NHL goal scoring dominated by wrist shots, Star analysis shows
Posted by Dean Holden at May 23rd, 2013
by Kevin McGran, 23 Jan 2013
The sweet spot, for scoring in the NHL, would appear to be from 11 to 15 feet from the net. The weapon of choice: The wrist shot.
The Star analyzed every one of the 6,949 goals scored in the NHL over the 2011-2012 season (including shootout goals) from data available on the NHL’s website and analyzed by Star number cruncher Andrew Bailey.
The wrist shot proved the most deadly, accounting for 3,369 goals, 48.5 per cent of all goals. Shots from the 11-to-15 foot range accounted for 1,577 goals (22.7) per cent with the six-to-10 foot range a close second (1,426, 8.5 per cent).
Almost as many wrist shots — 842 — were scored in the 11-15 foot range as all the slapshots (892) combined from all distances.
“At around that 12 foot area, that’s where you want to shoot from,” said former Leaf great Doug Gilmour. “And shoot it quick.”
In a defence-first, shot-blocking era of the NHL, it doesn’t surprise Leaf sniper Joffrey Lupul that the quick wrist shot or the second-place snapshot (1,012 goals, 14.6 per cent) are the best ways to score nowadays.
“Each year as my career has gone on, it’s been it seems more and more the goals are scored right in front of the net,” said Lupul. “That’s the place you’ve got to be.
“The power play, you want to have a guy there. You have to have a guy there as much as possible. That’s the spot where I like going and I’ve had some success last year that’s where I’ll try to be this year.”
The king of the quick-release wrist shot is Steve Stamkos, the Rocket Richard winner last year with 60 goals. He led all scorers with 33 goals on the wrist shot, although his favourite location was from 16-20 feet out with 15. He scored 14 times inside 15 feet.
“You don’t see a lot of guys coming down the side with slapshots that are going to beat anybody anymore,” said Gilmour. “You look at a Stamkos, he’s going to set up in that slot area and whether it’s a slapshot or a snapshot — it’s going to be a quick release — that’s where they’re shooting from.”
The best Leaf snapshot belongs to Phil Kessel, who scored 14 times that way — tied for second most in the league. Kessel uses a more flexible stick and has been practising the snap shot since he was a child.
“Just in the basement, I shot a lot of pucks when I was young,” said Kessel. “That’s when it developed. I don’t have a lot of time to take a slapper.
“One-timers are the other thing I score with a lot.”
The Maple Leafs track shots on their own, not depending on the NHL’s in-house data. The Leafs try to figure out goalie weaknesses — dekes, backhanders, high, low — and shoot accordingly.
In general, though, Leafs coach Randy Carlyle encourages players to use their wrist shots over their slap shots.
“You have to get the quick release going, and the slap shot takes a lot more time to release the puck,” said Carlyle. “You’ve got to corral it, put it in your sweet area. The wrist shot has been more effective.
“What makes me laugh is the players always talk about the wrist shot being more effective, but the slap shot is the shot the player works on the most.”
The slap shot has its place, of course, in setting up the rebound when dealing with butterfly and hybrid goaltending styles.
“What the slap shot does is give more rebounds and more junk and trouble for the goaltenders to control,” said Carlyle. “The slap shot is the first shot taken on the net and the rebound comes to the five to 10 foot range, then the wrist shot is the goal that’s scored.”
As Gilmour said, the kind of goals players are scoring has evolved through the years. It’s partly a product of goaltending, and partly a product of coaching.
“It seems every year, the goaltending gets better and better and they’re looking bigger and bigger in the net,” said Lupul. “You’re not going to score many of those goals like in the ’80s where guys like (Wayne) Gretzky cut to the middle and use the long slap shot or the long wrist shot and beat the goalie. That doesn’t happen any more if there’s no screen and no traffic.”
An emphasis on shot-blocking — which became a trendy topic during the playoffs — has made snipers rely more on their wrist shot and snap shot (both quick-release shots) than slapshots and backhanders, which typically take more time to set up.
“With the way systems have changed, and shot-blocking, it seems like as soon as the other team gets in the zone, like everyone is playing goalie; those quick shots are what you need,” said Lupul. “They’re the ones you can get off fast and get around a defenceman and sometimes use as a screen.”
Gilmour, now the general manager of the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs, says he tells his junior players to think about their shot and practise scoring.
“There are certain holes on goalies,” said Gilmour. “You look at where you want to shoot, stick side, maybe a foot off the ice, and the other ones, try to go over his glove. There’s only a small window there.
“Mostly with the fluid goal scorers, that’s something they practise all the time.”
The least effective shot is the wraparound. Just 53 goals were scored in that dramatic style.
“You’re not going to score on a wraparound, typically,” said Lupul. “All the goalies put their blocker and paddle down now. You don’t have those goalies who stand straight up like they did in the 80s.
“More often than not when you’re wrapping the puck around, you’re just trying to get in the crease and allow someone else who’s in front of the net a chance.”
The wraparound stat made Gilmour laugh. He is famous in Leaf circles for a wraparound goal in the 1993 playoffs at 3:16 of the second overtime of the Norris Division final against Curtis Joseph and the St. Louis Blues.
He says now if the total of wraparounds is that low —just seven per cent of all goals — it may not be a shot worth taking. But the instinct to attempt it is too strong.
“It’s timing as well,” said Gilmour. “You have to get the goalie out of position, and have the speed and be going around. “That’s a stat (seven per cent) tells you to make sure if you’re going to try the wraparound, make sure you have another forward going to the net. That’s where you get more goals.”