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Penguins Team Defense: Shot Distance Edition

A look at both Marc-Andre Fleury and the Penguins' team defense over the last five years by analyzing shot distance.

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this week, I took a stab at evaluating the Penguins' team defense by comparing how many scoring chances they gave up to the rest of the league. Today, I'm going to look at defensive performance--and what that again means for Marc-Andre Fleury--by measuring shot distances. The data is limited to even strength shots against over the last five years (courtesy of Super Shot Search). The usual caveats with location data apply.

The table below contains the breakdown of how many shots against the Penguins gave up from different ranges (0-10 feet, etc.).

Total EV Shots Against 0-10 feet 10-20 feet 20-30 feet 30+ feet
PIT 13-14 1899 133 383 282 1101
PIT 12-13 1167 79 246 147 695
PIT 11-12 1873 151 453 281 988
PIT 10-11 1905 133 459 283 1030
PIT 09-10 1823 109 439 307 968
Totals 8667 605 1980 1300 4782

With those numbers established, I broke down the proportion of total even strength shots against for each range over the last five years.

% of shots 0-10 feet % of shots 10-20 feet % of shots 20-30 feet % of shots 30+ feet
PIT 09-14 6.98% 22.86% 14.99% 55.17%

Those numbers don't mean a lot without a reference point. In the Adjusted Save Percentage article I mentioned in my last piece, there is a table with the league average for each range based on the 2013-14 season. Though it isn't five years of data, it likely didn't change much from year to year. So we can compare our five-year Penguins numbers to those averages in the chart below.

PIT 2009-14 League Average 2013-14 Difference
0-10 feet 6.98% 7.4% +0.42
10-20 feet 22.86% 20.3% -2.56
20-30 feet 14.99% 14.90% +0.09
30+ feet 55.17% 57.4% -2.23

Overall, the Penguins did a better job than league average at limiting shots from 0-10 feet, but were worse in terms of allowing shots from 10-20 feet. The difference in 10-20 feet shots isn't large, though, and it illustrates that the Penguins were never as defensively incompetent as some thought.

We can also look at how these numbers changed over the years to see when the Penguins got better at limiting quality chances against. Below are a series of line graphs for each shot range that show, year-by-year, how many shots in each category the Penguins gave up. I'd like to report them all as raw numbers, but since the 12-13 season was shortened by a lockout, I've presented them on a per-game basis.





There's a trend above. After the 2011-12 season, the Penguins did a better job of preventing shots from 0-30 feet, and started forcing more shots from 30+ feet out that are inherently less dangerous. Again, I'm not sure what (if anything) changed for the Penguins system-wise following the loss to the Flyers in the 2012 playoffs. But to the extent they did something to become better at limiting quality shots, they achieved that.

Since the Penguins got better at defense in the last two years, we should look at Fleury's save percentage to see if he saw a similar bump.

Even Strength Sv%
2009-10 .908
2010-11 .925
2011-12 .915
2012-13 .927
2013-14 .917

No bump. Fleury's numbers in the shortened 2012-13 season are not much different from the 2010-11 season, despite the Penguins giving up fewer quality chances in 2013. And Fleury's numbers for this past season were bad despite an overall improvement in team defense.

This jives with the other data we have for Marc-Andre Fleury and Pittsburgh's team defense. It highlights (again) that it is not the system in front holding Fleury back from reaching his potential. Hopefully the front office is aware of this as they begin talks to extend Fleury.