COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 10: Cory Schneider #35 of the Vancouver Canucks makes a kick save against Jeff Carter #7 of the Columbus Blue Jackets during the game at Nationwide Arena on October 10, 2011 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
It's been awhile since I've taken a look at some of the Blue Jackets' numbers. Pointing at one thing and saying, "THAT is what is wrong with the Jackets!" is pure fallacy. There are clearly plenty of culprits. However, when you look at the moves made this summer with respect to what was expected, a pretty good amount of flak needs to go onto the backs of the offense.
When this team was constructed, the prevailing wisdom was that their defense and goaltending only had to be "average," because the increase in scoring would cover it. Scott Howson put a nice set of Pirellis on the raging car fire that is Steve Mason in the form of coach Ian Clark and backup Mark Dekanich. But, the newly minted Ferrari offense would mask that, right?
First and foremost, injuries did devastate this team. Losing Jeff Carter for 10 games made the reshuffling of the lineup that much tougher. However, it isn't like everyone else is humming along.
So, today we're going to take a look at the Jackets' shooting percentage, and the worst culprits. We also might editorialize about the causes, though none of that is anything carved in stone; it's more my observations from watching this team play hockey for six weeks now.
Team Shooting Percentage
The Jackets, first and foremost, are generating shots. Plenty of shots. They are currently 10th in the league in shots per game with 31.4. They are out-shooting their opponents on a per-game average for the season, by almost three shots per game. So, how is it that they are 28th in the league with 2.17 goals per game?
Shooting percentage, since you asked.
Columbus is eighth in the league with 565 shots. Conversely, they are 27th in the league with 39 goals scored. That percentage? 6.9%
An average NHL goalie will probably save around 91% of the shots he faces. That's an AVERAGE NHL goalie. Against the Jackets, ALL goalies are stopping almost 93% of the shots they face. That's not good.
The Worst Culprits
So, who on the Jackets are the worst culprits in terms of shooting percentage? I'm leaving out defensemen, and also guys who have very small sample sizes (Jared Boll has four shots, Matt Calvert has four shots, Cody Bass is Cody Bass):
Jeff Carter - 0G, 29 shots: 0.0%
Samuel Pahlsson - 0G, 13 shots: 0.0%
R.J. Umberger - 1G, 52 shots: 1.9%
Antoine Vermette - 1G, 42 shots: 2.4%
Alexandre Giroux - 1G, 18 shots: 5.6%
Rick Nash - 4G, 63 shots: 6.3%
That is your current top line, plus another of your original top-six forwards. Pahlsson is somewhat excusable, because he's not a guy you count on to score. Giroux is, well, Giroux; he's an AHL guy. So, is it any wonder that the Jackets are struggling to score?
Why Are These Marks So Low?
Shots are an interesting measure, but scoring chances are also a big measure of how successful the offense is. As Matt continues to document, the Jackets' top gunners are routinely coming in with minuses in the scoring chance category. What this tells me is that, while they are generating a ton of shots, they generally aren't highest-quality shots.
This is where the pure conjecture comes into play. As I was telling the Bruins writers yesterday, I generally believe that part of it is systemic; the Jackets' system seems to be predicated on throwing as many shots on goal as possible, regardless of quality. The feeling seems to be that, sure they get lots of shots, but teams have figured out their tendencies and simply force most of those shots to come from the outside with no chance for a rebound/putback. They’re getting a lot of low-percentage shots on one-and-done trips.
Again, that's just an observation from watching this team play. Sure, Rick Nash had a golden chance narrowly deflected off the post by a crazed lunging Wild defender, and sure he beat Rask to the short side last night and got some iron-unkind. But, how often do the Jackets put up an offensive-zone possession where you actually feel like they're working for quality shots with good rebound potential?
To me, it often feels like they power into the zone, or dump and chase into the zone, manage to get the puck to a skater, who tries to wing a shot from wherever he may be on the ice. A lot of blocked shots, and a lot of weak, outside shots that are easily seen and stopped.
And, to me, that is the crux of the problem. The Jackets' offense doesn't seem intent on setting up good scoring chances. Those good looks come so few and far between, that they're not polished on finishing them. Whether that's a result of practice-habits-carrying-over-into-games, or a result of that's-the-system-we-actually-try-to-run, I can't say with certainty.
What I can say is: if the Jackets can't figure out how to either: a) start canning the myriad shots they get, and/or b) making those shots count by having them come from higher-percentage areas, then they're going to be hovering around two goals a game for a long, long time.
And, then it doesn't matter who your goalie is. Two goals a night is not going to win in the NHL.