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Beauts shot rates demonstrate shift in philosophy

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Buffalo shoots their shot nearly 25 percent more this season

Savannah Harmon waits to shoot at Beauts training camp
Erik Wollschlager

It’s only been a week since the Buffalo Beauts had announced a coaching change, replacing the league’s only original bench boss. One of the ideals that was referenced frequently as general manager Nik Fattey addressed the media was a shift toward contemporary strategies. Whether you’re Li’l John or a contemporary hockey coach, your focus is mainly on one thing: Shots shots shotshotshotshots shots shots...well...you get the picture.

All kidding aside, shot rates are a key factor in victory over time. Sure, the team with fewer shots will win a game here or there, but probabilities certainly lie with the team with more shots. It’s purely logic - if you’re taking a shot, you’ve got possession of the puck. Probably in the offensive zone. And there is somewhere around a 12 percent chance you’ll get a goal.

It has been interesting to study shot generation over time for the Beauts. The team put together an 11-game winning streak to close out the 2017-18 season and playoff run, eventually losing in the championship game. During that time, the team reversed its fate by generating an average of four more shots per game; where the club neared a minus-6 in shot differential as it faltered in the earlygoing, the average dropped to minus-1.6. It was a huge and important improvement the Beats made, as seen in last year’s comparison.

That improvement has continued this season. Only twice has Buffalo been held to fewer than 35 shots, splitting those two games with one win and one loss. Even in close losses to the Minnesota Whitecaps, Buffalo laid almost 40 shots on Amanda Leveille’s doorstep.

The team is averaging 32.0 shots per game this season, which leads the league, and are a plus-71 in overall shot differential (7.1 shots per game). The next closest team is Boston with 30.9. The worst team is Connecticut with 18.9 shots per game.

Perhaps more importantly, all of the skaters on the ice are generating shots. At this time last season, the top three shooting defenders were Sarah Edney, Lisa Chesson, and Sarah Casorso, as shown below. Edney led the blueliners with 1.83 shots per game.

This season, rookie Savannah Harmon leads the backenders with 2.42 shots per game. Blake Bolden contributes 2.14, and Chesson adds 1.57, which is better than last season’s rate. Harmon is second in the league among defenders in shots per game, with Minnesota’s Amanda Boulier offering 2.5 a game.

In his press conference last week following the coaching change, general manager and assistant coach Nik Fattey said that the team was better than their 3-3 (now 4-3) record, and it’s true - given this statistic alone, the Beauts should have a better record. Digging a bit deeper, goaltender Shannon Szabados leads the league in save percentage with .960. In the three losses, Buffalo’s goals against has been 1.66 - less than its season GAA of 1.71. Just a slight uptick in shooting percentage could have made a difference in these matchups. If new head coach Cody McCormick can help the team hone their shooting percentages, and Szabados can continue to be a veritable wall, the Beauts will be unstoppable in the season’s second half.