The missed shots statistic has been intriguing since the NHL started tracking it in 2005-06, after the lockout. We use shots on goal and shooting percentage as indicators for which players are trying to score or having the most success scoring, but the shots on goal statistic doesn't capture the times a player rattles the puck off the post or fires just wide of the net. That's where the missed shots stat comes in. If we are going to consider who is firing pucks, we should consider just how many pucks they are really firing. (Note: The NHL isn't all the way there yet. Shots that are blocked are still not counted in missed shots, though they are tracked by the NHL. Maybe next year.)
To get a better look at some trends, I took the top 90 shooters from this season so far and slapped this season's and last season's numbers into a spreadsheet for missed shots, shots on goal and a statistic I like to call "adjusted shooting percentage." By taking the shots on goal and adding the missed shots before calculating the shooting percentage you get ASP, a more accurate number for how often the player scores when firing the puck.
The statistic I really wanted to look at was the difference in some players' adjusted shooting percentage between this year and last. The following are some of the stats that really popped:
Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings: Datsyuk ranks tied for 44th in the league with 53 shots this season and he has only 16 missed shots. But neither of those numbers is the disturbing number; Datsyuk's 2.9 adjusted shooting percentage is what we should be worried about. He had a 12.0 ASP last season and a 9.9 ASP the season prior. With only two goals this season, you might have thought Datsyuk was taking fewer shots, but he is actually on pace for the most shots on goal of his career this season. It's the number of those shots going in that is the problem. Datsyuk is missing shots at the same pace as last season as well, so accuracy isn't the problem here. Whatever the problem is, Datsyuk has been one of the most consistent fantasy producers for several seasons and we have to expect him to pull out of this funk. A 2.9 ASP cannot last for much longer. Now might be the time to look into acquiring his services.
Shane Doan, Phoenix Coyotes: You know what the difference is between Doan's adjusted shooting percentage in the 2009-10 season and through 16 games this season? Absolutely nothing. Doan managed a 6.4 ASP last season and is pacing at a 6.4 ASP this season. So why point this out? Because Doan finished as a top-40 player in the ESPN standard fantasy game last season, according to the raw-number-crunching Player Rater. Things may look grim with just one goal in Doan's past eight games, but that was simply a lull to bring him back in line with how he will finish the season. Look for 25 goals and 60 points and don't give up on Doan through some cold spells.
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers: The best adjusted shooting percentage in the league amongst the top shooters this season belongs to Giroux. With a 15.9 ASP and 11 goals, there has to be some concern that Giroux's pace will fall off at some point. But that concern shouldn't bother you too much, once you consider that Giroux finished last season with a 10.7 ASP and has aging puck wizard Jaromir Jagr passing to him this season. We may get an extended chance to see just how important Jagr is to Giroux's elevated ASP. Jagr left the first period of Thursday's game with a lower-body injury and won't travel with the club for Saturday's contest. The hole that opens up in the Flyers' top six will be filled by either Matt Read, Sean Couturier or Jakub Voracek. Watch the box score this weekend to see who gets the minutes and consider adding them if Jagr misses an extended period of time. Keep an eye on Giroux's scoring while Jagr is out, too. That will help determine what kind of impact the 39-year-old is having on Giroux's goal totals.
Loui Eriksson, Dallas Stars: The Mr. Accurate Award goes to the Stars' top sniper. Eriksson not only has the fewest missed shots per game of all the top shooters, but has the second-best adjusted shooting percentage, just behind Giroux's at 15.8 ASP. With Jamie Benn setting him up the way he has been this season, it is actually conceivable that Eriksson will stay on pace for a career year of 43 goals.
Vaclav Prospal, Columbus Blue Jackets: If Eriksson gets the Mr. Accurate Award, Prospal gets an honorable mention. Prospal is just ahead of Eriksson for misses per game this season and had the fewest misses per game of all the players in 2009-10. When Prospal shoots, it is either going in or the goaltender has to save it. Prospal is still available in 15 percent of ESPN leagues and has an 8.8 adjusted shooting percentage on 46 shots this season. He should be owned in 100 percent of leagues.
Of the nine players who show an improvement in their adjusted shooting percentage of more than 5.0 percent from last season to this season, most of them have an easy explanation. Tyler Seguin and Joe Pavelski lead the way for growth in ASP, and both players moved into their team's top six this season (remember, Pavelski finished last season on the third line with Torrey Mitchell and Kyle Wellwood). Jason Garrison was given a new offensive role. Kris Versteeg and Ryan Smyth both moved to new teams and found themselves being relied on for offense. We already discussed Giroux having a new weapon next to him on offense. Those six are easy to explain. The three remaining players with huge improvements to ASP this season are a little more difficult to explain.
Phil Kessel, Thomas Vanek and Milan Michalek are in very similar situations to last season when their ASP wasn't as impressive. You might want to pin the improvement in Kessel and Vanek on playmakers Tim Connolly and Derek Roy being on the ice this season, except Connolly has been hurt more than healthy and Roy doesn't play on a line with Vanek this year. Michalek is even more inexplicable, since all the Ottawa Senators did was take Daniel Alfredsson off his line. No, we either have to chalk up the improved ASP for these players to resurgence or hot streak. So which is it? Since Kessel and Vanek have maintained consistency (only three games each without a point), it is safer to consider them candidates for resurgence. Michalek, on the other hand, has eight games in which he has not scored a point this season and has just three points in seven November games. Michalek's ASP is likely to come back to earth, while Kessel and Vanek are likely to keep a lot of the ground they've gained on last season.
"O" (offense) and "D" (defense) matchup ratings are based upon a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup), and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team's year-to-date and past 21 days' statistics, their performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played, as well as their opponents' numbers in those categories. The Games T / H column lists the team's total number of games played as well as home games (T / H), and lists the cumulative rating from 1-10 of that week's matchups.
The Vancouver Canucks are back in their usual O:10 position this week. However, the Chicago Blackhawks are an O:6 for the second week in a row. Perhaps we were premature to tab the Hawks as an always-safe option. For now, this is fair warning they are not an O:9 or O:10 for this week and we'll see if the Canucks are the only good-to-go-unless-otherwise-noted team.
Dallas Stars: The Stars have an O:8 rating on the Forecaster and a four-game week ahead. It is an opportunity to pick up and start some of the available role players in the Stars' top six who have fluctuating overall values. Michael Ryder (available in 33 percent of ESPN leagues) has been blanked for the past three games, but had seven points in the three games prior to that. It is not clear if he will continue skating on the top line with Loui Eriksson and Jamie Benn, though, as Steve Ott (available in 36 percent of ESPN leagues) has been activated from injured reserve in time for games this weekend. Ott had eight points in 11 games before he suffered a hip injury. He will return to the top six, but you'll have to check this weekend's games to see if it is Ott or Ryder on the top line. If you have to choose only one for the coming week, pick the player skating with Benn and Eriksson. If you are desperate for some offense from the blue line, Trevor Daley is a long shot to be worth starting. But with a good offensive rating and Daley's role on the first power-play unit with Sheldon Souray, he may be worth that long shot if you're stuck.
Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks have only three games next week, but the contests against the Phoenix Coyotes, Chicago Blackhawks and Toronto Maple Leafs work out to an O:7 on the Forecaster. The only two members of the top six available anywhere are Saku Koivu (available in 96 percent of ESPN leagues) and Andrew Cogliano (available in 99 percent of ESPN leagues). Koivu might be the more interesting option given the current power-play situation. With Lubomir Visnovsky on the sidelines, the Ducks have opted to play four forwards on the man advantage with Cam Fowler. Somewhat surprisingly, it is Koivu who has been joining Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne on the power play, not Bobby Ryan. If the Ducks' power play picks up its game next week, Koivu could be worth a spot start.
Boston Bruins: The Bruins have a four-game week and an O:7 for fantasy owners to work with. The best option off the free-agent wire to bolster your offense comes from the Bruins' blue line. Quick question: Which Bruins defenseman is leading the team in power-play ice time? No, you are wrong. It's not Zdeno Chara, but Joe Corvo (available in 41 percent of ESPN leagues) who is pacing the ice time on the man advantage. Corvo has five assists in his past five games, including two on the man advantage. Whether on the ice with Dennis Seidenberg on a traditional power-play formation or as the only defenseman on a four-forward unit, Corvo appears to be the D-man of choice for the team. That means stats better than his eight points in 16 games are bound to start flowing.
Florida Panthers: The Panthers have been a hot team on offense and have a four-game week ahead, so what is the problem? The team gets only an O:2 on offense for the week ahead, which features two games against the New York teams and a home-and-home battle with the state-rival Lightning. The problem is that three of the games will be played in Miami and the Panthers have just not been as good on home ice. Kris Versteeg has 16 points on the road and four at home. Stephen Weiss has 12 points on the road and three at home. Brian Campbell and Dmitry Kulikov have combined for 20 points on the road and just 10 at home. Get the picture? Tomas Fleischmann is the lone member of the team's top offensive unit who has maintained a point-per-game pace both at home and on the road. Unless you think the Panthers are going to shrug off their home troubles next week, consider Fleischmann the only sure start.
Phoenix Coyotes: Another team with four games and a weak offensive forecast is the Phoenix Coyotes. An O:3 doesn't bode well for the Desert Dogs despite the extra game in the schedule. Given that Radim Vrbata is the only member of the Coyotes who has made a case for use in fantasy during the past two weeks, it shouldn't be too hard to weed Coyotes out of your lineup.
Montreal Canadiens: For the second week running, Carey Price and the Habs are near the top of the rankings for the best defensive week on the Forecaster. The Canadiens have an O:8 on the Forecaster and Price's hot goaltending has continued. The team gave him a couple of rests during recent play by sending out Peter Budaj, so Price could very well start all four games next week. The team's prize possession has allowed only six goals in his past four starts. The recent strong defensive game has helped make Josh Gorges (available in 68 percent of ESPN leagues) an option to plug holes in fantasy defenses. Gorges has a modest eight points, but the real value comes from the plus-9 he has managed to maintain on the top defensive pairing with P.K. Subban.
New Jersey Devils: It's time to start putting some trust back into Martin Brodeur. Since giving up five goals to the Leafs in his return from a shoulder injury, Brodeur has won three of four games with a 2.51 goals-against average and .901 save percentage. No, those numbers won't save the world but they've been good enough for the Devils to win games. The Devils face the Panthers, Columbus Blue Jackets and then the New York Islanders twice next week. If you can't trust Brodeur to handle himself next week, what are you doing with him on your fantasy team?
Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs goaltenders continue to play a game that allows one to make an argument for pulling the goalie with one minute elapsed in the game as opposed to remaining. This has been damaging to the top skaters on the team. Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul were both minus-4 during Thursday's loss to the Nashville Predators. Dion Phaneuf's last plus-rating in a game was Nov. 2 and he's been minus-8 since then. Tim Connolly rejoined the offense on Thursday, but played on the second line with Matt Frattin and Nikolai Kulemin. He was minus-1 on the night. The Leafs have an O:2 on the Forecaster, naturally, and with only an O:4 rating it might not even be worth starting the top options from the club.
One has to start thinking the bubble might be bursting on Semyon Varlamov's run as the Colorado Avalanche's unquestioned starter. Only the Columbus Blue Jackets have allowed more goals per game during the past three weeks and Varlamov has allowed 22 goals in his past five starts. Jean-Sebastien Giguere, on the other hand, has a 3-1-0 record with a 2.18 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in four starts (five games). Compare that to Varlamov's overall numbers, which have slipped to 5-8-1 with a 3.30 GAA and .890 save percentage in 14 starts.
Maybe Giggy only has solid numbers because he is being used infrequently. Or maybe he can start to pull off a few more solid performances and earn more time in goal. One thing is for sure, the Avalanche have enough scoring pop to win any game. If a goaltender can prove stalwart between the pipes for this team, they can start winning a lot of games.
That's definitely something to keep an eye on, since finding a potential starting goaltender is virtually impossible once the season begins, yet Giguere is available in 90 percent of ESPN leagues.
Best bets: Continue to ride Carey Price ($13.6M) given another favorable schedule for the Montreal Canadiens goaltender, and your offense should start with the Vancouver Canucks. Daniel Sedin ($9.9M) and Henrik Sedin ($9.8M) continue to provide excellent top-dollar value. Sheldon Souray ($6.7M) offers one of the better picks on defense given his production and his team's four-game schedule next week. The injury to Alex Goligoski only further solidifies Souray as the go-to defenseman for the Dallas Stars when they are trying to score.
Weekly bargains: It's not too late yet to get a basement price for Kris Versteeg ($7.0M) or Tyler Seguin ($7.1M). Both players' price tags are rising quickly but both remain among the best bang-for-buck options right now. The Bruins, in particular, have a solid week ahead for offense. Only Brian Campbell and Marc-Andre Bergeron have more points in the Hockey Challenge on defense than Erik Karlsson, and Karlsson remains priced well below other D-men at $6.4 million.
Rentals: Jannik Hansen costs only $5.6 million to add to your lineup and he's playing between the Sedin twins right now. He is probably one of the better rentals for this game at the moment. Anyone playing next to the twins is worth your attention and Hansen has four goals in his past five games. Sticking with the Canucks, ride him while he's hot. Aaron Rome ($5.4M) isn't supposed to score, but he has five points in five games since joining the team on Nov. 6.
My roster for next week:
Carey Price, G ($13.5M / $13.6M on market)
Marc-Andre Fleury, G ($13.1M)
Cam Fowler, D ($6.1M)
Erik Karlsson, D ($6.4M / $7.3M on market)
Sheldon Souray, D ($6.7M)
Aaron Rome, D ($5.4M)
Daniel Sedin, F ($9.0M / $9.9M on market)
Claude Giroux, F ($8.9M)
Jannik Hansen, F ($5.6M)
Phil Kessel, F ($7.7M / $8.9 on market)
Henrik Sedin, F ($8.9M / $9.8 on market)
Jamie Benn, F ($7.9M)
Sean Allen is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He is the 2008 and 2009 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hockey Writer of the Year. You can send him a note here or tweet him @seanard with the hashtag #FantasyHockey for a timelier response.