Monday, July 19, 2010

Sniper Swede

Scoring goals in the NHL is a study in style and preference. Most pure scorers have a few specific ways in which they score the majority of their goals and even though those methods are well known, most defenders can’t do much to stop the inevitable red light.

This past season, Nicklas Backstrom quietly became a goal scorer, raising his goal total by 11 from his sophomore season. He joined an exclusive club of players with 30+ goals and 65+ assists in a season since the 2000-2001 season (Malkin, Crosby, Datsyuk, Jagr, Thornton) and joins Crosby as the only player on the list to put up such numbers while not leading his team in scoring.

So how did he do it? How did Nick become a 30+ goal scorer after being previously thought of as Alex Ovechkin’s set-up man? To find out, we once again go to the video replay. For Nick, we broke his goals up into the following categories:
  1. One-timer snap/ slap shot in middle
  2. Cross crease tap in
  3. Shot off an offensive rush
  4. Shot off loose puck/ turn over
  5. Rebound/stuff-in
  6. Play from behind the net/ wrap around
  7. Tip in
  8. Other shot in offensive zone
The majority of Nick’s goals were scored while floating in a position near or between the hash marks and came off a well placed one-timer snap or slap shot (10). Eight of Backstrom’s goals came off work down low, putting in rebounds or jamming home loose pucks. Another 4 goals came while on an offensive rush, including his thrilling OT winner against the Blackhawks. Nick scored 3 goals from cross-crease, back door passes, 3 goals when capitalizing on loose pucks or defensive turnovers, 2 on wrap-around type goals, 2 on tip-ins, and 1 from a spin-o-rama plain old, long range backhand.

The first thing that jumped out after reviewing Nick’s goals is the quality of his snap shot. While not in the same class as Ovechkin's missile, Nick's shot proved to be quite hard and deadly accurate enough, accounting for all but 5 of his goals on the season. His one-timer snapp shot often came while in high-traffic areas and was released with little or no wind-up. Also, his work from behind the net brought back visions of Peter Forsberg for some. It appears quite obvious that Nick has developed a few preferred ways to put the puck in the net.

Some of Nick’s increased goal scoring can be attributed to the almost 50 more shots taken than in his previous season. Nick’s shooting % also rose by over 2%, from 12.6% to 14.9% (better than every Cap but Knuble and Fleischmann). Somewhere, Backstrom not only decided to shoot more often, he learned how to score.

While Ovechkin and Semin tend to get all the attention as the Caps’ “Pure Scorers”, Nick Backstrom quietly helped the Caps lead the league in the number of 30 goal scorers. Based on his still-ascending goal scoring talent, the Caps could potentially have another 40 goal man in Nick. If he wants to be one, that is.

1 comment:

  1. Hail Hail Nicklas the Scorer! This development is especially important as teams have begun to defuse Ovechkins game (a la Hal Gill and Co.) It is essential to develop another dimension on the first line and Nicky has done it. I'm pretty sure BB will have no problem encouraging him to shoot more and he can be all the better mentor to JoSon.

    Speaking of 'that series'. Does anyone else think that Backers' dislocated shoulder in game 3(?) could have had a lot to do with how we got shut down later in the series??? To me it would seem like a prime culprit but because of the lockdown on injury discussion no one was talking about during the series.