View Single Post
05-19-2013, 03:36 PM
Canadiens1958's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2007
Posts: 10,446
vCash: 500
Defensive Hockey Simplified

Originally Posted by Mike Farkas View Post
Shots against can't be viewed in the same context as it was before the removal of the center red line and the plateauing of goaltending talent (specifically, butterfly-based talent).

Previously, defense could be better measured in shots against because of some of the uncertainty with goaltending from top to bottom. Not to say goaltending was bad all over (not at all) but the tiers of goaltending were much more pronounced 20+ years longer the case. That's why we see goalies that change teams have such wild fluctuations in statistics these days (Brian Elliott, Mike Smith, Tim Thomas, Ilya Bryzgalov, etc.).

Think about a predominant defensive tactic in the past. Nearly a curse word in hockey, the dreaded "neutral zone trap". When it's installed as a purely passive forecheck, it neutralizes speed in an important area of the ice for creativity and paly development. Typically, forcing a dump and chase scenario that can be thwarted and quickly regurgitated by a puck playing goaltender (Brodeur, Mike Smith, Jacques Plante, or so I've read on the latter) and/or good puck retrieval/zone exit system. I know I certainly don't need to explain that to you, C1958, in fact, you could probably tell me a thing or two, but for the others reading it needed to be touched upon.

The goal then was to prevent shots. It's a neutral zone focus. Combine icing, two-line pass and offside rules plus the lack of trapezoid, and it makes a lot of sense for the era. Weaker goaltenders could be insulated by it a little bit better because they don't have to face as many shots. Or good goalies with top-notch puck playing skills could thrive in it.

Today: two-line pass eliminated, trapezoid in place and goaltending has plateaued. There are few weak goalies in the league today (or, depending on how you look at it, the league is mostly weak goaltending but they're all the same, so it doesn't matter...whatever). They play the percentages more than the position generally. So it's ok to let them make saves. Create "easy" saves. Low quality chances. A 45 foot wrist shot from the left wing boards will not go into today. Allow that shot, collapse down and remove rebounds from the net front and that's it. You work that to perfection and you can do lots of great things with goaltending stats.

The most defensive teams aren't so dependent on their neutral zone tactics, they are more dependent on their forward support down low in their own end. The "collapse" seems to be all the rage today. Goaltenders today can generally stop the first shot from most moderate or low percentage zones (and/or low/moderate quality opportunities). Thus, save percentages are through the roof, but goaltending - to a man - isn't at its historic peak by any stretch.

TL;DR version: Defense of old says that if you want to prevent goals, you better prevent shots. Modern defense suggests that shots are ok from low quality areas, but higher quality areas (including second chance opportunities) are the thing to stop. Not shot prevention, goal prevention. As obvious or as silly as it sounds.

Concerns abound about the ability to exit the zone in a meaningful fashion. Plus, allowing more shots than you're taking is generally a sign that you are losing the puck possession battle - not a positive either.

Making things way too complex. Since the introduction of the two blue lines to hockey., the idea has been to keep the opposing team's puck possession outside the defensive zone (blue line) while transitioning the puck out of the defensive zone to the offensive zone and sustaining pressure in the opponents defensive zone.Chances of scoring against a goalie from outside the blue line have always been minute to negligible.

There are three main components to judging the effectiveness of a team's overall defensive performance. In terms of the order in which they happen:

1.) The total number of times an offensive team crosses the blue line in possession of the puck or gains possession of the puck in the offensive zone (turnover,face-off win). Turnover here has the widest possible definition. Note it is possible to generate multiple turnovers or face-offs from one blue line crossing, likewise multiple shots but the result is always zero or one goals.

2.) The actual game time the puck spends in a team's defensive zone or inside their blue line.

3.) The actual Goals Allowed as opposed to GAA. Team allowing the fewest goals over the course of a schedule has the best chance of winning.

The rest of the generated stats are simply descriptive of the above.

Canadiens1958 is offline   Reply With Quote