Analyzing Buffalo’s league-worst shooting percentage

January 20, 2018

During my short amount of time writing about the Sabres, I feel like I’ve already started too many sentences with “The Buffalo Sabres are dead last in the NHL in (fill in the blank)”. Perhaps there won’t be as many of those in the future. Either way, for now, let’s focus on this analysis.

The Sabres are currently dead last in the NHL in shooting percentage. Oops. This is, obviously, a key component of the fact that they are also dead last in goals, despite being 21st in shots for per game. Here’s a look at all teams:

Using the current league average (not including Buffalo) as a standard for shooting percentage, the Sabres have yet to reach that standard at any point this season:

In order to avoid non-credible data, only players with at least 15 games played are being analyzed, and for simplicity’s sake players with multiple teams have been excluded. That said, here’s a look the box-plots for each team’s players:

If you’re wondering why the Sabres aren’t in “last”, it’s because the middle bar is the median not the average, and because of the minor data adjustments mentioned above.

The Sabres are failing to convert on their chances. One explanation could be that they are taking the “wrong” chances, so let’s look at the distribution of shots by type for the Sabres compared to the NHL average (not including Buffalo):

Based on this chart it’s clear that the Sabres are right about on par with the rest of the league when it comes to type of shot breakdown, but what about their shooting percentage for each type of shot? Let’s take a look:


This chart provides a good look at how the Sabres are struggling all over the board. They exceed the NHL average in only two categories: backhanders, which account for only 7.9% of their total shots, and wraparounds, which have an already extremely low success rate.

One other thing to consider is shot location. Here’s a visual comparison of shot location between the Sabres and the rest of the NHL (charts thanks to IcyData-@icydata_hockey):



Although it’s admittedly an eyeball judgement, it appears that the shot locations for the Sabres generally mirror those of the rest of the NHL.

All things considered, despite getting similar types of shots off from similar locations as compared to the rest of the NHL, the puck hasn’t been finding the back of the net for the Sabres. Whether it stems from poor shooting quality, running into hot goalies, or just plain old bad luck,  this poor finishing combined with an already low standing in shots for per game has been the recipe that has created the disaster known as the Sabres’ offense.

About Lee Drinkwater

Lee Drinkwater is a University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign graduate who is well versed at applying statistical analysis to hockey. Although he is based in Chicago, he is a lifelong Sabres fan.

Browse more articles by Lee Drinkwater.

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