• A Quick Look at Leafs/Ducks OZ Faceoff Losses

    by  • April 19, 2014 • Hockey • 15 Comments

    If you read this blog with any regularity, you know that I’ve recently been puzzling over why Bruce Boudreau’s teams are so good after they lose offensive zone faceoffs. The NHL average Corsi% in those situations is about 54%; Boudreau’s teams routinely post numbers in the mid to high 60s.

    My suspicion is that this is tactical thing. The Ducks saw a big jump in this area immediately upon firing Randy Carlyle and hiring Bruce Boudreau so it can’t be player related. I’m in the process of gathering some video to look into it. What I’ve got already is pretty telling. This is a series of Maple Leaf offensive zone faceoff losses in Washington, a game where they should have been pushing because they were behind all night. Watch how the forwards play once the draw is lost. Then I’ve got a series of Duck faceoff losses against the Oilers.

    To me, the difference in how the teams play could not be more obvious. The Ducks seem to have the inside winger pressuring the puck, whether by going in behind the net or by going hard to take away the far boards a lot more. The Leafs seem to have one guy chase the puck carrier behind the net while the other two forwards are setting up to back up and defend.

    This is a tiny little window, so it’s hardly definitive – I think I’m going to work some more on this to nail it down a little more. That said, the results are overwhelming. There is something that Anaheim does that’s different than other teams do and they get results from it.

    If you follow the Oilers at all, you’ve heard the local media go on ad nauseum about how the Oilers need to get bigger. I’m sure that the Ducks’ size doesn’t hurt them. At the same time, as you watch these, a lot of this isn’t size – it’s a willingness to challenge and engage the other team as opposed to kind of falling back and hoping that they screw up.

    Email Tyler Dellow at tyler@mc79hockey.com


    15 Responses to A Quick Look at Leafs/Ducks OZ Faceoff Losses

    1. Hoos
      April 19, 2014 at

      My question is this, given your final statement:

      ” a lot of this isn’t size – it’s a willingness to challenge and engage the other team as opposed to kind of falling back and hoping that they screw up.”

      Do you think this points to the competitiveness of the players on the ice, OR is it strictly a tactical difference?

      • Trentent
        April 19, 2014 at

        I suspect it’s mostly tactical. Otherwise you could argue the opposite, players are just *less* competitive with Carlyle than with Boudreau. I don’t think that makes much sense.

    2. Rob
      April 19, 2014 at

      Really interesting. When Carlyle said the staff were mystified as to how the Leafs pk was doing poorly despite the good save percentage during, it completely cemented the validity of adv stats to me because they don’t think so and are clearly clueless… this video cements adv stats as seriously interesting as well. I still think absolute shot quality doubters would have trouble with explaining the Red Army teams like in the ’72 series though.

      • Tyler Dellow
        April 20, 2014 at

        You should take a look at Pat McLean’s work on that. He went through and counted the scoring chances for that series, found that Canada produced way more: http://blackdoghatesskunks.blogspot.ca/search/label/72%20Series

        • Rob
          April 22, 2014 at

          Wow, his post about Game 8 is mesmerizing.

          I’m at least partially convinced the Soviets were honestly outmatched because of the power play scoring making games close. My impression of their system is from reading Tretiak, where he described the 3-3 New Years Eve game against Montreal where the shots were ~30-13 as the perfect game and an even match.

    3. Woodguy
      April 20, 2014 at

      This is a very cool find.

      I applaud your work to see it and find it.

      It seems to come down to whether or not the coach wants to play aggressive hockey and force a mistake, or play waiting for the other team to make a mistake.

      TOR sends one forechecker and the other two drop back to clog up the neutral zone.

      ANA sends two forecheckers, one at the puck, one ahead of the puck, and when the C drops back the D moves up for a pinch.

      I love it.

      This is one reason I fear what Eakins is doing as it seems passive and the focus has been on eliminating their own mistakes instead of causing the opposition to make mistakes.

      He’s talked about an aggressive forecheck and of course many, many words have be written (most of them incorrect) about the aggressive swarm in their own zone.

      I really hope he coaches the Oilers to use their speed to force mistakes and not be passive.

      Passive doesn’t get you the puck often enough.

      Passive is death.

      • Tyler Dellow
        April 20, 2014 at

        Yeah, I increasingly think that this is right Darcy.

        I think it’s important to remember that hockey tactics kind of develop out of hockey’s history and don’t always necessarily keep pace with what’s going on in the league. I suspect that some of the stuff that we see that doesn’t seem to make sense is tied to that.

        Coaches have formed risk/reward calculations based on their own experiences in other leagues (where maybe the risk/reward is different) or based on long careers in hockey – twenty years ago, who knows if the average D moved the puck as well as he does today. I suspect the answer is that he didn’t.

        There’s an interesting tie-in here to soccer. Borussia Dortmund have been amongst the world’s elite teams over the past few years – couple of Bundesliga titles, a Champions League final, some German Cups. They are glorious to watch. They’ve done all this despite not being amongst European football’s financial elite. Last year, they played in the CL Final and finished second in the Bundesliga. QPR, in England, spent more money than Dortmund and were relegated from the Prem.

        There’s a good article here talking about their philosophy on how to play – their manager Jurgen Klopp, calls it “gegenpress.” Read this and tell me that he isn’t describing what Bruce Boudreau is doing off OZ losses:

        Gegenpressing differs from Barcelona’s approach of pressing teams as high up the pitch as possible by incorporating a defensive as well as attacking element, which involves the whole team pressing aggressively in unison. Gegenpressing is a highly-organised approach to regaining possession and minimising space for the opposition. Dortmund’s opponents are rapidly closed down by well-rehearsed, co-ordinated pressing movements, often by two or more players, allied with intelligent positioning to restrict space for players to pass and move into. Klopp knows that possession of the ball without creating and taking goal-scoring opportunities means little. He also understands that for possession-based approaches like tiki-taka to be effective, players need space to pass and move in key areas, particularly the final third of the pitch.

        The Dortmund manager has described gegenpressing as “the best playmaker in the world. The best moment to win the ball is immediately after your team just lost it. The opponent is still looking for orientation where to pass the ball.” Once Dortmund have regained possession, the transition from defence to attack is organised and, potentially, explosive. But, although Klopp is renowned for his commitment to open attacking football, he is no ‘one trick pony’. Gegenpressing does not mean playing the same way all the time. Dortmund can play a variety of styles and formations, all underpinned by the gegenpressing approach.

        As you may know, hockey analytics have had huge influence in soccer – they talk about PDO in Holland, for god’s sake. The games are more similar than the hockey diehards would acknowledge.

        I don’t think I’ve “proven” anything here – it needs more work. That said, as proof of concept, it’s pretty obvious to me that you can start grinding value of this by tying the data to the video.

        • Woodguy
          April 20, 2014 at

          I like this part a lot, and it translates to hockey very well”

          The best moment to win the ball is immediately after your team just lost it. The opponent is still looking for orientation where to pass the ball.”

          Pressing the forecheck immediately probably forces more mistakes since not all the opposition players are “where they are supposed to be” and the relief valve passes might not be there yet.

          Turn overs in the offensive zone are obviously the most dangerous (Boudreau teams outshooting 6.5-3.5 after losing a face off is the most extreme example…still hard to wrap my head around that one) and present the most opportunities to score.

          Perhaps this is part of the reason why some marginal CF% teams (ANA is 49.8% overall, 15th in the league) can outperform their CF% in terms of GF%.

          SV% and SH% play a huge part in GF%, but what if having more offensive turn-overs and “open looks” due to that process affects it as well?

          What if offensive zone turnovers helps drive SV%?

          Interesting stuff and this is just the beginning.

          I’d love to see the SH%, CF% and GF% after each of these types of turnovers:

          1) Offensive Zone
          2) Neutral Zone
          3) Defensive Zone

          I bet that the payoff for a OZ turnover is ridiculously high and demands that you coach your team to work for them.

          Similar to what Eric T found on Zone Entries. If you don’t give up the puck at the line, you score twice as often.

          That little tidbit made for coaching tactic changes on many teams.

          I bet finding out similar results on Ozone turn overs may cause more coaches to press the forecheck harder than the currently do.

          Man we need some SportsVu info.

          • Woodguy
            April 20, 2014 at

            I wrote:

            What if offensive zone turnovers helps drive SV%?

            I meant:

            What if offensive zone turnovers helps drive SHt%?

      • Tyler Dellow
        April 20, 2014 at

        I really do recommend that read. I liked this about work ethic:

        But let’s not forget that Dortmund’s technical and individual brilliance is driven by high levels of motivation and commitment. Klopp has inspired his players to work extremely hard as a team, referring to this as “greed…the hunger to eat up that extra kilometer of grass.” Klopp knows only too well that any tactical approach, including gegenpressing, won’t bring success without sheer hard work. Earlier this season Klopp commented, “I want us to go to the limit every time. There’s a saying: a good horse only jumps as high as it needs to. I’ve put it differently for my team: a really good horse jumps as high as it can. To give everything on the pitch, that’s what we train for.”

    4. jeffgm
      April 20, 2014 at

      Great work here Tyler. I was asking a similar question about the leafs drop in possession from Wilson to Carlyle. I recall Wilson used a more aggressive forecheck in general but I’m not sure if there is a difference tactic he used after the faceoffs.

      Randy’s more passive defence first style also explains why Carlyle often uses his better faceoff centre in the ozone rather then best playmakers or best possession players to secure puck possession.

    5. FastOil
      April 20, 2014 at

      Very interesting work as usual. I think that you are right in looking for the system connection to the numbers. It’s the natural progression to learn what it is that makes the difference. I am not sure everyone has the eye you do if not from a strong hockey background.

      I think we are still in the ‘size’ hangover from when obstruction was allowed which meant being a beast meant you could fight through holding and cross checking in the slot. It concerns me about the Oiler love for Draisaitl because I can’t seem to determine from available info if he can skate well at his high weight for his age.

      The teams that have success aren’t doing so because of having big players as the common wisdom goes. I went through the WC for a Lowetide comment and the top players aren’t any more likely to be large than not. That some teams have a Thornton or Gretzlaf or Kopitar isn’t the whole story especially if they aren’t allowed to hold or board or randomly attack opponents.

      They succeed because they are great players, of course their size doesn’t hurt them. That the Oilers have some timid smaller players skews opinions as well. It’s more about quickness and attitude.

      The league is calling obstruction more or less and we see more small players coming in because quickness is more important than size. Smaller players that are aggressive enough can get the job done and bring offense because they are typically offensive players. The league will keep heading to more speed if the rules continue to be enforced.

      Eakins I think mentioned this in his old school/ new school presser. He also mentioned that ‘heavy teams’ are playing physical styles as opposed to playing dirty. Anybody can do that if willing. I hope MacT is on the same page at draft time if they keep the pick, which they should at 3 OV IMO.

      Attacking the puck carrier and taking options away will play into a strong transition game to create the rushes the Oilers find the most offense from. I think it suits the roster as it is, and of course makes for great watching. It will draw penalties (the PP will get sorted out some day I’m sure). I think that is what Eakins was trying to do to start the year.

    6. Saj
      April 21, 2014 at

      Great stuff. It bewilders me that an NHL team has not hired you full-time.

      • May 6, 2014 at

        Puck writes: Arguing that the rest of the pooupatiln — especially future pooupatiln — is actually incapable of eschewing religion is, as I certainly did say in my post, and is the one thing you may take as an attack if you truly believe it, arrogant. I’ll quote me again: I also did not say that religion cannot be subject to logic and reason again, this is a topic I did not address at all. So your statement that I have argued that the future pooupatiln is incapable of aschewing religion once again attributes an argument to me which I didn’t make.What I said was this: religion will probably always be with us. We need to work with this fact. Maybe the work is an education system that allows us to draw people away from the natural tendency to religiosity! But the point is we will always be drawn towards faiths. What we do about that is, again, not something I addressed.As to whether this assessment (mine, not your version of mine) is arrogant, it’s just a prediction based on my understanding of the facts. I don’t see how that’s arrogant.

    7. nn
      April 22, 2014 at

      Attack after loss of puck in O-zone. Take a minute and listen to 2014-02-13 Ian Herbers @GBHKY coach at http://www.jasongregor.com/category/archive-shows/page/9/ Start 5:30 in. Inspiring Clare Drake hockey. Ian Herbers would be great in Oilers organization. Worth your time. Thanks for your analysis.

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