Analyzing the NHL's best and worst at creating, defending rush chances

Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau, right, celebrates his goal with left wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes, Friday, Jan. 7, 2022, in Raleigh, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Seward)

Today’s NHL is filled with skillful skaters who can create offence in transition. But at 5-on-5, which team generates the most on the rush? Whose offensive attack is missing these sequences?

That’s just one aspect of the game, though. What about the other end of the ice?

Once again, we want to look at the most and the least rush chances — so which teams best limit their opponents from creating slot chances off the rush and which teams bleed chances against? Plus, which goaltenders respond well, or poorly, to these speedy plays?

Let’s dive in.

Best offensive teams off the rush

No one creates more slot shots on the rush than the Florida Panthers at 5-on-5. They lead the way across the board in attempts (8.25 per 60), shots that connect with the net (5.21 per 60), and goals (1.00 per 60). They get contributions up and down their forward group, with Carter Verhaeghe, Sam Bennett, Anthony Duclair, and Aleksander Barkov all ranking in the top-50 among all forwards in the league in their slot shot generation off the rush.

While Florida clearly creates quite a few scoring chances in transition, their offensive approach isn’t one dimensional — they create a similar rate of slot shots off the cycle as well. That makes their offence all the more dangerous, seeing as they can pour on the quality chances (and score) in a variety of ways; they lead the league with 26.0 slot shots per 60.

Following the Panthers, the Golden Knights rank second in their attempts on the rush and are just behind Florida in their scoring with .99 goals per 60. Similarly, the Oilers are third in both marks. But because neither of those teams are as versatile with their offensive approach, like the Panthers, Vegas is eighth overall in scoring chances (21.8 per 60) while the Oilers are 12th (21.2 per 60).

Rounding out the top-five in scoring chance generation in transition are the Flames and Avalanche. Calgary ranks fourth in both rush chances and cycle shots, earning them the second seed behind the Panthers in slot shots per 60 with 24.9. Leading the way for the Flames? Johnny Gaudreau who is the best in the league on the rush thanks to his stellar puck-moving play. Andrew Mangiapane and Matthew Tkachuk also contribute to the team’s impressive rate, as they’re both in the top-50 in the league with their attempts.

Colorado, on the other hand, is fifth in offence off the rush with 6.89 attempts per 60. Like the Flames and Panthers, they can beat their opponents in quite a few ways — they’re the best at producing slot shots (and finishing them) off the cycle, too. That moves them up to third overall in scoring chances with 24.1 per 60 minutes.

Worst rush-based offence teams

While the top five rush teams are all in the thick of the playoff race, it’s no surprise that the bottom two teams aren’t.

The team with the fewest rush attempts from the slot at 5-on-5 are the Coyotes with 4.03 per 60, and their results aren’t much better. Their best skater in these situations is Clayton Keller who ranks 197th in the league among forwards who have at least 100 minutes of 5-on-5 play, with 1.84 rush attempts per 60.

More of Arizona’s offence comes off the cycle — 6.59 slot shots per 60, which ranks 19th in the league — but their overall slot shot generation lands them at the bottom of the standings.

Second to worst? The Seattle Kraken’s 4.84 rush attempts per 60 — though their finishing ability boosts their scoring rate slightly high to 22nd in the league.

The 30th-ranked team is a curious one in the Rangers, seeing as they’re third in their division and seventh in the league standings with 71 points. With .56 rush goals per 60, thanks in part to some of their finishing talent, they move up to 24th — but that’s still in the bottom-half of the league, and not quite matching up with the ‘contender status’ that could be associated from their record. Only making matters worse from an offensive standpoint is that they’re still in the bottom-half with their scoring chances generated off the cycle. Overall, New York’s scoring chance generation lands them 31st in the league with just 16.9 slot shots per 60 that exceed only the Coyotes.

Rounding out the bottom-five in slot attempts created off the rush are the Sharks (4.90 per 60) and Stars (5.02 per 60).

Defending the rush

The Flames limit their opponents to the lowest rate of slot shots off the rush, as they see just 4.55 attempts against per 60. Thanks to their goaltending, they also lead the league with the fewest rush goals against.

When the Kraken are playing, no one is generating rush shots — not them, nor their opponents. It’s an area of improvement after allowing these scoring chances against earlier in the season, and not having the goaltending to back it up. Now, on the season as a whole, the 4.82 attempts per 60 they concede are the second-lowest in the league. That puts them in the best position to succeed defensively, given that their goaltending can still be shaky.

Colorado and Boston both face 4.92 scoring chances generated off the rush per 60, which are the third- and fourth-lowest rates in the league. The Avalanche’s goaltending against those shots, however, slots them ahead of the Bruins.

To round out the top-five in suppressing rush shots taken in the slot is another team that doesn’t create many for themselves — the Dallas Stars. They limit their opponents to just 18.00 overall slot attempts against per 60, which is the second-best in the league behind the Kings. That provides some balance to their bland offence (except for when Jason Robertson, Joe Pavelski, and Roope Hintz are on the ice).

Feeling rushed

What about on the other end of the spectrum?

No one’s allowed more scoring attempts from the slot in transition than the Canadiens’ 7.48 per 60 — and their goaltending doesn’t respond well to the difficult workload.

However, Montreal’s situation has changed since a coaching change was made. With Marty St. Louis behind the bench they’re not suddenly a juggernaut or anything drastic, but they moved up to 23rd since Feb. 9 with 6.58 attempts conceded per 60. Before his hiring, they were dead-last with a rate of 7.64 attempts per 60 being sent towards their goaltenders.

The next bottom-two teams are both in the playoff picture — although one at least generates their own scoring chances for. The Oilers allow the second-highest rate of rush shots at 7.03 per 60, although they’ve also made recent changes behind the bench to tighten up their play. That said, this is a team with playoff aspirations and the third-to-worst goals against in these situations because they opted to go into the season with a starting tandem of Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen. They haven’t protected their goaltenders well enough, nor have their goalies played well enough while tested.

The other playoff team right behind them? The Rangers, who don’t generate their own slot shots at high enough a rate to balance out this weakness. The key difference between New York and the two teams that concede more then them? Goaltending.

Against slot shots off the rush specifically, their goals against (.63 per 60) is the 11th-lowest in the league. But in general, no one has more support than the Rangers do with Igor Shesterkin between the pipes — and that’s key seeing as they’re sixth to worst in any slot shots against with 22.4 per 60.

The Jets, whose defence is mediocre at best, stand with the fourth-highest rate of slot shots against generated off the rush. And rounding out the bottom-five is another team that struggles to create its own chances: the Coyotes. The challenging workload tests their goaltenders, who allow the highest rate of these slot shots at 1.00 goals per 60 — all of which contributes to their lowly record this season.

Data via Sportlogiq, collected prior to Monday night’s matchups.

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