Commentary

The true importance of shot blocking

Do NHL teams that block more shots, like Tampa Bay, win more games in the playoffs?

Updated: May 7, 2011, 11:27 AM ET
By Neil Greenberg | Special to ESPN Insider
Lightning V. CapitalsAP Photo/Alex BrandonFrequently blocked shots left the Caps' top guns exasperated.

Defensive players consider blocking shots a badge of honor, proving their willingness to sacrifice their body to prevent a shot from going on net. The importance of blocking shots seems to magnify in the postseason.

"Obviously in the playoffs they're even more important I guess than in the regular-season games," said Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher during his team's recent series against the Washington Capitals. "Guys are more willing to do what it takes to win some games and we've got a lot of guys that have paid the price the entire year. So it's not something that we do any differently, but yes obviously there's more urgency so there's more shot-blocking."

Tampa Bay is certainly taking this urgency to heart. Four of its blueliners are among the playoff leaders in blocked shots,led by defenseman Eric Brewer, who has already blocked more shots in the playoffs (43) than he did since being traded to Tampa Bay during the regular season (35).

Tampa's players feel this physical commitment helped them rally from being down 3-1 to Pittsburgh and sweep away Washington, despite being outshot in every game this postseason save one. "Team commitment," defenseman Victor Hedman said. "Commitment and we take big pride in blocking shots and scoring goals."

It certainly has helped them so far, but can this commitment to shot-blocking win the Lightning the Stanley Cup?


To read more about the importance of blocked shots in the playoffs and whether the Tampa Bay Lightning can win the Stanley Cup this year, you must be an ESPN Insider.

Neil Greenberg is ESPN Insider's NHL analytics expert. His columns have appeared on the Washington Post website, and he is a regular guest on Sirius XM NHL Radio.