Ryan Kesler had a great year in 2009-2010. He scored 25 goals, one less than his career high, but did so by generating 214 shots, 35 more than his career high. Though he had the highest qualcomp of any Canuck, he still finished with the fifth-highest Corsi on the team. He moves the puck the right way and is able to generate his own offense. Bobby Clarke knew what he was doing when he signed Kesler to an offer sheet in 2006.
Ring them bells Saint Peter where the four winds blow
Ring them bells with an ironhand
So the people will know
--Bob Dylan, "Ring Them Bells"
During the Canucks preseason game against the Oilers on September 26th, Kesler scored a goal from the high slot off of the post beating Nikolai Khabibulin. Canucks' play-by-play man John Shorthouse said, "I can't count the number of times Kesler went off the bar or off the post and in from that spot last year." I thought it was an odd thing to say because it implied this sequence of events happened so often that Shorthouse was unable to count a number that large. But Kesler only scored 25 goals, so how many times could he have hit the post? Fortunately, using NHL.com's highlights archive, it's easy to count and that's exactly what I did.
Below is a table listing all of Kesler's goals by date, game and situation. The goals in green and red text are shots that beat the goalie without a screen, tap in, rebound or stuff in. In other words, those goals are the shooter's goals. Red text indicates a shot that went off of a post and green text indicates a shot that beat the goalie cleanly.
|4/10/2010||(CGY @ VAN)||EV||06:17 in 2nd||Tap into a wide open net from the crease.|
|4/4/2010||(MIN @ VAN)||SHG||05:02 in 1st||Tap into a wide open net on a cross-crease feed.|
|4/1/2010||(VAN @ LAK)||EV||13:22 in 2nd||Left faceoff dot off of the post and in.|
|3/24/2010||(ANA @ VAN)||EV||19:30 in 3rd||Empty Net Goal|
|3/18/2010||(SJS @ VAN)||PPG||12:14 in 1st||Slot over the right pad|
|3/14/2010||(CGY @ VAN)||EV||07:27 in 1st||Slot crossbar and in|
|3/5/2010||(VAN @ CHI)||EV||14:09 in 1st||Right circle five hole|
|3/3/2010||(VAN @ DET)||EV||03:34 in 1st||Breakaway goal.|
|3/3/2010||(VAN @ DET)||PPG||06:35 in 3rd||Tip in on shot from the point.|
|2/11/2010||(VAN @ FLA)||PPG||15:57 in 3rd||Rebound from the left slot.|
|2/9/2010||(VAN @ TBL)||PPG||19:53 in 2nd||Right circle over the shoulder.|
|2/2/2010||(VAN @ MTL)||PPG||14:10 in 3rd||Tip in rebound|
|1/16/2010||(PIT @ VAN)||PPG||13:08 in 2nd||Tip in on shot from the point.|
|1/13/2010||(VAN @ MIN)||PPG||18:12 in 1st||Stuff in off of rebound.|
|1/2/2010||(VAN @ DAL)||EV||01:30 in 2nd||Low slot off of the post and in.|
|12/26/2009||(EDM @ VAN)||PPG||07:09 in 2nd||Tip in on shot from the point.|
|12/18/2009||(WSH @ VAN)||EV||06:39 in 1st||Breakaway goal.|
|12/14/2009||(LAK @ VAN)||EV||01:04 in 1st||Rebound from the top of the crease.|
|12/12/2009||(MIN @ VAN)||PPG||06:44 in 3rd||Right circle off of the post and in.|
|12/8/2009||(VAN @ NSH)||PPG||12:12 in 2nd||Tap into a wide open net from the crease.|
|11/1/2009||(COL @ VAN)||EV||06:28 in 2nd||Wide open net on a rebound from the side of the net.|
|10/24/2009||(TOR @ VAN)||PPG||17:32 in 1st||Right circle.|
|10/17/2009||(MIN @ VAN)||EV||04:23 in 2nd||Stuff from the side of the net.|
|10/11/2009||(DAL @ VAN)||PPG||14:45 in 1st||Right circle over the shoulder.|
|10/7/2009||(MTL @ VAN)||EV||13:50 in 1st||Breakaway goal.|
Kesler had four goals go in off of the post, and two of those from the slot, or "that spot" as Shorthouse put it. I'm not sure why Shorthouse couldn't count to two, though I'm sure his memory was a bit hazy. So of Kesler's 25 goals, eight of them beat the goalie cleanly, yet half of them needed a bit of assistance from the post.
I don't have any data to work from in order to compare Kesler to the rest of the NHL, nor do I have a count of how many times Kesler hit the post without scoring. We could use the NHL.com counts, but they, like many other statistics dependent on the official scorer, are notoriously unreliable. The interesting bit, to me at least, is just how slim the margin is for Kesler. Considering his shots numbers and underlying stats, no matter how many goals he scored, it was a remarkably successful season. But 16% of his goals were luck. When the stats guys talk about luck, they're talking about the edges - the performances, both by individuals and teams that have no repeatability. In this case, I'm talking about luck in the traditional sense. Kesler found some friendly posts and a friendly angle and because of it found himself with four more goals last season.
I'm not deriding Kesler for it, rather, I'm amazed at the luck involved in these goals. If those four shots are off by a fraction of one inch, Kesler only scores 21 goals. We've got nothing to compare to, but even if other players are just as lucky or more lucky, it doesn't matter because it's the luck itself that's mind-boggling. If baseball is a game of inches, hockey is a game of fractions.