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Go The Distance

I had hoped that my first post returning to the Ducks blogosphere would be an expletive-laced rant on BoC, but alas, Earl doesn't call, he doesn't write.

Unlike Sid The Kid, I don't really have a virtuoso performance to offer you (unless you count the fact that I've managed to compose a post that ISN'T about Crosby-- good luck finding one of those over the next two weeks). So, this is just a post, continuing on a very simple idea thought I brought up in a comment on Robby's last post: shot distance.

Now, I'm NOT one of the folks who believes that shot distance, as a statistic, is tied to shooting percentage. Any of a number of posts at Arctic Ice Hockey will dispel that nonsense. But, on a very basic level, I think shot distance says something about shot selection and how a player chooses to attack a defense. From that, you may be able to deduce that the defense is playing that player very well or that the player is 'settling' for shots. It's an anecdotal conclusion that I have no problem drawing from years of being told how important it is to keep forwards shooting from the outside i.e. the long distances and bad angles outside of 'the house.'

For those who watch other sports, the words "shot selection" probably evoke Basketball (which I hear continues to exist, even when professionals don't play it in America-- weird). And there is some correlation to Basketball. A player who attempts shots from great distances while adequately defended, perhaps double teamed, perhaps while being named Kobe Bryant, is making a poor shot selection. But, in Basketball, it really depends on the individual's skills and preferences as a shooter. He can still make it from there, he maybe routinely makes it from there, and it isn't easier for the rim to defend him from there.

The more apt comparison is soccer (or futbol or whatever, which I hear doesn't exist, no matter how many professionals play it in America). The idea of shot selection, at least in a sport where a goalie guards the goal, is that the goalie has some increased chance of seeing the shot, judging the shot, and defending the shot from greater distances.

Don't get me wrong, bad shots from short distances exist in hockey, much more than in soccer. But sometimes, those bad angle shots from around the goal line, or attempts to lift the puck from around the goal mouth, still trickle in for the simple fact that the goalie doesn't have the time to properly react. From farther away, even through traffic, the goalie still has time to judge the puck or make some adjustment.

So, on a very basic level, based on this very basic premise, it's important to get closer to the net, even if statistically, it's not determinative of anything.

But I think that the confidence to get closer to the net, while it may not result in goals, says plenty about the way a team is playing and the way its system is working. The question I had for Robby, as he looked at shots and shooting percentages, was 'were the players being held to shots from farther away?' Were the Ducks being defended well, or were they settling for shots to the point that they were an easy team to defend? Nope. They're shooting from about the same distances as last year. Luck. Bastard.