What Does SOG Mean in Hockey? SOG Explained

Posted on July 18, 2023 by Dan Kent

There are a multitude of acronyms and abbreviations in the National Hockey League and pro sports in general. If you're a newcomer to hockey, you may wonder why both teams have something called SOG, typically in the high 20s to high 30s every single game.

Let's discuss what a SOG is in hockey and some interesting data about the abbreviation.

What is a SOG hockey?

A SOG in hockey stands for a shot on goal. A shot on goal represents a player's ability to put the puck in the net and score a goal for their team. Although there are advanced data that tracks high-danger and low-quality shots, for the purposes of a SOG, they mean the same. A shot from the half-wall boards with very little chance of going in has the same impact on a team's SOG totals as a high-danger chance from the slot.

In a typical NHL game, the average number of shots taken will be around 30 per team.

However, not every puck directed toward the net counts as a shot on goal. There are specific criteria that must be met. Let's go over it.

What counts as a SOG in hockey?

A shot on goal is defined as any shot toward the net that the goalie saves or enters the net. A common misconception is that long shots directed toward the goalie, say from the red line, do not count. However, this is incorrect.

If you intend to increase your team's score by firing the puck at the net, it counts as a shot. However, a player randomly firing the puck down the ice, banking it off the boards and making contact with the goalie may not count as a shot.

There are some other stipulations regarding shots on goal in hockey. Let's go over them.

Does a tip count as a SOG?

Yes, a tip counts as a shot on goal. With the quality of goaltenders in the NHL today, tip-ins are very frequent.

However, the player who tipped the puck will be awarded the shot, not the player taking the shot itself. For example, if a defenseman shoots the puck towards the net and one of his teammates tips the puck and the opposing teams goalie either saves it or lets it in, the player tipping the puck is awarded the shot or goal, while the original shooter is awarded a pass or assist.

Does hitting the post count as a shot?

No, hitting the post does not count as a shot on goal in hockey. As mentioned, for a shot to be counted, the goaltender either needs to save it or go into the net. Because the post does not require a save nor enters the net, it does not count as a shot on goal.

Remember, if the puck strikes the post and enters the net, it does count as a shot on goal. If you stick to the definition of either the goalie needing to save the puck or the puck entering the net, it becomes clearer what a shot on goal is.

What about shootout shots?

Shootout shots and goals are tracked separately in the NHL. Although players will be credited with a shootout shot or goal, and a goaltender with a save or goal against, these numbers do not count towards the in-game shots on goal.

An example, if, after overtime, the shots on goal are 31-30 and both teams take three shots on the net during the shootout, the box score will still only show 31-30 in shots, with the winner being decided in a shootout.

Is a higher SOG count always better?

You'd think that higher shots-on-goal count lead to more wins. However, there is very little correlation between the number of shots a team takes and the game's final score. This is because shot quality matters so much in the National Hockey League. Remember, the objective of the game is to score on the opponent's goal, not rack up shot totals.

A lower-talented team may get a lot of shots on goal from the outside perimeter on the ice versus a strong team. In contrast, that strong team may take fewer but higher-quality shots in the slot. High-danger scoring opportunities have proven to be the much more reliable tracking of shot data in the NHL instead of simply the number of shots on goal.

The goaltender matters as well

Teams with better-than-average goaltenders may be more willing to give away shots on the net in an attempt to gain more offence, as they have a higher likelihood that their goaltender will make the save. As a result, this could skew shots on goal metrics without necessarily tilting the game in the more aggressive shot-takers' favour.

Overall, with more advanced data that has come out regarding shot quality, we can now narrow down when and where teams are taking shots from, instead of the overall volume of those shots, to gauge the likelihood of winning the game.

Game situations can alter shot data wildly

Typically, a team that is winning the game will shoot less, while the team that is losing will need to take a higher volume of shots to catch up to their opponents. As a result, you may see losing teams routinely outshoot their opponents yet rarely win the game.

Hockey is a game that can change on a dime. A game could be tied with one team outshooting the other drastically, and a single turnover by that team could result in a loss.

What is the SOG percentage?

SOG percentage can be measured from both an individual player and team perspective. If a player accumulates 300 shots on goal in a season and scores 30 goals, they have a shooting percentage of 10%. If a team gets 2000 shots on goal a game and scores 250 goals, they have a shooting percentage of 8%.

What is the most shots on goal in a single game in NHL history?

The most shots on goal in a single NHL game came during the 1991 NHL season. The Boston Bruins would record 73 shots on goal against the Quebec Nordiques. The Bruins would run into a hot goaltender during that game, ultimately ending in a 3-3 tie. 

This is a prime example of how the number of SOG doesn't necessarily predict the number of defeats or victories a team will collect throughout a season.

Who takes the most shots in the NHL?

As of the conclusion of the 2022-23 season, David Pastrnak, Nathan MacKinnon, Connor McDavid, and Brady Tkachuk took the most shots on goal. However, their shooting percentages varied wildly, with Mackinnon shooting at 10.9% while McDavid shot at 18.2%.

This could mean a multitude of things. For one, McDavid is on a team with a very strong power play. With an extra attacker on the ice for his team, he will get many more high-quality chances on the powerplay rather than at even-strength.

Overall, shots on goal (SOG) are simply one factor in the equation

Although a heavy amount of shots for one team could signal domination, it isn't necessarily guaranteed. A quality game from a particular goaltender, the amount of penalties in a game, the quality of the players on the teams and many other factors could determine how the winning team comes out victorious.

Dan Kent

About the author

Growing up in a hockey hotbed (Calgary, Alberta. And yes, I'm an Oiler fan), I decided to put my love and knowledge of the game to work. I started at five and am still playing today into my early 30s. By acquiring Brave Stick Hockey and rebranding it to Big Shot Hockey in 2023, I plan to teach people about this great game and educate them on the best equipment and history of the game. On a career level, I am in finance, running one of the largest financial websites in Canada, Stocktrades.ca.

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