BY: CHRIS BOYLE
In order to have sustainable offensive success, it is essential to deceive opposition defenses and goaltenders.
There are plenty of tactical approaches to achieve this deception and one of the most valuable is the ability to destabilize a goaltender’s sightlines while creating high leverage shot attempts. This is commonly known as net-front presence.
Net-front presence is essential to offensive deception because if you can alter a goaltender’s sightlines while changing the trajectory of the shot, you compromise a goaltender’s ability to solve the incoming equation. This confusion generally leads to prime scoring opportunities for elite net-front players like Anders Lee.
Anders Lee maintained his torrid shooting with another goal Thursday against the New York Rangers. A continuation of his breakout season that has seen him shoot almost 17 percent. While it is an extremely high percentage, you only need to look at his shot metrics to see why it is sustainable.
Lee is an interesting study because of the contrast in styles that lead to his success. If we isolate location, almost all of his success in his career comes from the high-danger area. Fifty-five of his 60 goals have occurred in the zone directly in front of the net. This is intuitive because the closer you are to the goal, the greater the success, but it isn’t the only reason for his success. The type of shots he is taking tells the real story.
Over his three-year sample, Lee has shown an elite ability to get to the front of the net and cause havoc for goaltenders. At 6’3” and almost 230 lbs, not only is he hard for defenders to move, but he creates difficulty for goaltenders to gain visual attachment to the puck. He also has the hand-eye coordination to deflect pucks off their natural plane as 17 percent of all of his shots registered were tipped. Forty-two percent of his goals (25) are the direct result of these tipped opportunities. Lee’s dogged pursuit of rebounds is also a significant portion of his goal scoring success as 10 percent of all of his shots were secondary chances. Twenty-two percent of his goals (13) were the result off rebounds.
His personal success isn’t the only benefit of parking his behind in the direct slot. The hardest shots for goaltenders to corral are ones that they cannot see and have changed direction, so his immediate presence causes secondary opportunities for his teammates as well.
While Lee is an above average shooter because of this elite skill set, he struggles when he relies on his release or velocity for success. He is slightly less than a 5-percent shooter on clear-sighted looks. His individual shot creation is below average and is the biggest hurdle in reaching 40-goal potential. Simply put, Lee lives off the broken play. He is capable of creating opportunities off the cycle or scrambles, but he struggles significantly off the rush. Of his 112 shots created from his individual zone entries, Lee has managed only 2 goals. His shooting success on clear-sighted looks off the rush is slightly less than 1 percent.
What makes Lee such a successful NHL player is his ability to stay in his lane. He recognizes his strengths and weaknesses and maximizes them. Instead of consistently carrying the puck through the neutral zone, he gives it up to the elite puck carriers and fills a lane. He simplifies his game and does not rely on his release to score, he relies on relentless offensive zone puck pursuit and is extremely opportunistic in chaotic environments.
Lee is a low-maintenance impact player who doesn’t need the puck to succeed and his entire offensive arsenal works as a blueprint on how to create chances via net-front presence.