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New York Islanders Casey Cizikas Key To Success: Shots

UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 10: Casey Cizikas #53 of the New York Islanders keeps his eyes on the puck during the third period against the Pittsburgh Penguins at NYCB Live at the Nassau Coliseum on December 10, 2018 in Uniondale, New York. The Penguins defeated the Islanders 2-1 in the shootout. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 10: Casey Cizikas #53 of the New York Islanders keeps his eyes on the puck during the third period against the Pittsburgh Penguins at NYCB Live at the Nassau Coliseum on December 10, 2018 in Uniondale, New York. The Penguins defeated the Islanders 2-1 in the shootout. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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New York Islanders Casey Cizikas is having a season for the ages. He’s a fourth line player with 18 goals to his name. How? More shots and better spots.

Casey Cizikas seems like a totally different player this season for the New York Islanders. With 18 goals to his name this season, he ranks 87th in the entire league for goals. He’s tied with players like Tuevo Terravainen, Jakub Voracek, and Nino Niederreiter.

Those 18 goals have Casey Cizikas on pace for 24 goals this season. His previous career high is nine. In fact, if Cizikas reaches 24 goals this season, he’ll have scored more goals this season than his three previous seasons combined.

What gives? How is Casey Cizikas all of a sudden scoring like a top six player? It’s all about taking more shots and picking better spots.

Shots and Spots

Cizikas has always produced well from the Islanders fourth line. Two seasons ago he scored 25 points in 59 games. He could have scored 35 points if not for injury.

Again, for a fourth line player who doesn’t get power play time and starts an overwhelming majority of his shifts in the defensive zone, that’s 35 points is a fantastic return.

Through 57 games played this season, Casey Cizikas already has 28 points. He’s on pace for 37 points this season. Something is different for Casey Cizikas in 2018-19.

This season, Cizikas already has 86 shots on net. Last season, in 64 games played he totaled 74 shots. His career high was 90 back in 2014-15 when he scored his previous career high in goals with nine.

Great, but shots quantities alone aren’t the reason that Cizikas is scoring more goals. If more shots on net were responsible for more goals then Johnny Boychuk and his 138 shots on goal this season would have more than three.

Where those shots come from makes a huge difference. We know that the best place to score a goal is in the baseball plate space in front of the net; the slot. Compared to last season, Cizikas is shooting from the slot much more frequently.

Thanks to Hockey Viz for their 5-on-5 unblocked shooting maps. Here’s Casey Cizikas from last season and then compare that too this seasons 5-on-5 unblocked shot heat map.

Cizikas is getting himself into a vital area on the ice to create chances, and that skill is being rewarded.

What makes this all the more impressive is how Cizikas starts 67.2 percent of his shifts in the defensive zone. He and his linemates are frequently asked to dig the New York Islanders out of trouble. They do that with resounding success and get the play going the other way to create offensive opportunities for themselves.

Next. Top 5 Goalies in Isles History

What’s impressive about Casey Cizikas’ season isn’t just that he’s scored 18 goals to date (although that is incredibly impressive). It’s his ability to transition from defense to offense and to create opportunities.

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