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Cullen: Shot Totals Reveal Defensive Woes, Strengths

Scott Cullen
10/26/2010 12:56:03 PM
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The nature of fantasy hockey is to focus on offense -- goals, assists, power play points, shots on goal -- but that doesn't mean that there isn't value to understanding teams' relative defensive strengths and weaknesses.

When setting a lineup, it surely pays to know which teams either present favourable or unfavourable matchups for your skaters. A look, then, at some of the teams and individuals who either allow too many shots or do a fine job limiting the number of shots against:

After all, it doesn't hurt a goaltender to have strong defense in front of him. Montreal's Carey Price, for example, has faced 22.0 shots per game in the last five games, going 4-0-1 with a 1.50 goals against average. Coincidence? Of course not.

Even though their defense was expected to be a problem area this year, the Anaheim Ducks are allowing an astonishing 40 shots on goal per game, making life difficult for goaltenders Jonas Hiller and Curtis McElhinney.

Paul Mara and Toni Lydman are team leaders at plus-2 apiece, but Lubomir Visnovsky (minus-6) and Sheldon Brookbank (minus-5) are dangerous in their own end. It's this shaky defensive unit that already makes 18-year-old Cam Fowler a vital component to the Anaheim defense corps.

Atlanta has allowed 37.6 shots against per game and the worst offenders on the Thrashers' blueline when it comes to plus-minus are Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom, each at minus-5.

Goaltender Chris Mason has been asked to carry a heavy workload, with Ondrej Pavelec suffering a concussion, but Pavelec is due to return this week and joining a lineup that has allowed 199 shots in the last five games (39.8 per game) is enough reason to be wary of how well any Thrashers goaltender might perform.

Carolina's insistence on playing Joe Corvo more than 24 minutes a night can't be helping their defensive cause and the Hurricanes have allowed 35.3 shots against per game. Fortunately, goaltender Cam Ward has been outstanding.

Phoenix, which allowed a respectable 29.6 shots against per game last year, has also surrendred 35.3 per game this year. I blame Derek Morris.

In the early going, then, these are four teams that are giving up plenty of shots, which means more opportunities for opposing players to score.

Going the other way, the Chicago Blackhawks continue to own the puck, allowing a league-low 25.1 shots against per game, making goaltenders Marty Turco and Corey Crawford more valuable than they might otherwise be considered and this is with a unit that is overtaxing Duncan Keith and playing Nick Boynton more than 20 minutes per game.

When Brian Campbell returns, the Blackhawks' puck possession should be even better.

As poorly as the New Jersey Devils have played overall, they rank second in the league with only 27.0 shots allowed per game. Henrik Tallinder and Andy Greene are both minus-6 and with Anton Volchenkov out the Devils are obviously missing a shot-blocking presence, yet if the shots against are this low in the midst of New Jersey's struggles, there might be hope for improved defensive numbers.

The Los Angeles Kings rank third in the league with only 27.6 shots against, which is good for the strong goaltending tandem of Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier.

Even without Drew Doughty, who was off to a slow start anyway, the Kings have more defensive stability with the addition of Willie Mitchell.

According to www.behindthenet.ca, here are the 20 defencemen with the worst shot differentials per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play thus far (minimum five games played):

Defencemen - Shot Differential

Bottom 20

No. Player Team SF/60 SA/60 Diff.
1. Mark Fistric Dallas 10 34.2 -24.2
2. Johnny Oduya Atlanta 21 44.4 -23.4
3. Freddy Meyer Atlanta 17.5 39.1 -21.6
4. Trevor Daley Dallas 17.2 36.4 -19.2
5. Karlis Skrastins Dallas 18.8 33 -14.2
6. Cam Barker Minnesota 18.2 31.8 -13.6
7. Greg Zanon Minnesota 24.6 37.3 -12.7
8. Marek Zidlicky Minnesota 20.9 33.2 -12.3
9. Derek Morris Phoenix 28.4 40.3 -11.9
10. Matt Niskanen Dallas 19.2 31 -11.8
11. Tyler Sloan Washington 25.7 37.4 -11.7
12. Brendan Mikkelson Calgary 21.7 33.1 -11.4
13. Tim Gleason Carolina 26.4 37.8 -11.4
14. Toni Lydman Anaheim 25.2 36.5 -11.3
15. Marc Methot Columbus 20 31 -11
16. Andrew Ference Boston 29.3 39.9 -10.6
17. Theo Peckham Edmonton 23.9 34.1 -10.2
18. Jake Muzzin Los Angeles 21.3 31.5 -10.2
19. Francis Bouillon Nashville 24.8 34.9 -10.1
20. Jim Vandermeer Edmonton 24.4 34.4 -10

And then, the best differentials thus far, according to www.behindthenet.ca (minimum five games played):

Defencemen - Shot Differential

Top 20

No. Player Team SF/60 SA/60 Diff.
1. Cory Sarich Calgary 47.9 24.4 23.5
2. Matt Carle Philadelphia 40 18.9 21.1
3. Scott Hannan Colorado 39.9 22.1 17.8
4. Chris Pronger Philadelphia 37.6 20.8 16.8
5. Andrej Meszaros Philadelphia 33.5 17.6 15.9
6. Michael Vernace Tampa Bay 43.5 27.6 15.9
7. Alex Pietrangelo St. Louis 31.8 16.5 15.3
8. Mark Giordano Calgary 37.1 22.4 14.7
9. Carlo Colaiacovo St. Louis 32.2 17.8 14.4
10. Randy Jones Tampa Bay 39.5 27.2 12.3
11. Barret Jackman St. Louis 28.6 16.8 11.8
12. Erik Johnson St. Louis 30.9 19.5 11.4
13. Jordan Leopold Buffalo 36.1 25.5 10.6
14. Mike Lundin Tampa Bay 33.6 23.7 9.9
15. Keith Yandle Phoenix 35 25.3 9.7
16. Pavel Kubina Tampa Bay 35.6 26 9.6
17. Andrej Sekera Buffalo 28.9 19.4 9.5
18. David Schlemko Phoenix 33 23.5 9.5
19. Jay Bouwmeester Calgary 33 23.6 9.4
20. Kent Huskins San Jose 33.1 23.8 9.3

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen.  For more, check out TSN Fantasy Sports on Facebook.




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