As we head into the final quarter of the NHL regular season, tension builds as playoff races intensify, and every goal seems to take on added importance. During these times, and the playoffs to follow, we often hear that the difference between winning and losing comes down to which team battles harder down close to the goal working for rebound opportunities after a shot has been stopped by an opposing goaltender.
Rebound shots* are a relatively rare commodity in the NHL, averaging roughly three per game over the course of a season. That scarcity only adds to their importance, however, because the typical rebound shot stands a greater chance of scoring than other attempts, after taking shot distance, on-ice strength and shot type into account.
So which teams are getting the job done down low, grabbing rebounds and getting off that second shot? And which ones are converting those dangerous chances into goals? Let's take a look at the following table to find out:
Perhaps what is most noteworthy here is the team down near the bottom, the defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks. Despite all that size and grit, they haven't created very many rebound opportunities.
And which players lead the league in such attempts?
Many won't be surprised to see the gritty Chris Drury at the top of this list, he's a well-known battler who has scored several key goals in playoffs past. Take a gander further down, however, and you'll see Olli Jokinen, the prized Florida center who is at the center of so many trade rumors these days. Matching our first table with the second could imply that a team like Minnesota might especially benefit by obtaining the Panthers' captain; not only is he a strong overall player, but he would shore up what might just be the weakest aspect of the Wild offense.
Another interesting entry here is Daymond Langkow of Calgary, with only 1 goal scored on 18 rebounds shots. Something tells me that this is an unlikely trend to continue, and if Langkow keeps getting those chances, the goals could start coming quickly.
So as you're watching your favorite team struggle for those all-important victories, keep an eye out for rebound opportunities; who's getting them, and who's not. If a player whiffs on a bouncing puck in front of a prone goalie, that will never show up on the stat sheet, but it is most assuredly an opportunity lost, and as we can all tell from looking at the NHL standings, there's little margin for error in the run to the Stanley Cup playoffs.
*Here defined as a shot taken within two seconds of another, from less than 30 feet from the endboards, and without any intervening events