Defenseman Johnny Boychuk slid across the ice to break up a two-on-one rush by the Penguins on Thursday night at Barclays Center. Later, when coach Barry Trotz and his staff analyzed the Islanders’ 3-2 shootout win, that was counted as a scoring chance against them even though no shot was taken.
As far as Trotz is concerned, the shots on goal statistic might be the NHL’s dodo bird. He has a Stanley Cup with the Capitals last season to confirm that a team’s success is determined by the quality of its scoring chances — specifically “high-danger chances” — and not the quantity of shots.
His Capitals ranked last in the NHL last season with an average of 29.0 shots on goal per game, but they were ninth in the league with 256 goals scored and had a plus-20 goal differential. Trotz’s Islanders went through their first 12 games 30th in the NHL with 25.7 shots per game and allowed at least 38 shots five times. They went 3-1-1 in those five games.
Trotz agreed that, analytically, the NHL is swinging toward seeing things his way.
“I think what analytics has done is it makes you look at things differently,” he said. “Is it right or wrong? It depends on the personnel sometimes. It depends on your philosophy. When somebody says this has to be the way it is, well, that might not work for every group. The team I had in Washington might be different than this team, or the team I had in Nashville four, five years ago might be different than the team I had in Nashville year one.”
Pressed to define a “high-danger” chance, Trotz said it’s not cut-and-dried.
“High danger to me is anything that has traffic and it has unpredictability to it,” he said. “If you have a screen and a guy hitting the back post and there’s deception on the play, but there’s so many factors, I can’t give you a black-and-white answer.”
Trotz has defined to his players, though, exactly when he wants them to shoot and when he doesn’t. That comes from explaining the analytics to them.
“They have to understand it,” he said. “I laugh at times when there’s a power play and the shots aren’t there or the look is not there and people are yelling ‘Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!’ The value of the shot is not high enough that you want to take it. When people go ‘Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!’ well, why? Because you want to give them the puck back?
“The game keeps evolving and you look at things differently.”
The Islanders wore their new blue alternate jerseys for the first time Thursday and will wear them at two other home games this month, on Nov. 13 against the Canucks and Nov. 24 against the Hurricanes.
The uniforms, similar to the Stadium Series alternates from 2014, feature an “NY’’ logo with four orange stripes on the stick blade of the “Y” to represent the organization’s four Stanley Cups, orange and white striping on the arms and the bottom trim, orange numbers and white on the shoulders.
"If it wasn’t this one, it’d be the Yankee Stadium one,” left wing Matt Martin said when asked to name his favorite Islanders alternate jersey design. “Also, I’m a fan of the fisherman. I think the teal is cool. I have a bit of a soft spot for it.”
Speaking of those controversial fisherman uniforms, both Islanders goalies have incorporated the grizzled fisherman into the design of their new masks.
Thomas Greiss’ mask features the fisherman prominently on the left side and has “Islanders” written in that old jersey’s font. Robin Lehner took delivery on his new mask this past week. It features a subtler fisherman layered into the design just over his birdcage. His mask also features the wavy trim from the fisherman uniform below his birdcage.
“It came out really nice,” he said. “We just put a little old-school on it. I always have kind of the same design with a matte, scratchy look to it. I put the old fisherman on it and it turned out well.”