Best Teams at Preventing Scoring Chances

In the NHL, shot volume and Corsi get a lot of attention, but what about scoring chances?

I’ve been curious about the relationship between all three statistics and how it affects goal scoring. In my last article, I looked at the differences between teams who got a lot of shots, but not necessarily good scoring chances. Now, I want to flip it around and see the differences between teams by looking at scoring chances against.

Ryan Suter Minnesota Wild
Ryan Suter (left) and the Minnesota Wild weren’t great at creating chances, but they excelled at the other end of the rink. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

How many teams in the NHL gave up the volume, but actually limited scoring chances? Did that translate into fewer goals against for most teams?

One of the biggest variations when looking at scoring chances against is the goaltender. Before digging in, you already know that teams with bad goaltending are going to hurt this statistic. It’s a little more black and white than looking at scoring chances for.

Scoring Chances Versus Shots

Below is a visualization plotting scoring chances compared to shots at even strength. Follow this link if you want to check out the comparison between scoring chances and shot attempts as well.

There’s some variation between the graphs, but here I’ll look at teams that are intriguing on this chart. The data is all from even-strength play, and it’s also score adjusted.

Note that the graph is reversed, so that the best teams at preventing shots and scoring chances end up near the top of the chart.

  • One team that I found intriguing was the Buffalo Sabres. The league’s last-place team was by far the worst at producing scoring chances, but they actually fare well in terms of scoring chances against. Only four teams gave up fewer scoring chances than the Sabres. On the flip side, only four teams allowed more shots than Buffalo. It makes them one of the more interesting teams on this list, but their ability to limit scoring chances is interesting.
  • What’s weird about the Washington Capitals is that they weren’t a superb team at even-strength during the regular season. They shot the puck less than any other team, even though they were better at getting scoring chances. On this graph, only six teams gave up more scoring chances than the Capitals at even-strength. This team changed their fortunes in the playoffs, but they weren’t outstanding in the 82 games prior.
Lars Eller Capitals
The Washington Capitals weren’t a great even-strength team during the regular season, but they turned things around in the playoffs. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
  • Man, the Minnesota Wild were a boring team statistically at even-strength. They ranked near the bottom in terms of scoring chances for, but end up first overall in scoring chances against. It got them into the playoffs, but it sure wasn’t pretty.
  • Based on their productivity at even-strength, the Calgary Flames certainly deserved better last season. They registered more shots than any other team, and rank sixth overall for scoring chances against. While defenceman like T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic took some blame for what went on, it’s clear that the defence did an all-around good job at even-strength.
  • Both the New York Rangers and New York Islanders absolutely bled scoring chances last season. That should make for some entertaining hockey between the two teams if that keeps up next season.

Scoring Chances Versus Goals

Let’s get down to what really matters, goals.

On the scoring chances for chart, there’s more intrigue about why teams with high scoring chances weren’t as successful last season. Some of that was attributed to luck, or to the fact that they had terrible goaltending and defence. Teams like the Islanders and the Chicago Blackhawks come to mind there.

  • Two other teams that got screwed by goaltending last year: the Carolina Hurricanes and the Sabres. The first one is no surprise. The tandem of Scott Darling and Cam Ward was garbage for Carolina. However, the Sabres’ surprisingly good defence was overshadowed by bad goaltending and a non-existent offence. If they get some goaltending from Carter Hutton or Linus Ullmark, I like them as a darkhorse playoff team.
  • On the other hand, one team that got lucky was the Anaheim Ducks. Considering that they have one of the best defences in the league, I was surprised to see them so high on this list. John Gibson was a godsend in net, and Ryan Miller was no slouch either.
John Gibson
John Gibson was one of the league’s best goalie’s for bailing his team out of trouble. (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)
  • Really curious how the Minnesota Wild might have done with a healthy Ryan Suter in the playoffs. They were overwhelmed against the Jets with Matt Dumba as their number one guy. Perhaps things would have been different with their true number one.
  • 2017-18 will not go down as one of Matt Murray’s best performances. While his mentor turned in an incredible performance in Vegas, Murray was the main reason why the Pens allowed the fifth-most goals at even-strength.
  • On the flipside, Jacob Markstrom of the Vancouver Canucks deserves a bit of love for his underrated season. Even though the Canucks gave up the third-most scoring chances, they rank outside of the bottom ten in terms of even-strength goals allowed.

Which teams stood out to you? Let us know in the comments below.