How Canadiens’ Brendan Gallagher is trending towards a career year

Brendan Gallagher hasn’t played half the amount of games he saw in 2016-17 and he’s already scored three more goals than last season. That improvement comes despite the Montreal Canadiens as a team scoring at essentially the same rate as last season, so there hasn’t been any boost to his numbers from a “rising tide lifting all boats” situation.

Gallagher has long been one of the NHL’s premier possession drivers and even-strength shot attempt producers (only Alex Ovechkin, Max Pacioretty, Evander Kane, and Brent Burns took more shot attempts per minute played at 5-on-5 than Gallagher since he entered the NHL). But for most of his career he’s been a bit of a below average shooter for a top-six forward, scoring on just 9.7 per cent of his shots on goal overall.

Last season Gallagher experienced the worst shooting percentage of his career, scoring on just 5.3 per cent of his shots on goal, while this year he’s currently at a career high of 14.4 per cent.

The immediate question that arises is whether Gallagher’s shooting tendencies have changed, which is something we can look into rather easily.

Over the past three seasons Gallagher’s scoring chance production is relatively consistent, though the past two years he’s actually been shooting less from right in front of the net, and more from the high slot.

The inner slot or high danger area carries with it the highest expected shooting percentage of anywhere on the ice, but interestingly most of the NHL’s best goal scorers actually prefer to shoot a bit more from the high slot. In that area, there’s a bit more room, meaning a split-second more to pick your spot, move your point of attack with a deke, or avoid a stick check.

With that said, moving more of his shots further out from the net without increasing his scoring chance numbers overall shouldn’t really create an inflated shooting percentage.

However, one thing to note with Gallagher is that he’s passing the puck a lot more often, and a lot more successfully. He has nearly doubled his completed passes to the slot year over year, from 0.7 per 20 minutes to 1.3, which creates a bit more hesitance among defenders who are used to defending a shoot-first player.

Gallagher’s extra focus on playmaking this season has made him the Canadiens’ best scoring chance generator, even if his personal …read more



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