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There’s been a lot of talk about Ryan Getzlaf and him increasing his shots per game this season under Dallas Eakins. At face value, he’s scored more goals than we fans would expect and is on pace for 30 goals on the year. A mark he’s only hit once (2013-2014) in his career with the Anaheim Ducks. This would naturally seem like a good thing and thus the praise has been forthcoming for the player and the coach who has gotten through to him. More is better right? Maybe. Maybe not.
At a glance, the team, as a group, are getting an average of 28.9 shots on net per game. This can be further broken down to 26.5 shots in games they win, and 30.1 shots in games they lose. It’s almost become a bit of joke that they haven’t won a game in which they’ve outshot their opponent. Although score-effect has a lot to do with that.
The 28.9 average ranks the Ducks 27th in the league for this particular metric. Most fans, whether they’re all about that old school thug life, or they bat off over “advanced statistics,” would recognize that more shots are better than less and that more shots are more likely to result in more goals. Thus, Getzlaf as an individual shooting the puck more is considered an overall boon.
The Anaheim Duck Don’t Win More with Getzlaf Increasing His Shots
At a glance, Getzlaf is shooting at the 4th highest rate of his career, which is the highest since the 2014-2015 season. To put that in perspective, he’s shooting 8.5% more across all situations. A number that can be broken down to a 15% increase at even strength. This season, he’s shooting the puck near enough to 2.5 times per game (2.47 to be precise), subdivided to 1.87 times at even strength and 0.53 on the powerplay. All this is part of the Anaheim Ducks new system of shooting the puck from wherever they can, whenever they can.
However, as mentioned above the Ducks seemingly shoot the puck far less in games they win. This too is true for Getzlaf. In games the Ducks win, Getzlaf is shooting the puck 1.16 times per game at even strength. In fact, the Ducks have only won 2 games in which Getzlaf has shot over his season average. Let that sink in.
The Anaheim Ducks have won 2 games in which Getzlaf has had 3 or more shots per game. However, the Ducks are a team that has lost a lot of games of late, so this may not surprise. What may surprise is that the Ducks score fewer goals as a group in games which Getzlaf has 3 or more shots. Specifically, when Getzlaf has 0-to-2 shot in the game, the Ducks average 3 goals. When Getzlaf has 3 or more shots on net, they score 2.15 goals per game.
All that is to say that Getzlaf shooting the puck more isn’t necessarily better, and it’s incredibly lazy to suggest that it may be the case. However, in some cases, this may actually hold true. This season Getzlaf is shooting 11.9% less on average per game, on the power-play, than his career average. This is also the 4th lowest total of his career to date. The discerning fan will recognize that the Ducks power-play is truly abysmal (10.5% conversion rate) and ranked 2nd last in the league.
Getzlaf Shooting More Has Improved the Power Play
However, while Getzlaf is merely shooting 0.53 times per game while on the power-play, the Ducks have scored power-play goals in 6 of the 13 games in which Getzlaf has registered a shot on net in this facet of the game. This is in stark comparison to the 2 goals in 17 games in which Getzlaf has not had a shot on net during the power-play.
So taken together, we can establish that Getzlaf shooting more at even strength may not necessarily be beneficial to the teams’ success, yet him shooting more on the power play might be. These two phenomena may not necessarily be mutually exclusive things. We know from a very long career, that Getzlaf is one of the best pure passing players in the game. Him looking to shoot the puck more takes away from his greatest strength and limits the abilities of other players to score. At even strength, general play is more fluid, thus threading the needle with a deft pass is likely to result in a shot on net from a dangerous position.
On the power-play, however, and particularly on the Ducks power play, the general flow of play is more stagnant. The puck moves around the outside basically waiting for a defensive lapse to occur. Getzlaf making these types of passes does not really help to get quality scoring chances. However, Getzlaf does possess a heavy shot, and it is a good shot when he uses it. This of course why people want him to shoot the puck more. At even strength, it doesn’t measure up to his ability to pass, but on a stagnant power-play his shot can create rebounds and thus dangerous follow up opportunities to score.
Taken together we can see that the Anaheim Ducks may have the right mindset, but poor application. More shots overall is a positive trend. This should be at a team level however and not necessarily the captain. He is a gifted passer of the puck, and while he is currently scoring at a high percentage, we know passing is more likely to be a reproducible skill as he ages. We can see from above that Getzlaf shooting more at even strength, correlates to others shooting less, and the Ducks, as a team, scoring less. We can also see that he’s doing less on the power-play and that this change too, is hurting the team score overall.
I admire the captain taking more upon himself in certain situations, however, it may be time for the coaching staff to step in and give him a nudge in the right direction once again. Coaches should be placing players in positions to best use their strengths and this should be no different. It may be time to push the captain to utilize all the strengths he’s shown us over the past decade and more.