• Tough Beat

    by  • April 10, 2013 • Hockey • 10 Comments

    Taylor Hall made a comment that I couldn’t quite understand in his comments after last night’s loss:

    I got stuck playing centre down low on their second goal and I Just lost my guy. I mean, it’s simple as that and they scored.

    I was a bit baffled as to why Hall was playing centre, so I went back and looked at the PBP file on NHL.com. Sure enough, at 7:27, Hall loses a faceoff to Saku Koivu and, 21 seconds later, the Ducks score. Hall was on the ice with Jordan Eberle and Jerred Smithson and the faceoff came right after a TV timeout. I assume that Smithson was sent out to take the draw, got himself punted from the circle and then Hall took the draw.

    If you ever wonder about the thought that NHL coaches put into faceoffs, this picture should help you understand it. This is a small thing but that’s Justin Schultz on the left side and Nick Schultz on the right side – the opposite of their usual sides. Why would the Oilers do that on a faceoff? I would guess that it’s because Hall is going to try and pull the puck back towards the boards and it’s preferable for a right handed shot to be taking that pass because he can go up the boards on his forehand or fire it around behind the net on his forehand. If it’s a left handed shot receiving the puck, it’s much more difficult for him to get to his forehand to move the puck behind the net.

    Now, at some point after the puck is dropped, Hall and Smithson need to switch. I’m told by a friend who played a higher level of hockey than I did that Hall’s defensive responsibility here is the centreman, which makes sense, and that he and Smithson will switch when it’s safe to do so. The infuriating thing, given what unfolds, is that Hall’s in a better position to pressure the left point here than Smithson (which would permit a switch) but presumably they aren’t comfortable making the switch at that point.

    The puck’s gone over to the far side of the ice now and you can that Hall’s gone with Koivu – he’s still in the centre’s role. Smithson kind of drifts an awfully long way across the ice here – I wonder if he was looking for a switch.

    In this shot, maybe 14 seconds before the goal is scored, the Oilers have established possession. That’s Nick Schultz below the goal line, approaching the puck. Justin Schultz is the Oiler closest to Nick Schultz, with Hall on the far side of the ice and Smithson hurrying to try to get to the boards to provide Schultz with an outlet.

    Schutz has already ringed the puck around the boards at this point. Smithson was never going to get there for that. This is an aside, but it seems to me like this is a pretty good example of what a lot of people have been wondering about, in terms of why the Oilers spend so much time in their own end. Smithson wasn’t going to get to that puck in a million years. Schultz is in a good position to see what’s going on and he had to know that there was nobody there to receive the pass. Why even make the play? Why not reverse and go behind the net?

    The puck is chipped back in, past Smithson, and it’s a 2 on 3 down low. The Ducks work the puck behind the net, where it’s picked up by WInnik.

    By this point, you can see how screwed up things are. As Daniel Winnik turns and shoots, Hall is kind of in no-man’s land, not covering anyone. Smithson is presumably focused on what’s going on at the left point.

    It’s all over now – Hall’s ended up with nobody, Smithson wasn’t alert to the risk that Dvorak presented and Dvorak is about to score his second. So ends the realistic hope of making the playoffs.

    This whole sequence is a sort of fine example of how you can play the odds and still have things not work out. It’s tough to criticize Krueger for replacing one of the worst faceoff guys in the NHL with one of the best faceoff guys in the NHL for an own zone draw in a must win game. The gap between is massive enough that you could see it making a difference and Smithson would presumably have gone to the bench as soon as the puck left the zone. Smithson getting himself kicked out and then the mess that followed? That’s hockey, unfortunately.

    Email Tyler Dellow at tyler@mc79hockey.com


    10 Responses to Tough Beat

    1. Mac Sapintosh
      April 10, 2013 at

      It strikes me as kind of funny that the season ends because of a mixup on a draw that was supposed to be won by a guy the Oilers brought in SPECIFICALLY for faceoffs.

      Yes, in a way you can do everything right (put your good faceoff guy in for an important D-zone draw late in an important guy), but, I think most here would agree the ACTUAL right thing to do would be get a player who has more of a broad positive impact on the game, and hopefully this situation is avoided anyway.

    2. PopsTwitTar
      April 10, 2013 at

      I wonder if Nazem Kadri would have made these mistakes.

    3. DennyB
      April 10, 2013 at

      Tyler – As I mentioned in a long winded reply to Rich’s comment yesterday and as you eluded to above, the main reason the oilers are getting out shot, out matched, and out chanced nearly every game is becuase of the exact play N. Schultz made during that sequence. Centers will loose own zone draws, they can’t win them all, even Bergeron looses own zone FOs. The difference is Boston’s defense doesn’t blindly ring it around the boards EVERY time, especially when they have time to slow things down, draw a player or two towards them, then dump a little pass forward or reverse it away from the forecheck. Coaches (should) teach players that in peewee hockey, if we rung it around the boards blindly like that our coach would loose his shit….in peewee!!! This is the NHL, you’d think Steve Smith would do the same, clearly he’s not because this has been happening far too often this season. As I mentioned yesterday, it will be interesting to see (count) how many times the Oilers ring it or go off the glass compared to Phoenix tonight, as Phoenix is known to have a quality defense.

      I truly believe that once the Oilers figure out a way to break that habit and start efficiently breaking out of their zone that we will see a huge shift in shots for and against.

    4. Bruce McCurdy
      April 10, 2013 at

      Good stuff, Tyler. I did something pretty similar at CoH today, on a different sequence fortunately, but some of the same problems: a blind pass by the d-man to the other team, poor coverage by the forwards, inability to switch off effectively, etc. In this particular case it wound up in the net, in the one I chose, it didn’t, quite. But I’m sure we can agree, screw up enough times and it’ll cost you eventually.

      Odd that Krueger would bring on Smithson for a faceoff on the left circle, you’d think he’d want Horcoff for those and Smithson on the right side. That sad, Krueger and conventional wisdom are not always joined at the hip.

      • Tyler Dellow
        April 10, 2013 at

        He was at three lines at that point and I assume he wanted to save Horc

    5. Bruce McCurdy
      April 10, 2013 at

      One small thing, you seem to have duplicated one pic, the caption “Schultz has already ringed the puck” doesn’t match the picture above it.

    6. Adam Dyck
      April 10, 2013 at

      The more I think about it – and seeing weird plays from the blue like this certainly spurs it on – the more I wonder if Edmonton’s Corsi woes this season are largely the result of a downgraded blue. It’s tough to comprehend honestly, having looked at the forwards on paper and being more or less content going into the season.

      We lost Gilbert and really had nobody to take up that mantle. By eye (and arguably by numbers) Barbaro has taken another step back. We added J Schultz but he’s a rookie who makes mistakes. Smid/Petry aren’t as strong a pairing as a year ago as far as I can tell.

    7. Sliderule
      April 11, 2013 at

      The oilers play their wingers up high halfway between face-off circle and point.The theory of this is they can collapse to the slot and move to the point as required.unfortunately our forwards seem to get caught in no mans land and cover neither which results in lots of quality shots mostly from slot.

      The majority of the other teams have their wingers collapse to the slot were most goals are scored.The points can get shots but as there is lots of traffic few ever get thru.That’s why oilers don’t seem to get many shots from slot.

    8. Danton
      April 12, 2013 at

      Hunch, here:

      In your third picture, where Schultz has clear possession of the puck behind the net, he should have just went off the glass and out. He has no outlet on the wall, so the safe play is off the glass and out, even if it means giving up possession. The reverse isn’t a good idea because of the flow of the play. He would be reversing back into where the opposition is already setup.

      That’s my humble opinion anyway.

      Schultz goes off the glass there and that goal probably isn’t scored.

    9. Subversive
      April 12, 2013 at

      I really love when you do this kind of analysis. I’m not even an Oilers fan, but it’s just really excellent stuff that adds to my enjoyment and appreciation of the game.

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