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Defending The Crease

Back in February we looked at which NHL teams were generating those precious rebound shots, dangerous offensive opportunities wherin a player fires a close-in shot within two seconds of a previous shot on goal. When controlling for factors like shot distance, type, on-ice strength (power play, penalty kill, even strength) and other factors, rebounds still remain significantly more likely to score than other shots. As the playoffs approach, and the pressure builds on those teams battling for postseason berths, these high-percentage scoring chances become critically important.

Since we've considered the offensive side of that situation, it's time to turn our attention to the defensive end of the ice. Which teams are standing strong in front of their goaltender, sweeping away loose pucks and denying position to crease-crashers like Detroit's Tomas Holmstrom, while others roll out the red carpet and leave their goaltender hanging? When looking at this statistic I prefer to keep it at the team level, because the prevention of rebounds is truly a team effort; it starts with a goaltender who can either control a shot and keep it within his pads, or play it with his stick. Watch Robert Luongo, for example, to see a goaltender whose pads appear to be made of flypaper; pucks simply don't pop away when he makes a save. After the keeper, the job falls to his defenders, who must battle opposing forwards (without drawing a penalty) for prime real estate around the crease, and/or swat pucks out of harm's way before a would-be scorer can get to them.

So let's get right to the numbers...

While there's not much surprise in seeing Calgary and San Jose atop this list, with only 77 rebound shots allowed to date, it is interesting to see Tampa Bay come in 3rd; some would say that fewer rebounds are available against the Lightning because the first shot usually goes in, but I wouldn't crack on their goaltending like that (OK, maybe I would, given their league-low .884 Save Percentage).

At the bottom end, we see some pretty lousy defensive squads; Florida, L.A., Pittsburgh and Edmonton (the bottom four by this measure) all rank in the bottom 7 teams in the league in terms of total shots on goal against, which of course will lead to more rebound opportunities against as well. Note, however, that the Boston Bruins, despite being 9th-worst in total shots against, are actually 8th-best in terms of rebounds; they may allow plenty of shots, but when push comes to shove, they don't give up many rebounds in front of Tim Thomas. I'm sure a certain 6'9" defender has something to do with that as well.

So keep an eye on these numbers as you look ahead to your team's critical matchups down the stretch; if your squad relies on banging the crease and is heading into a game in San Jose or Calgary, the goals may be especially hard to come by.

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