Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

NHL Playoff Daily: Maybe the shot counter is lying to us

In the opening game of the second round the Carolina Hurricanes outshot the New York Rangers 25-23. 

Carolina had a 51-39 edge in shot attempts at even strength and a 20-12 edge in scoring chances according to Natural Stat Trick

The Hurricanes lost 4-3. 

Last night, in Florida, the Panthers had a 39-29 edge in shots, a 65-46 edge in shot attempts at even strength, and a 29-21 edge in scoring chances. 

The Boston Bruins won that game 5-1. 

This reminds me of a conversation I had last Friday on the PDOCast with fellow EP Rinkside contributor Dimitri Filipovic. 

Maybe, just maybe, the shot counter is lying to us. 

I used to be a big believer that NHL broadcasts should have shot counts in the scorebug. I believed that it was a way to give a viewer an idea of how the game is actually going, especially those flipping channels over from another game. 

For example, if a game is 0-0, but the shots are 14-14 or something like that, then the shot counter at least gives proper context on whether the score is reflective of the play on the ice. 

But this postseason, and Dimitri and I had a lengthy discussion about this on his show, has shown that shot counts aren’t the greatest barometer for instant analysis. In fact, the shot counter might be blinding us when trying to answer the question of which team actually quote unquote, “deserved” to win. 

Let’s look at the first two games from Round 2. 

When it came to shot attempts and volume, the Hurricanes stuffed the stat sheet more than the Rangers. But the high-danger chances favored New York by a 6-3 margin at even strength. 

In the Bruins 5-1 win last night, they got out chanced and attempted by a bunch, but the high-danger chances were close to even with Boston having a 12-11 edge in that category at even strength. 

So while the shot counter would tell us Boston may have stolen one, in reality this game was closer to a toss up when you look at the actual execution. 

Of the eight first-round series, the team that had more high-danger chances at even strength advanced in seven of the eight series. 

Because hockey is weird, the only team that didn’t advance with more high-danger chance opponents at even strength was the Washington Capitals, who got swept out by the Rangers despite having a 31-22 edge in high-danger chances at even strength in four games. 

This data all lines up with what we hear from coaches now. Some are more open than others, but one of the things I frequently ask coaches is what data or analytics they care about most. Most coaches will list scoring chances, and based on my experience, the typical coaching definition of scoring chances is closer to our publicly described high-danger chances. 

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NHL Boston Bruins Carolina Hurricanes Florida Panthers New York Rangers
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