Ah, good to have CNS back looking up all the stats we can't be bothered to...
Ah, the FanPost section. Home sweet home. I haven't done this in a while...
There's been just an eensy weensy teeny tiny bit of talk about how bad the Hawks defense has been this year and that the Blackhawks are giving up higher quality shots. So I decided to look into the percentages of goals given up by the Hawks from different areas of the ice this season and compare that to the percentages of other teams and to last year's team.
First off, the most important ingredient in shot quality is distance. Sv% goes up dramatically as the distance of the shot increases. The second most important factor is angle. The highest percentage of goals are scored from the center of the ice. That number decreases as the shot angle increases.
So, what are the defensive keys to limiting shot quality? Limit shots from the middle of the ice, especially the low slot.
Shot Quality via Goals Allowed
I took a random sample of 11 other teams (basically I grabbed teams that played last night and made sure to include division rivals). Note that these are goal location percentages based on the entire season YTD, not simply from a single game. Here are those percentages (all data from nhl.com):
And here's how the Hawks rank:
So in reality, of these 12 teams, the Blackhawks are 1st in limiting goals from the low slot, the most dangerous location on the ice. They are also the only team below 60%.
The Hawks are also 1st in limiting total goals from the center of the ice.
The Hawks give up the most goals, by percentage, from the least dangerous areas in their zone, the higher corners.
Therefore the idea that the Hawks give up higher quality shots compared to other teams appears to be a fallacy. In fact, based on this relatively large sample, the Hawks are actually one of the best teams (if not the best) at limiting high quality shots.
2011 vs 2012
The second assumption is that this year's defense gives up higher quality shots compared to last year's team which included the likes of all-star defensemen Nick Boynton, Jassen Cullimore, Jordan Hendry, John Scott (oh shit, he's still here?), and Nick Leddy who was pulled out of class to play in the NHL. So let's compare last season to this year:
As you can see, there is a stark improvement this year in limiting goals from the slot. I didn't compare the Hawks to other teams from last season, but based on the 12 samples above, the Hawks basically sucked at limiting prime scoring chances last year. This makes Corey Crawford's stat line in 2010-11 all the more impressive. But on the flip side, it also makes his performance this year even worse.
Sam has mentioned that Corey has a tendency to drop his glove hand this year. I haven't been paying attention to that, so I'm not sure if this is something new for him or if he also did this last year, got away with it since "the book wasn't out on him" yet, and therefore it went detected.
I don't have goal locations exclusively for Crawford, but since he started about 65% of the games last year and 75% this year, I assume the chart below has some truth to it, although it does have a lot of "noise".
There is no variance from last year to assume that Crow is giving up more goals on his glove hand side. Again there is noise, but what makes sense to me is that he was always giving up a high percentage of goals on his high glove side last year too - and that's why shooters are aiming there now. Due to his great season, we just missed it.
The only substantial difference I can see from last year to this year, is that Hawks goalies are allowing 8% more goals on their stick side. And I'm especially alarmed by the fact that 13% of all goals have gone right through the goalies. Amazing!