Taking a look at the Top 10 Shot Blockers in fantasy hockey
The average slap-shot speed in the NHL is approximately 140 km/h and the average wrist-shot is roughly 90 km/h. The hardest slap-shot ever recorded was by Zdeno Chara in 2012 at a blistering 175.1 km/h.
So why on earth would anyone want to place themselves in a shooting lane knowing this information? It’s quite simple really, that’s what some NHL players get paid to do. It could be the difference between winning and losing, gaining more ice-time or being benched, breaking an ankle, rupturing a testicle or breathing a sigh of relief that it landed squarely on the shin pads. Whatever the reason, blocking a shot is an integral part of hockey and there are some players who excel at it.
The list below differs slightly from the “click on the stat column” as I have calculated how productive each player is according to their actual time on the ice. It stands to reason that more ice-time equates to more opportunities but that does not necessarily mean that they are capitalized upon.
The criteria I have used for this week’s Top 10 are:
Number of Blocked Shots
Average time-on-ice per game
#10 – Alex Pietrangelo, STL
Pietrangelo has blocked 110 shots in 51 games. He has played a total of 1297 minutes and averages 25 and a half minutes per game. This gives him a blocked shot ratio of 2.14 which is well above his average of 1.67 over the past four seasons. His personal best is 133 blocked shots recorded in 2011/12. If he continues at his current pace he will finish with approximately 180. What’s interesting is that 65% of his total blocked shots have been on the road. In the past three weeks he has blocked 17 shots and only 2 of them were at home, and both were in the same game. The Blues have 31 games remaining so expect another 65 blocked shots with 41 of them in 15 road games.
#9 – Matthew Carle, TAM
The second round draft pick of 2003 has blocked 545 shots over 292 games since 2009/10 which equates to a 1.86 block per game ratio. Carle is currently at a 2.23 ratio having recorded 116 blocks in 52 games while averaging just over 22 minutes each contest. His highest total was 164 in 2011/12 and he looks to surpass that if he keeps up his current pace. In the remaining 30 games look for Carle to block another 67 shots for a total of 183.
#8 – Carl Gunnarsson, TOR
Gunnarsson has a career average of 1.96 blocked shots per game. In the 1050 minutes that he has skated, with an average time-on-ice of 19 minutes and 48 seconds, he has amassed 122 blocked shots. Gunnarsson is operating at a ratio of 2.26 which is also above his career average. Should this pace continue he will finish with 187 bruises. In 2012 Jonas Gustavsson complained that Gunnarsson was messing up his save percentage, I wonder what his excuse is now?
#7 – Shea Weber, NSH
It will be interesting to see if Weber can maintain this pace as he has a career average of 1.57 blocked shots per game. He is currently blocking 2.28 shots while skating the most minutes per game of all defensemen in this list at just under 27. He has skated a total of 1371 minutes in 51 games and blocked 118 shots. In previous seasons Weber has accumulated just under 40% of his total blocked shots from January onward so there is no reason to expect any regression. Look for an additional 70 blocked shots from the talented Predator.
#6 – Ladislav Smid, CGY
The ninth overall pick of 2004 has averaged 1.95 blocked shots per game since 2009/10 and has been in the top 10 for total blocked shots the past two seasons. Smid is currently averaging 2.35 blocks in only 18 and a half minutes per game, the lowest of all in this list. He has 123 blocked shots in 51 games and only 948 minutes of ice-time. Smid should finish the season with 196 blocked shots provided he plays in all of Calgary’s remaining games. He has not played a full season, not counting the lock-out shortened season, so expect his totals to be closer to 180.
#5 – Nicklas Grossmann, PHI
The 6-4 Flyer has already beaten his career best of 100 and is well on the way to doubling it. His current pace of 2.46 blocked shots per game is impressive considering he has the third lowest time-on-ice of the group with 1006 minutes in 52 games played. Grossmann has 129 blocks so far and if he can stay healthy for the remaining 29 games he should finish with 202. He has 24 blocked shots in the past 10 games and he failed to block a shot in only one of those. Grossmann has been outside the top 20 in previous seasons but look for him to be in the top 10 this year and future years.
#4 – Chris Butler, CGY
Another Flame makes the list and like Grossmann he has already blocked more shots than his career high (115) with 136 in 1039 minutes of ice-time. He was also on pace to beat his personal best last season with a prorated number of 137. His pace of 2.46 is good for fifth in the league and if he continues then he should finish with 200 blocked shots. Not bad for a defenseman that averages less than 20 minutes a game.
#3 – Josh Gorges, MTL
Gorges is above his per-game career average (2.43) in blocked shots but he is below his personal best. In the 2011/12 season he recorded 250 blocked shots for an average of 3.04 per game to lead the league in the category. He is currently sporting a 2.71 average and has 141 blocks in roughly 21 minutes of game time. Considering that he has been in the top 10 the past two seasons there is no reason to suspect that this number will drop. Expect another 84 blocks in Montreal’s remaining 31 games.
#2 – Kris Russell, CGY
The third Calgary defenseman to make this list, the last time there were three members from the same team in the top 10 for blocked shots was the 2010/11 season. The New York Rangers were led by Dan Girardi that year and he finished with 236. Russell has only played in 39 games and totalled 115 blocks in 926 minutes on the ice. He has a per-game block ratio of 2.91 and had he played the same number of games as the others he would be sitting around the 151 mark. If Russell can stay healthy for the remainder of the season then look for a further 87 blocks in Calgary’s remaining 30 games. His personal best is 128 blocked shots in the 2010/11 season but he has never played a full season so the above projection is a best case scenario. Either way his current block ratio is good for second on this list.
#1 – Andrew MacDonald, NYI
This guy is a shot block machine, he has a 3.25 per-game average and December 5th against St Louis is the only game where he failed to block a shot. He plays just below 26 minutes a night and is a crucial part of the Islanders defense. MacDonald has also finished in the top 10 the past two seasons and finished in the top 15 in 2010/11. He is way above his career average (2.45) and is only seven blocks away from his career high of 185, it would be a complete shock if he did not set a new personal best. The New York Islanders only have 28 games remaining and at this rate he could very well challenge for the overall NHL record for most blocked shots in a season. If he continues to play the way he has then another 91 blocks are coming, giving him a projected 269 and maybe a chance at beating the NHL record of 273 set by Anton Volchenkov in 2006/07.
The blocked shots category can be misleading. In many ways it is a good thing that your team is sacrificing their body to protect a goal but it is detrimental if that is happening on a regular basis. I say this for two main reasons. The first being the inherent susceptibility to injury when a player is hit by a three inch piece of vulcanized rubber travelling faster than most North American speed limits. The second is that if your team is continuously blocking shots then that would mean they don’t have the puck a lot of the time.
Here’s a quote from James Reimer that amused me and echoed my sentiments regarding blocking shots.
“To do that, you gotta be courageous or crazy – I’m scared to get in front of it and I got all this gear.” – James Reimer, 2012
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