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Thrashers Gift of Accuracy

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On the 12th Day of Christmas my true love game to me...the gift of accuracy.

Last season Tyler Dellow wrote a piece on his Oilers blog in which he demonstrated that teams with a high shooting percentage at Even Strength tended to regress to the NHL average after a hot quarter. In other words, at the team level you can't count on having a higher shot % over time--it just doesn't hold up.

Now the Thrashers are an interesting case because if you look at total shots, the team has been badly out shot for almost all of the calendar year 2009. Stastaically speaking, if most of that positive goal differential is because of hot ES Shooting, fans should beware of a potential slide in the coming weeks.

Today, let's break the Thrashers shooting into ES, PP and SH situations. First up we have the ES Shoot situations. Many hockey analysts focus on things like net shots and Corsi numbers because they believe that Even Strength Goal Differential wins hockey games and they also believe that ES Goal Differential is driven by ES Shot Differential. If ES Shot % tends to regress to the mean, the only way to build a long run advantage in ES Goals is to build an advantage in ES Shots.

But this is not how the Thrashers have been winning in 2009. They have been out-shot by 135 shots thus far and if regression to the mean holds in this situation they are unlikely to complete the season with a positive ES Goal Differential (all stats compiled before Thrashers loss to the Bruins).

ES Shots ES GF ES ST%
Thrashers 804 80 10.0%
Opposition 939 79 8.4%

 

The key for Atlanta has been the ability to finish in special teams situations. As I mentioned recently the Thrashers are much more selective in terms of firing shots on the power play than the opposition. And when the Thrashers do shoot, they tend to score at a significantly higher rate than the bad guys do.

 

PP Shots PPG PP ST%
Thrashers 175 30 17.1%
Opposition 237 25 10.5%

 

The Thrashers have an even bigger advantage in SH shooting percentage. The Thrashers are scoring on 1 out of every 6 SH shots while the opposition is only scoring on 1 out of every 20 SH shots.

 

SH Shots SHG SH ST%
Thrashers 33 6 18.2%
Opposition 34 2 5.9%

 

What I find most fascinating about this topic is that the Thrashers appear to be beating the odds over a long run of games. If regression to the mean is powerful, we should see its effects. But the Thrashers have put together a long stretch of better-than-average Shooting Percentage in both Even Strength or Special Team situations. Can the Thrashers continue to levitate and beat regression towards the mean at Even Strength?

Now I've heard Coach Anderson say that they are constantly working for high percentage shots. The roster is also very European heavy at the skill positions and traditional Europeans players are more inclined to wait for a better shot opportunity than North American players on average. Can this hold up over time? Are the Thrashers simply more selective than the typical NHL team? These are questions to consider in the 2nd half of the season.