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Shot quality isn’t the Sharks’ problem

Poor finishing and bad luck are holding hands at center ice.

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at San Jose Sharks John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

The Sharks can’t buy a goal this season, it seems. San Jose sits in the bottom five of goals scored per 60 minutes at even strength despite generating scoring chances better than 25 teams in the NHL. So what gives? Are the Sharks unlucky or are they neglecting great shots in favor of shot quantity? Let’s dig in.

San Jose sits fifth in the NHL in scoring chances for per 60 minutes, which indicates bad luck sits at the heart of the Sharks’ scoring struggle. Those numbers come from, but if you aren’t convinced of that you can take a look at the following graphics from the same fine website.

Over to the right you can see the Sharks’ shots on goal from last season. The darker the spot, the more shots came from that area. You’ll notice the majority of those shots came from the right point and in the slot — you can thank Brent Burns and a bevy of great forwards for that. Does that look any different this year?

The center area is wider than last year, suggesting the Sharks are taking more shots from the center of the ice but further away from the goal than before. I wouldn’t call this a significant departure from where the shots came from last season, so I feel safe ruling out shot location from the equation here.

What about finishing? I write a lot about shooting percentage in reference to regression to the mean (meaning the NHL average shooting percentage of around 9 percent is where most teams will drift) but shooting is absolutely a skill. There’s a reason guys like Joe Pavelski consistently shoot better than players like Tommy Wingels, right?

There are a couple ways we can evaluate this beyond the eye test (which is obviously pretty tricky). Let’s compare shooting percentages (and a couple other numbers) from last year vs. this year for everyone on the Sharks. Ready? Me too! Neat!

Individual Shots

2015: 1893

2016: 281

Individual Shooting Percentage

2015: 7.893157895

2016: 4.289473684

Expected Goals/60

2015: 0.5557894737

2016: 0.5652631579

Average Shot Distance

2015: 33.29315789

2016: 31.68263158

The only number lower from last year to this year is the Sharks’ shooting percentage. They’re taking shots from closer and their expected goals have gone up but the goals just haven’t come. If there’s a reason to believe in this year’s team it’s that they’ve been fine (.500 is fine for now) despite being supremely unlucky.

If they get even average luck from here on out they should capture the division — if they go on a run where the luck turns to their favor? Look out.

Just for fun: I embedded the table of all of this year’s Sharks numbers from this season and last season sorted by expected goals per 60 minutes. All numbers are from Enjoy.