Share This Page

Neal a more aggressive, efficient shooter

| Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, 10:33 p.m.
NHLI via Getty Images
James Neal headshot

James Neal might not skate in Sochi, Russia, next month, but the Team Canada snub is displaying Olympic-caliber aim during the 2013-14 season.

Neal, who missed a combined 20 contests due to an upper-body injury and a suspension, is making the most of his ice time by racking up 1.38 points per game, the highest total of his career and best in the NHL aside from Sidney Crosby (1.46).

Goalies, beware: When Neal gets the puck, he's gunning. The 26-year-old took about 3.4 shots per game during the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign and has averaged 3.1 per game during his career, but he's firing at the net like no other Penguin this season. Neal is taking the third-most shots per game in the league, trailing only Washington's Alex Ovechkin and Winnipeg speedster Evander Kane.

Ready, aim ...

Player Team Spg.

Alex Ovechkin Capitals 5.5

Evander Kane Jets 4.3

James Neal Penguins 4.1

Jeff Carter Kings 4.0

Patrick Sharp Blackhawks 3.9

NHL Avg. for Forwards: 1.8Spg.=shots per game

Source: ESPN.com

The Penguins blitzkrieg opponents with Neal in the game, according to Corsi, which measures a team's total shot attempts (including missed and blocked shots) when a player is on the ice.

Per 20 minutes that Neal plays, the Penguins attempt almost 22 shots. That's highest on the club.

Player Corsi per 20 minutes

James Neal 21.6

Sidney Crosby 20.9

Chris Kunitz 20.6

Pascal Dupuis 20.4

Jussi Jokinen 20.2

Source: Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com

Neal's scoring uptick isn't just the product of taking aim more frequently — he also has become more efficient with his shots. He's lighting the lamp 15.9 percent of the time that he unleashes a shot, well above his career average (13.1 percent) and third-best on the Penguins behind Crosby (16.8 percent) and Chris Kunitz (17.3 percent).

David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.