I've written about Ottawa's weird shot blocking disparities
in the last few months. Paul MacLean's team really was an odd one -- they, again, posted great possession numbers. But those great possession numbers didn't really translate the way they did in years past. People point to a number of reasons why (colossal defensive zone miscues is a great one), but I think the key is figuring out whether those things are fixable, or whether they are systemically screwy.
I say that because Ottawa really had an odd statistical season in 2013-2014. Great Corsi% only put them five points back of the final playoff spot -- a massive underperformance for where expectations were, but all in all not really a bad
season. One of the things we've talked about is how possession and territorial control didn't translate as well to the bottom line of things. And, if you click through the above link, you'll sort of see why. The team may have controlled 52.4% of the play, but only won 49.9% of the shot-on-goal share. That kind of drop is from 'very good, bordering on excellent' to 'as average as it can get'.
People have suggested to me since then that a lot of this has to do with Ottawa running a number of high-possession, low-accuracy shooters in the lineup. I think there are a few people who obviously satisfy the criteria there (Erik Condra, of course), but I was highly suspicious that was what was triggering the Corsi% and Shot% disparity.
Further, I've noticed that this was sort of a thing last year, too. Ottawa ran 53.6% Corsi% in 2012-2013 and 52.2% Shot% in 2012-2013. Easy to see why that amounted to a playoff berth and run, but there's still a disparity there.
If you combine the two seasons of data, I think it (a) dispels the above argument (i.e. low-percentage shooting); and (b) identifies shot-blocking, again, as the problem here.
You'll notice that, as a team, Ottawa got roughly an average percentage of shot attempts on goal compared to the rest of the league. You'll notice this was not the case when the argument is reversed -- when teams shot against Ottawa, a large portion of those found an Ottawa goaltender. It goes without saying that a small percentage of those
shots became goals. Additionally, look at the disparity Ottawa alone holds. The widest gap in the league, with only New Jersey -- surprise! the other possession enigma -- really challenging.
All this to say, again: Ottawa really shouldn't strive to be a shot-blocking team. They play up-tempo, with pace and speed and control. That's their wheelhouse. There obviously needs to be a better performance in the defensive zone, but that doesn't mean bunkering five guys in shooting lanes and wearing pucks like madmen, either.
Paul MacLean's a smart guy and paid a lot more money than I am because he can figure out the system weirdness going on here. But, I think it's something that needs to be figured out.