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The Reason For Brett Connolly’s Career Year is Clear

Taking a look at the driving force behind Brett Connolly’s second consecutive career year.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple Leafs Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Brett Connolly’s two-goal, three-point game on Saturday against Florida cemented what’s been evident for awhile now: that Conno would be following up last year’s career season with another personal best. But this year he’s leaving his previous marks in the dust, having already eclipsed his previous best of 27 points, and still with nearly a third of the season ahead.

So what gives? Reasonable minds might point to Connolly’s shooting percentage, which clocks in at 13.8 - and yet while that’s a pretty high number, it’s nowhere near the 18.5% and 22.4% that he’s put up in each of the last two seasons, respectively, and his career shooting percentage in 402 games played is right at 13%. So he’s more or less shooting at an efficiency in line with precedent.

The real story is the rate at which Connolly is firing the pill:

After a pretty precipitous decline in shot rates last year, Connolly has jumped back up to a marker of 6.8 shots per 60 minutes at five-on-five. That number isn’t quite as high as when he cleared seven shots per 60 twice in his early career, but he’s in that ballpark now while seeing nearly two more minutes of five-on-five ice time than he was back then.

If we include all shot attempts, we reveal an interesting anecdote: while Conno’s shot rates aren’t at career tops, his shot attempt rates are.

From coaching guidance to a personal mindset shift, it’s difficult to diagnose precisely why something like this might change. But one thing is clear, and that’s that Connolly has become more liberal with his shot selection, and it’s paying dividends for the defending champs.