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One of the more debated subjects in the NHL today is shots on goal.  Does the team with the most shots on goal in a game have the best chance at winning?  Some say yes, others say no, bringing up the debate what’s better, quality or quantity?  Furthermore, are total shots on goal even that important?The chart below will answer that question, and more…

Team Shots on Goal Record Conference Rank
1) Carolina 832 7-10-8-1 11th East
2) Detroit 817 15-9-5-0 Tied 1st West
3) Anaheim 791 8-10-4-5 11th West
4) Philadelphia 786 16-3-5-1 1st East (1st league)
5) Colorado 775 14-7-3-1 4th West
6) New York R. 762 10-9-5-2 9th East
7) Boston 743 12-5-4-4 5th East
8) Vancouver 743 14-7-3-2 Tied 1st West
9) Ottawa 740 12-8-2-3 6th East
10) Atlanta 737 13-11-3-1 3rd East
11) Chicago 729 6-13-4-3 15th West
12) Edmonton 723 10-12-3-0 12th West
13) New Jersey 717 13-5-6-0 4th East
14) Buffalo 716 12-12-2-1 7th East
15) Florida 716 9-14-4-0 12th East
16) San Jose 715 8-7-9-2 8th West
17) Phoenix 713 9-10-6-1 10th West
18) Los Angeles 708 13-10-1-1 3rd West
19) Toronto 704 14-6-5-2 2nd East
20) Columbus 682 8-13-3-1 14th West
21) Montreal 677 11-11-3-1 10th East
22) Nashville 671 14-10-1-0 6th West
23) New York I. 667 9-13-2-0 13th East
24) Calgary 666 12-8-1-3 7th West
25) Washington 650 8-16-1-1 14th East
26) Dallas 641 11-12-3-0 9th West
27) Tampa Bay 632 11-6-4-1 8th East
28) Minnesota 624 9-13-4-0 13th West
29) St. Louis 599 14-6-2-1 5th West
30) Pittsburgh 562 6-13-4-1 15th East (Last in league)

Team records and shot totals as of games played through Friday, December 5, 2003.  Top 3 positions in conference are based on division leaders.

Well, as we can see, the #1 team in total shots (Carolina) is not even in the top-8 in their own conference, let alone a contending team in the entire NHL (they’re tied for 24th overall.)  As we look at the opposite side, we see Pittsburgh, who’s last in the league, as well as virtually every offensive category we can think of, but do you expect when your top forwards are Rico Fata and Ryan Malone? (I mean no disrespect to these players either…)  Second last is St. Louis, and they are currently in the playoffs, and are 8th overall in the NHL, while Detroit is leading their conference and has the second most shots in the NHL.  What can we conclude here?  Virtually nothing, this is one of the few offensive categories where the leading team can be nowhere near the playoffs, while a team 29th overall can be in a top-10 position in the league.

Something that is stressed in the modern era of the National Hockey League is defence.  Without it, you are going to have a hard time winning games.  Case in point, the New York Rangers.  For the last few seasons, they have been in the top-10 in goals scored, but can’t seem to stop the puck when push comes to shove.  They were missing one thing: quality, consistent goaltending.  It didn’t seem to matter how many shots that the Rangers were getting, they were still losing.  It appears that this is also the case for Carolina, they lead the league in shots, but a lacklustre goaltending tandem of Kevin Weekes and Jamie Storr can’t stop the puck when the going gets tough in the latter minutes of the game.  So, there is a conclusion after all…it doesn’t matter how much you shoot, quality over quantity in the long run will make your team more successful over the long run, but you still have to be able to stop the puck.  (5 of the 6 teams with the fewest shots allowed are currently in the playoffs at the moment, which is a tribute not only to a team’s defensive abilities, but also to the goaltending.)

Questions/comments?  E-mail me at [email protected].

Statistics courtesy of the National Hockey League.