The Los Angeles Kings are averaging 31.5 shots per game, a quality rate that ranks eighth in the National Hockey League.
But in terms of individual shooting statistics – namely, the rates in which certain players are able to get shots through – Drew Doughty has shown improvements in firing the puck while avoiding blocked shots.
A, lazy, hip pocket assessment of the first half of Doughty’s 2012-13 season was that his game was off and that he wasn’t scoring; in reality, he had an unsustainably low shooting percentage last season while the percentage of his shot attempts that were blocked jumped up to 35.0% after a 2011-12 season in which only 30.6% of his shots were blocked.
“We’re trying to just reinforce with him to try and take more shots,” Darryl Sutter said. “We talked about it, too, even after we won the Cup that summer, about trying to get more shooting angles, shooting lanes, because teams naturally take them away, and they try and get in shooting lanes, so he’s had to learn to change his angle or move the puck on his stick a little bit.”
This year, the percentage of shot attempts that Doughty has had blocked is back down to 31.8%. He’ll enter tonight’s game, the team’s 49th of the season, ranked eighth amongst league defensemen with 113 shots, one behind his 2012-13 48-game total of 114. The negligible decrease can partially be traced to a higher percentage of Doughty’s shots that miss the net – 24.9% of his shots have missed the net this year, compared to 21.2% last year – but he has been attempting shots with greater regularity.
Doughty shared the methods in which he has attempted to get more shots through during Friday’s practice at Joe Louis Arena.
“Just watching video and just kind of working on it in practice,” he said. “We shoot pucks forever after practice – the D-men. We kind of just work on getting it on net, but we rarely have someone trying to block our shots, but I kind of figured out a few moves that I can do to help me get around that and it’s been working.”
He also clarified those “moves.”
“I’ve got a couple. A lot of it is just moving your feet,” Doughty said. “Sometimes it’s a fake shot, step out wide and even if it’s just a little wrist shot – get that through. Or sometimes it’s a toe-drag shot. The toe-drag shot is probably the one I use the most to get it through and it works. Rather than looking at the net, I’m pretty much just looking at their stick and their two toes. If I see a gap in between the feet – I go through. Right or left – I just go through trying to get down to the net. It doesn’t necessarily have to hit the net every time but just get it by the first guy.”
As Sutter explained, Doughty’s presence on the ice should be opening up more shot opportunities – particularly for his defensive partner, which is often Jake Muzzin.
“He’s [eighth] in the league in shots from defensemen. And, if you look at the guys ahead of him in shots, a lot of ‘em are predominant power play shots…meaning they’re taking somebody else away to give them the shot, if you look at those guys. For example, the defenseman in Washington. So they’re taking Ovechkin away and giving Carlson the shot. It’s just things like that, where here, you want Drew to be high in shots, but also, that means that his partner, when they’re taking shots away from Drew, whoever Drew’s playing with should be a three or four shot a night guy, if he’s playing with Drew and Drew’s getting him the puck. It’s not just the shot. It’s sort of the combination of creating the shot for somebody. Because if you look at it in the league, I think Drew’s at, what, [seven] goals? The highest defenseman in goals this year, with those guys that have high shots, it’s like eight or nine or 10 or 11, whatever it is. Look at it. It’s not a big gap in goals, so you’re what you’re trying to do is get more shooting opportunity, which improves your percentages. Look at Muzzin’s goal [Thursday] night – it was just a little bit of an easy goal. But you know what? The puck’s going at the net. So that was Drew’s partner [Thursday] night, and he should take that shot,” Sutter said.
Sutter, on this process being representative of Doughty’s maturity:
He’s still not even touched it all. Just because of experienced, he’s going to find where he’s got more time than he thinks on the ice as he gets older. He’s going to find that he can make – they look like high risk plays but they’re not, just because there’s a little bit more composure in it. He’s going to learn with experience how to do it by time and score. I still tell Drew, ‘You don’t have to have a goal and an assist on the same play.’ He’s trying to do it so bad that sometimes he’s trying to do it all, and it’s tough in today’s game to do that, the way teams are structured and systems-wise. You used to be able to do that, but it’s really hard now to go end-to-end and beat three or four guys. You know what? The puck’s got to beat one guy, usually, and then you’re open again. You know what? It’s got a little bit to do with the defense. You have Slava now too, and you have Muzz and Marty, and Muzz and Marty are really starting to find their way in their whole game, but those are players that are closer to Drew in terms of skill set. So if you have more of those guys, and they’re still great checkers, then it’s going to help Drew be a better player, too, because they’ve got to pay attention to everybody. It’s like we talk about this kid on St. Louis [Thursday] night. Hey, we have to talk about doing a job on 27, and 22, and 19. It’s not just one. Shattenkirk’s come a long ways. You look at his offense this year, he’s come a long ways. And Bouwmeester is Bouwmeester. He’s going to put numbers up. So you can’t just zero in on 27. That’s how you went. Our defensemen, too…because it just can’t be about Drew. It’s got to be about sort of the body of work.
Doughty, on opposing teams trying to take away his shooting opportunities:
For sure, after my second year in the league I started to become the guy that they didn’t want to let be open on the power play and other situations. So I had to learn to create more opportunities for myself. Now that I’m playing with Muzz – he’s a shooter – that creates more opportunities for me because they know we can both shoot the puck very well and they have to worry about two guys rather than one. I think that helps me out a ton. I’ve worked on getting my shot through for years now. I know what I’ve got to do, to do it now.
Doughty, on using a new stick this season:
It’s one of the older Easton sticks I used my second year in the league and maybe a little bit in my third. I went back to it. [Reporter: What is the difference in the stick?] I don’t know, it’s just comfortable with that stick. It was my favorite stick. The company kind of comes out with new stuff all the time and they want their players using it and stuff. But sometimes you have to stick with what you’re comfortable with. They let me go back to that and I just feel better all-around with it.