Green Shots & Red Shots: How Steve Valiquette is discovering which plays are most likely to score

“Get pucks on net and things will happen” is a phrase many hockey coaches have shouted at players since the game was invented. Former NHL Goalie Steve Valiquette, is currently working on an ambitious project to challenge that theory and show that certain types of plays are more likely to score than others.

Valiquette (@Vallys_View), an analyst for the MSG Network joined Rick Ralph on the Rona Roundtable on TSN 1290 Winnipeg on Thursday and explained that the goal of the project is to show that save percentage, along with goals against average is a team stat, rather than a stat belonging to the individual goalie.

What makes one shot more likely to go in than others? Valiquette continued:

“It’s really about giving the goaltender about half of a second of clean sight before the release vs. not having half a second of clean sight before a release. If you give a goalie half a second, there’s a very little chance of scoring, about three percent chance.”

To beat a goalie now you have to move the puck across the middle of the ice. Thirty percent of the goals that have been scored this year are (off of) passes that go across the middle of the ice.

What I’ve done is I’ve created a line that separates the ice in two equal parts. That line runs from the middle of the net all the way down the length of the ice to the other goal.”

Valiquette refers to that line described above as the “Royal Road” he listed different types of criteria that can lead to a goal.

The Royal Road shown in thick red down the middle of the ice

The Royal Road shown in thick red down the middle of the ice

Operating on the basis that not all shots are equal, he has categorized shots as green or red. Green shots go in the net 76% of the time, red shots make up the other 24% of goals.

Different types of green shots are as follows:

  • Passes across the “Royal Road”
  • Players carrying the puck across the “Royal Road”
  • One timers on the same side of the “Royal Road” (either side, left or right)
  • Screens
  • Deflections
  • Broken plays

The 37-year old summarized:

“Those sequences are all qualified by the fact the goalie has less than half of a second of sight before the puck releases from the shooters stick.”

The following types of shots are when a goalie has more than half a second of clean sight of the puck. They are categorized as red shots. They are:

  • Wrap arounds
  • A player walking from the corner jamming the puck to the net
  • Net crashes
  • A player coming off the rush, where a goalie sees the puck and there’s no screen,

“The real hook, is that teams, including (the Winnipeg) Jets are taking about three times as many red shots, or bad shots, than green shots.”

While this was all very interesting, Valiquette offered a few hints that could explain reasons for the Winnipeg Jets success this season.

“Paul Maurice has done an incredible job at coaching this hockey club, they are giving up fewer green shots, probably fewer than just about anybody in the league, comparatively speaking to anybody from last season.”

In a simpler form: according to Valiquettes criteria, the Winnipeg Jets are giving up fewer high-percentage scoring chances than last season and dating back to last season they are the most improved team in the NHL at this metric.

This could explain part of the variance between Ondrej Pavelec’s save percentage this season (.914) compared to his career average of (.906).

It was certainly one of the more interesting interviews I’ve heard about a new analytical approach to measure the strength of goaltenders and am definitely looking forward to hearing more of the results.

For more insight into the project, check out the full interview at TSN1290.ca