Shot blocking is something that is always fawned upon by media members as a vital skill to have if you want to go far. The recent playoff series between the Rangers and Capitals has magnified this point since both teams have limited the opposition's scoring chances by crowding up the areas in front of the net and not allowing any shots to get through. No one will doubt the importance of shot blocking, especially for teams who aren't good at controlling possession. It provides a way for a team to possibly make up for not having forwards capable of driving the play at a high rate and make things easier on their goaltenders. However, teams who block a lot of shots do have their issues.
Teams that end up blocking a lot of shots usually means that they are spending most of their time in their own zone, which isn't a good thing. If you were to look at the top shot blocking team's in the league, you'll probably notice that most of them aren't exactly good at driving possession. Another thing you will notice is that seven of the top ten teams in the NHL missed the playoffs, as well. It shows that while shot blocking is very important, it should be the only thing that is relied on to win games.
With that in mind, shot blocking is often used to judge how good a player is defensively but there are a lot of times when a team's leading shot blocker just ends up being on ice for a lot of shots against and is forced to get in the way of a lot of them. A better way to find out who is the best at shot blocking is to see how many shot attempts a player was on ice for and see what percentage of them he blocked. Thanks to Derek Zona and George Ays, we can do that. Although, there aren't many surprises with Carolina's players.
More after the jump
What we are going to do is look at the sum of goals, shots on goal, missed and blocked shots that a player was on ice for and look at a player's even strength blocked shots. This will give us an idea of which players are doing a better job at preventing shots against and which ones are just on ice for a lot of shots and are forced to block a lot out of necessity. Let's see how the Canes defensemen look through after applying this method.
Remember how I said that there wouldn't be a lot of surprises? Well, it shouldn't surprise anyone that Bryan Allen is Carolina's best shot blocker. He was also one of their better players at preventing shots against, too. What might surprise people is that Allen isn't only Carolina's best shot blocker, he is one of the best in the league. If you refer to the NHL Numbers link I posted in the introduction, you will see that Allen ranks as one of the league's best defensemen in ESBS% (even strength blocked shot percentage) and he is also fourth in the NHL in blocked shots. He was rock solid last year...just don't let his agent find out.
One surprise on here might be Jaroslav Spacek being at #2 because he didn't have many even strength blocks, but that was because he wasn't on ice for many shots against and when he was, he got in the way of a good chunk of him. It is easy to forget that he was used in a shutdown role with the Canadiens a couple years ago. The other surprise might be Tim Gleason not blocking as many shots at even strength as one would expect. He has 112 blocks on the year, but it appears that a good chunk of those might be coming on the PK. He also isn't blocking as many compared to the amount he is on ice for.
Jay Harrison had a career year and the fact that he was one of the team's better shot blocker is a nice bonus for him. However, his partner, Justin Faulk, was not very good in this category but he also didn't allow as many shots against so it isn't that big of a deal. Faulk isn't expected to block as many shots because of the more offensive role he is normally used in, though.
As for the forwards? Against, the #1 spot shouldn't surprise many people.
Brandon Sutter and Patrick Dwyer come out on top here and Sutter also has one of the spots on the league leader board in Derek's article. It is hard to believe how good he is defensively at such a young age. I have always considered him and Dwyer the team's best defensive forwards and this does nothing to change my opinion. If Sutter could get some more recognition then maybe we can start talking Selke for him. Kidding....sort of.
I have mentioned that Tim Brent was giving up a lot of shots in his own end and struggling to create many shots and scoring chances on his own, but this shows that he was slightly better defensively than I gave him credit for. Tlusty is another guy that is on ice for a lot of shots against but doing a good job of at least getting in the way of a portion of them.
It also isn't shocking to see some of the more offensive players towards the bottom of the list, namely Jeff Skinner, Tuomo Ruutu and Eric Staal. One surprise is Chad LaRose, who was the worst regular forward on the team at blocking shots and was on ice for a fairly high amount of the opposition's shot attempts, too. I wouldn't pay attention to the numbers from the call-ups because they didn't play in that many games.
This is something to remember the next time you think about shot blocking or are thinking about signing a player for this particular skill. It's a vital skill to have, but a player must be well-versed in other areas, too. Like being able to prevent shot attempts.
Stick tap to Behind The Net for the data.