• Nashville and Succeeding at Losing NZ Faceoffs

    by  • July 23, 2013 • Hockey • 12 Comments

    I’m fooling around with some data, which I don’t propose to discuss in any detail in this post. I want to make a point about something though: the intersection of data and video when it comes to understanding how things go.

    Nashville was excellent last year after they lost a neutral zone faceoff. Edmonton struggled when they won one. Simple thing to do? Look at them and see what’s going on. I pulled a collection of Nashville neutral zone faceoff losses against Edmonton to examine and it’s kind of amazing how easy it is for even someone like me, a non-expert in technical hockey matters to see what sort of a scheme the Preds are running.

    Two things to look for with these clips: watch the two Pred wingers when the faceoff is lost. They both move up to pressure the Oilers’ defence, with the centre hanging back. Whichever defenceman has the puck is under pressure. Then watch what the Preds’ defencemen do. Whichever side the puck goes up, that defenceman pinches on the Oilers forward receiving the puck while the centre drops in behind him.

    Also of note: you can see what an advantage having the faceoff just outside the Predator blue is, as the puck can just be dumped in before the Preds can get their structure set. I love seeing stuff like this – for all the talk about systems and technical stuff in hockey, I’ve found it pretty easy to understand what a team is doing whenever you see a bunch of clips of a given situation lined up like this. The difficulty lies in the fact that you don’t get to see twenty identical situations played back to back in a game, which makes it harder to spot this stuff.

    Hockey broadcasts should do more of this and less of people yelling at each other.

    Email Tyler Dellow at tyler@mc79hockey.com


    12 Responses to Nashville and Succeeding at Losing NZ Faceoffs

    1. Saj
      July 23, 2013 at

      Agree with conclusion. Great post!

      So, what do the Oilers do?

    2. July 23, 2013 at

      Outstanding – I assume you cobbled this together by looking back & forth between PBP files & NHL GameCenter. NHL teams, if I recall correctly, use RinkNet software which indexes game video for events like this, which make it easier to call up a number of similar scenarios in sequence.

      The point about broadcasts is especially important, as there’s very little substantial information communicated to fans about the difference in style between various teams.

    3. Tyler Dellow
      July 23, 2013 at

      Yeah, that last paragraph is the key one I think Dirk. Teams get the vaguest descriptors possible applied to them and then they keep them forever. CBC kept calling the Oilers “the Young Oilers” during the 2006 playoffs, even though they weren’t particularly young. Easier than talking about style and what they’re doing.

    4. jordan
      July 23, 2013 at

      That’s what people like John Tortarella don’t understand. Fans are actually interested in informed technical analysis of the game.

    5. rw970
      July 24, 2013 at

      Are the talking heads aware of this stuff, though? Are they capable of seeing right off that Nashville reacts very differently on NSH NZ losses than, say, EDM would? Or is this the kind of thing you would really need like an in-house professional scouting service for?

      • Derek
        July 24, 2013 at

        I don’t think you’d need an in-house professional scouting service to see this stuff. I’m a far cry from a professional, and I was able to see what the Predators were doing. I’d assume people who were former players, or have watched the game professionally for decades would be able to see this.

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    9. Johnny
      July 24, 2013 at

      Tyler, you always do a good job of objectively tempering the analytics with actual hockey examples that don’t fit the generally accepted assumptions. Another great example of how stats don’t tell the whole story.

      While I agree that it would be nice to see this kind of analysis real-time in PBP, I think the sports media follow the same model as the rest of the media — assume the audience has a grade-5 reading level. Maybe that’s a touch pessimistic, but I do have some hope when I hear some of the intelligent analysis of strategy done by Ray Ferraro (TSN) from time to time.

    10. David Stapls
      July 26, 2013 at

      Nice work. ?Very nice.

      And I agree, even for non-NHL level hockey nuts, this kind of analysis is do-able. Hockey is a simple game, more like checkers on ice than chess on ice.

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