz’s Blocked Shot

It isn’t worth it.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Schwartz blocked a shot at the blue line during the December 9th game in Detroit and left the game with an injured ankle. The next day he was placed on the injured reserved to be re-evaluated in 6 weeks. Cristiano Simonetta‏ captured a gif of the incident and shared it via Twitter.

This was an expensive blocked shot, and an unnecessary play by Schwartz. I realize that it is human nature to want to block that shot. I imagine he did it instinctively. However, blocked shots have not shown to be an indicator of stopping goals or scoring goals. Yet, players are frequently injured while blocking shots. So what is the point of shot blocking if nothing regularly good results from it, while there is a strong likelihood of a negative consequence in the form of an injury?

The two charts below is data from Natural Stat Trick and it is all forwards from 2015-2016 to current season who have played at least ten games and played at least 100 minutes. I calculated on ice blocked shots by subtracting a player’s fenwick against from corsi against and then calculated the per 60 of that stat. As you can see, there is no correlation in the rate of blocked shots and the rate of goals scored for or goals scored against for when a player is on the ice. In other words, if the ultimate purpose in hockey is to score more goals than your opponent, purposefully making an effort to block shots does not help you win games.

data sourced from Natural Stat Trick
Robb Tufts

That being said, I realize there are moments in games when a player should block a shot. I’m sure we can come up with several different scenarios in which a coach would want a player to block a shot. Schwartz’s blocked shot, in my opinion, is not one of those scenarios. The shot occurred out at the blue line with Allen have a clear view of the shot. Schwartz was also not in a position to take advantage of a loose puck. He was out numbered at the blue line 2-1. And as you can see, even if Schwartz had not gone down, the Red Wings maintained possession of the puck after block. The only thing the block accomplished was forcing the Red Wings into an offsides situation where their players had to clear the zone. One could argue forcing an offsides situation against their opponent is of value. But was it worth the Blues losing one their best skaters of the season to date?

Schwartz has played 30 games, scored 8 goals, and earns .83 points per game. Amongst all forwards this season who have played at least 24 games and play at least 11 minutes per game (comparable to Schwartz’s games played and time on ice per game), Schwartz ranks first in points per game.

Granted, Schwartz also has the luxury of playing with Tarasenko and Schenn — over 200 minutes so far this season. The goals for percentage for this line is 81%, they have a 59% corsi for, and they draw 25% more penalties than they take.

Taking a look at the data viz below, I have highlighted Schwartz. He shows up as a blue line across the 6 charts. You can choose how you want to view the chart by choosing a stat to sort by. In terms of on ice numbers Schwartz is above average in terms of goals for per 60 and shots for per 60. When Schwartz is on the ice he and his teammates (likely Tarasenko and Schenn) generate a lot of shots and a lot of goals.

Individually, Schwartz is a different story. He is scoring goals at an above average rate while shooting below average. This is not sustainable long term. And if I were to show you the share of shots that Schwartz is responsible for when on ice, you would see that he is below average in that metric as well (I chose to edit out that stat in order to make the dataviz more readable).

You do not need fancystats and data viz to tell you that the Tarasenko - Schenn - Schwartz line has been magical for the Blues so far this season. Together, that line generates shots that convert into goals, almost on demand. However, individually, Schwartz has been more of a passenger than a driver on that specific line in terms of goal scoring. Will he be missed? Definitely. Was that blocked shot worth sacrificing one third of the Blues top scoring line? Absolutely not.