A Closer Look at Thrashers Shot Deficit

It has become a regular a feature of most Atlanta Thrashers games--the team manages to collect points in the standings on a consistent basis despite being out-shot the majority of the time. This is a puzzling pattern since shots are a rough indicator of offensive pressure. I decided to take a closer look at the Thrashers "shot problem", and went through the box scores of all 33 games on www.NHL.com to parse out Power Play, Short Handed and Even Strength Shot patterns.

As I entered the data, one thing jumped out immediately--the Thrashers simply don't shoot as much as other teams while they are on the power play. I've attended games in about 8-9 NHL arenas, and no matter where you are, fans always yell "shoooot" when their team is on the power play. But the Atlanta Thrashers really are more reluctant to take a shot with the man advantage. In many contests, they will only take 3 Power Play shots per night while the opposition amasses a higher PP shot total.

The average Thrashers PP unit fires 5.0 shots per game while the Thrashers opposition averages 7.0 PP shots per game. But the Thrashers average is inflated because of 3 games where they piled up double digit shot totals on the PP. So, if we look at the median number rather than the mean, the Thrashers PP comes out at just 4 shots per game while the opposition stays at 7. So a portion of the Thrashers shot differential problem is that they are simply more selective in taking PP shots than other teams.

If you look at total shots, the Thrashers fire 28.4 per game and opposition launches 34.7--a deficit of -6.3 per game. Once you pull out the special team shots (both the Thrashers and their opponents average about 1.0 Short Handed Shots per game), the Even Strength shots are 23.4 for Atlanta and 27.7 for the enemy--a deficit of just -4.4. Being out shot is not a great strategy (obviously), but one third of the Thrashers average shot deficit is created by the fact that Atlanta is simply more selective in PP shooting (and yet still effective at scoring PP Goals).

One counter-intuitive trend is that the Thrashers are more likely to win when the fare badly in the shot department. In the chart below you can see that the Thrashers are getting smoked in the area of shots in their games won in regulation 60 minutes. However, in games they are losing they keep the gap smaller. One possible explanation of this is new research shows that a trailing team is significantly more likely to generate shots than a team that has a lead.

Game Outcome Shots For Average Shots Against Average Shot Differential
Regulation Wins 25.9 36.8 -10.9
Regulation Ties 31.5 36.8 -5.3
Regulation Losses 28.9 31.0 -2.1
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