Thoughts on shots: one possible reason why Dan Hamhuis gets so much power play time

After a string of success, the Canucks’ power play is back to its early season struggles, with just one goal with the man advantage in the last seven games. That one goal hardly counts, as it was scored by Brad Richardson as a power play expired. The actual power play units haven’t produced a goal in their last 19 opportunities.

Unsurprisingly, Canucks fans have turned to armchair coaching, with one of the main targets being the presence of Dan Hamhuis on the first unit. Everything else about that unit makes perfect sense: the Sedins provide the playmaking, Jason Garrison has the big shot from the point, and Ryan Kesler can be a trigger man or provide a screen in front.

The only player that doesn’t seem to fit is Hamhuis, who has never put up much in the way of points on the power play in his career and is neither a quarterback nor a cannon on the blue line. Compounding matters, he’s yet another left-handed shot, with many of the Sedins creative plays coming to a screeching halt without a right-handed shot available for the one-timer at the left point.

While Hamhuis has many strengths, the power play just doesn’t seem to be one of them, but John Tortorella and Mike Sullivan seem intent on using him there. While doing some analysis on individual shot totals for the Canucks, I stumbled across an interesting statistic that may help explain why.

You see, while Dan Hamhuis does not have the most powerful shot, he is the most effective at getting his shot on net among Canucks’ defencemen.

Hamhuis has 170 shot attempts this season. Of those, 90 have been shots on goal, 30 have missed the net, and 50 have been blocked. This means that 52.9% of his shot attempts have been on goal, highest among Canucks defencemen. In Big Numbers on Monday, Harrison shared that Garrison actually led Canucks’ defencemen in this statistic, but Hamhuis was close behind and passed Garrison in the past two games.

Among Canucks defencemen who have played any significant time this season, Garrison and Hamhuis have the lowest percentage of their shots blocked. This seems like the kind of thing that John Tortorella, a connoisseur of blocked shots, might notice and care about.

We’re talking about small differences here between many of the defencemen, but they become a bit more stark when we look at just the power play.

Here’s a quick key to the follow chart: S = shots on goal, MS = missed shots, BS = blocked shots, SOG% = percentage of shot attempts that are on goal, BS% = percentage of shot attempts blocked, TS% = true shooting percentage, ie. the percentage of shot attempts that result in goals. The raw data comes from ExtraSkater.com.


All situations 5-on-4
Player S MS BS SOG% BS% TS% S MS BS SOG% BS% TS%
Jason Garrison 114 48 59 51.6% 26.7% 1.8% 61 23 17 60.4% 16.8% 3.0%
Dan Hamhuis 90 30 50 52.9% 29.4% 2.4% 13 6 8 48.1% 29.6% 0.0%
Kevin Bieksa 89 30 58 50.3% 32.8% 0.6% 10 4 13 37.0% 48.1% 3.7%
Alexander Edler 71 27 65 43.6% 39.9% 1.8% 13 6 22 31.7% 53.7% 0.0%
Christopher Tanev 42 18 27 48.3% 31.0% 4.6% 0 0 0 n/a n/a n/a
Ryan Stanton 36 14 28 46.2% 35.9% 1.3% 0 0 0 n/a n/a n/a
Yannick Weber 18 12 4 52.9% 11.8% 2.9% 3 4 0 42.9% 0.0% 0.0%
Andrew Alberts 5 2 6 38.5% 46.2% 0.0% 0 0 0 n/a n/a n/a
Frank Corrado 2 1 2 40.0% 40.0% 0.0% 0 0 0 n/a n/a n/a

 

Garrison’s numbers really stand out here. His 101 shot attempts on the power play easily leads the Canucks — just his 61 shots on goal come close to matching the second-place Kesler’s 65 shot attempts — but what is remarkable is how few have been blocked, particularly when you consider that most penalty kill units anticipate his shot from the point.

Just 17 of his 101 shot attempts on the power play — 16.8% — have been blocked and a similarly low percentage have missed the net.

What’s interesting is who is next best among defencemen: Hamhuis. Of the four defencemen on the chart who have spent significant time on the power play, Hamhuis is the only one other than Garrison who has more shots on goal than shots blocked. Edler’s numbers are particularly noticeable: 22 of his 41 shot attempts on the power play have been blocked.

Edler’s numbers hold up in all situations, as he has the lowest percentage of shot attempts that hit the net, other than Alberts and Corrado, who haven’t taken enough shots to provide much of a sample. Perhaps this is why he found himself moved off the first unit on the power play at times before his injury.

It’s possible, then, that Tortorella and Sullivan are playing things a bit too safe on the power play, going with a defencemen who won’t get his shot blocked, potentially providing short handed chances the other way. Or perhaps it’s not safety they’re concerned with; perhaps they just prize a player’s ability to get shots through traffic above other qualities.

It’s also entirely possible that I’m reading too much into this. After all, the sample size of shots gets awfully small when we restrict things to 5-on-4. Of course, that small sample size also means that the shots that are blocked stand out a bit more to observation.

If this kind of thing does play into the decision-making, it’s encouraging to see Yannick Weber matching Hamhuis with his shot on goal percentage in all situations, albeit with a limited number of shots as a sample size. On the power play, Weber has yet to have a shot blocked. Weber was billed as a power play specialist when he was signed and he has the powerful and accurate slap shot that Hamhuis lacks.

As an added bonus, Weber is a right-handed shot and could provide the weapon for one-timers that has been missed on the power play since Sami Salo signed in Tampa Bay.

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4 comments

  1. Chris the Curmudgeon
    January 2, 2014

    I think Edler got taken off the power play because he’s too hard-wired to make a drop pass at center ice.

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  2. Mashed Taterz
    January 2, 2014

    Awesomely detailed stats & breakdown. I’m glad that I can see some hard numbers to backup what I’ve always believed, and that is the fact that Bieska is actually specifically aiming for the defenders when shooting from the blueline. It wouldn’t be so bad if he had least had Garrison’s uber blast to knock them over, his shots seem to simply nestle gently into the paraphernalia of the opposition, as if looking for a safe & warm place to hide. Of course when he DOES really wind up, the area in front of the net seems to be the safest place to be.

    I’m all for Weber getting more time on the PP though. Save Hammer for the PK & 5on5, which is what he does best.

    1st time post & longtime lurker. Keep up the splendiferous work!

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    • John in Marpole
      January 3, 2014

      Yeahbut, Edler’s blocked shot percentage is worse than Bieksa’s…

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      • Mashed Taterz
        January 3, 2014

        Good point. Edler does seem to share that issue, but I still feel like his shots have an impact when they hit, plus I don’t think this is a great year to judge Edler as he has seemed to be more than a bit ‘off’, whereas this is something that (I think) has always been very noticeable with Bieska.

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