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Deflections: League Leaders

Tyler Bleszinski asked me a great question: "Does the NHL keep track of the number of deflections or who is best in the league at deflections, even if it doesn’t go in?"

In 2005-06 and 2006-07, the league recorded deflections, but only for goals and shots on goal. In 2007-08 and 2008-09, they split deflections into a second group, called "tip-ins," which go in at exactly the same rate, league-wide, as deflections. And finally, this season, they've started recording when deflections miss the net – we don't have enough games to draw any conclusions yet.

As I started poring over the data, I realized there were several other related questions we could answer at the same time. In particular: which players have the most deflections? Which players get the most rebounds? Which players have the most offensive takeaways below the face-off dots? And which players draw the most non-coincidental penalties in that same offensive area? I'll answer these questions over the course of the next few days, and hopefully we can get a sense of which forwards derive a lot of their value from their work in front of and around the net.

Here are the total number of deflections over the last four seasons, and the shooting percentage on them, at even-strength and on the power-play:

Total 12154 2331 19.2 4980 1227 24.6
Home 6589 1249 19.0 2725 683 25.1
Away 5565 1082 19.4 2255 544 24.1

As with most subjective statistics that are collected at NHL arenas, there is a significant bias for the home team. While home teams outshoot road teams by 7-8%, home teams are credited with 20% more deflections. So if we want to look at which team is the best on deflections, we're best-off looking only at road stats. The league leaders in deflections are:

Player Deflections
Tomas Holmstrom 165
Daniel Sedin 147
Thomas Vanek 132
Keith Tkachuk 120
Daymond Langkow 109
Scott Hartnell 107
Zach Parise 105
Andrew Brunette 104
Mike Knuble 99
Ryan Smyth 99

Well, if I had to guess who’d be #1, I’d probably say Holmstrom. I think a lot of us can vividly see him getting abused by an opposing defenseman in front of the net and still directing the puck on goal. Ryan Smyth and Mike Knuble aren’t surprises either. As I said above, this post got me wondering about other physical talents around the goal, and I’ll look into them in further detail in my next couple of posts.

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