January 30, 2011

"Shoot from Anywhere" Still Works

Recently, The Hockey News blogger Justin Bourne wrote an article dispelling the “shoot from anywhere” strategy preached by so many coaches, either from the bench, or the couch. Bourne wrote it off as an outdated philosophy, and went so far as to say that the “shots on goal” statistic is no longer a valid way to judge which team was dominant in  game. He makes the point that goalies let in fewer weak goals then they used to in the eighties etc. While that may be true, taking lots of shots is still crucial to any team’s success.

Although today's butterfly goaltenders may not concede as many goals from outside shots, taking those shots can still benefit the offense. Long range attempts still create deflections, rebounds, and yes, even the odd goal. It may not seem worth it to some, but a chance at a fluke goal is better than ragging the puck until it eventually gets stolen. Just one good bounce could shift the momentum drastically, which in hockey is paramount.

If you want a real world example, look no further than the Detroit Red Wings. Justin Bourne argues that in a modern league, peppering the net does not work. One of the Red Wings’ trademarks, however, has been to do exactly that, and they have been one of hockey’s most successful franchises, both before and after the lockout. Detroit has been to the Stanley Cup Finals twice since 2005, and have been champions once. Try telling them “shoot from anywhere” is obsolete.

 You can even take a look at the daily box scores for further evidence. If a team, like the Chicago Blackhawks, for example, blows out another team, like the Edmonton Oilers, the obvious example, the Hawks probably out-shot Edmonton badly. Very rarely do you see a team score six or seven goals with less than thirty shots. To control a game, you must control the shot count.

Of course, as with any rule, there are exceptions. "Cross blue line, shoot, repeat" will only succeed in turning the puck over. But if you have a decent shot opportunity, and no quality passing lanes available, letting fly is a better option than holding on to the puck, or continuing to pointlessly cycle it around the side boards. Just like many other aspects of hockey, it may not be modern, it may not be pretty, but it works.

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