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Photo Credit: © Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Paul Maurice On Shot Blocking And How The Jets Want To Approach It

After their game against the Arizona Coyotes, Jets head coach Paul Maurice tersely mentioned that the team only had four blocked shots in the game which led meany to believe that he was unhappy with what seemed to be in his opinion a low number. The comments raised a few eyebrows as there has been debate over the last few years on just how valuable blocking shots is for a team compared to how many injuries seem to stem from the practice.

The last thing the Jets need after all is more injuries to an already thin defense.

But when given the chance to expand on that thought the following day after a Jets practice, Maurice was able to articulate a little better that he felt his team isn’t necessarily meant to be blocking shots and could defend the upper part of their zone in a different way.

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There are actually a few interesting tidbits to come from this minute long clip…

Blocking: Something “older” teams do that is more of a learned skill

Maurice didn’t seem quite sure of the exact numbers but this seemed like an interesting take worth looking into for a moment so I looked at the average age by team for this season provided by James Mirtle over at The Athletic, and took a quick look at the as-of-this-moment team leaders in shots blocked by player to see if there was any coloration between the two. (By the way, these are numbers before Thursday night’s games took place)

Top five teams that lead the NHL by shots blocked by player – vs – Their average age and league rank

Washington Capitals (115 blocks) – 27.9 (10th)
Carolina Hurricanes (114 blocks) – 25.8 (28th)
Edmonton Oilers (111 blocks) – 27.1 (18th)
New York Islanders (108 blocks) – 28.6 (3rd)
Calgary Flames (105 blocks) – 27.0 (19th)

It’s early in the season, but that doesn’t seem to quite check out on the surface, but it’s important to keep in mind though this is a broad generalization using very basic overall team stats on what would be a small sample size of six to eight games depending on the team. All five of these teams feature a mix of veteran and younger players – especially on defense. Also there is a question on if they are effectively blocking shots that pose a greater scoring threat – say a block of a shot made in the slot area – as opposed to a shot taken from the blue line that might now be as much of a threat. So is their a direct relationship as Maurice suggests? That could be truly figured out without a much deeper dive into the numbers that is beyond my pay grade, but looking at the surface, it doesn’t seem like it.

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For what it’s worth, St. Louis (average age 27.9) is eighth in the league in blocked shots (101) and the Winnipeg Jets at the moment sit 13th (92).

Pressuring the points before there is time to wind up for a shot

“We got trapped in the middle and didn’t do either”

We actually saw this in play last night against the Islanders when they scored their power play goal, both the “going out to challenge” part and the “trapped in the middle not doing either” part as well.

Jack Roslovic does well to put pressure on Josh Bailey at the point as Maurice stated, but Bailey gets the puck back down low to Devon Toews who was covered by Neal Pionk but then left alone as Pionk went to cover the far side. Toews then gets the pick to Mathew Barzal on a cross ice pass who has an open net to shoot at.

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Roslovic did pressure the point, but Josh Morrissey gets caught in a bit of no-mans land and Mark Scheifele might be the biggest guilty party in this entire play as he’s not defending anything and should be out towards the blue line a little more to try and prevent that cross-ice pass as well as put pressure on a potential point shot.

Same thing happened against Arizona where one man was at the points to pressure and force the puck down low, but it doesn’t do any good if the other three aren’t active and indecisive as to where they should go or who they should cover.

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In theory Maurice’s idea should work, but especially on the penalty kill it can’t be just left at having one guy high to prevent shots from the point while the other three stand around hoping for the puck to come to their stick. For the team to truly not have to worry about blocking shots, being more aggressive with active sticks would go a long way to improving the penalty kill and team defense all around.