Archive for Hockey Tactics

It is a rite of passage as a hockey fan to desperately scream “Shoot the puck!” at the team you root for.  It’s heard in arenas, bars and living rooms the world over, and why not?  After all, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.  Getting the puck to the net is never a bad play.  Insert hockey cliche here.  

Last night during the Rangers/Blackhawks game, Eddie Olczyk (who is currently battling colon cancer, and working for NBC Sports during his 24-weeks of chemotherapy – get well, Edzo!) pointed out several 2-on-1 chances for the Rangers that didn’t result in a shot on goal.  On the surface, this seems both insane and infuriating.  But if you’ve watched the Rangers closely, especially in the Alain Vigneault era, you know that this isn’t necessarily something new.

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Categories : Hockey Tactics
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alain vigneault

Photo: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Adapt or die.

That’s a quote from the movie Moneyball. Although that direct quote references including stats in analysis, it applies here to Alain Vigneault. AV has run the same hybrid overload/man coverage system in New York since his arrival in 2013. It seemed to work initially, but each season we’ve seen diminishing results.

At first it seemed to be a personnel issue. The Rangers weren’t mobile on defense, and it was certainly getting exploited regularly. This offseason changed things, as Kevin Shattenkirk and Brendan Smith replaced Dan Girardi and Kevin Klein. More playing time for Brady Skjei should have also led to positive results. But they haven’t. The defense is still a train wreck.

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brendan smith

Note: Big welcome to Chris (@yolo_pinyato), the newest writer at BSB. Chris has put together some phenomenal work at HockeyGraphs, and has present at the RIT Hockey Analytics Conference. We are all stoked to have him on board. Give him a follow on Twitter and check out his work, it’s great stuff.

With the Rangers season already perilously close to teetering off the edge of contention, I wanted to take a quick look at the Ranger’s big offseason acquisition, Kevin Shattenkirk.

First a quick breakdown of the data:

When looking at Shattenkirk’s shot impacts last year at 5v5, we can see that relative to competition, he was by far the best player of the Rangers’ current set of defensemen. The shot impacts are weighted meaning that if two players had the same Corsi For% but different levels of competition, the player with the stronger competition would be higher on the y-axis.

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Jul
17

What a move to center means for JT Miller

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jt miller

Photo: NHL.com

As currently constructed, the Rangers have a decently sized hole at center. It’s the one major flaw of the roster right now that can’t be ignored. There are no names in free agency that make sense. There are some trade targets, but anyone worth while is going to cost an arm and a leg to acquire. The fix, as of now, appears to be internal, and one of the major names thrown out there is JT Miller, and shifting him back to center.

Miller was drafted as a center and played the position until he came to the Rangers. It was then that Alain Vigneault moved him to wing. On the surface, it made sense. Miller isn’t sound defensively, and AV requires a lot of defensive play from his centers. Even Martin St. Louis, one of the game’s greats, had trouble making the shift to center for a short period. There’s a good reason for that too.

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Categories : Hockey Tactics, Players
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Depending on which sites you read, Kevin Shattenkirk is either amazing at defense or a defensive liability. Fancy stat folks obviously love possession stats and have countered the beat writers’ narrative that Shattenkirk is all O and no D. The eternal fight continues…YAWN.

What’s important though is not what the pundits say about his d-zone coverage, but whether or not he wears summer threads (preferably hopsack over cotton) that are body conscious.

Apologies, I forgot this is Blue Seat Blogs, not Gentlemen’s Quarterly. Got my blogging journalistic responsibilities mixed up.

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Categories : Hockey Tactics, Players
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Apr
24

Rangers vs. Senators: Systems preview

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alain vigneault

The second round matchup is now set, as the Rangers will take on the Ottawa Senators in the Atlantic Division Final. The Sens closed out the Bruins in overtime last night, setting the stage for Game One in Ottawa this week. The Senators are going to pose a problem for the Rangers, as they have some pretty solid team speed and skill.

The last time these two teams faced off in the playoffs was in 2012, with the Rangers winning in seven games. Both teams are completely different now, so there isn’t much to go on from that series. While the Senators certainly do not have the forward depth to match the Blueshirts, they have a good amount of speed and skill throughout the lineup. Erik Karlsson looms large as well. They play very well and are a disciplined team under Guy Boucher.

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Categories : Hockey Tactics, Playoffs
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The image that keeps on giving

It’s white board time.

In life, sometimes it is the simplest of decisions that can put you in a position to succeed or fail. Hockey is no different. Being in the right position at the right time usually doesn’t happen by chance. It’s a decision or a chain of decisions that can set you up with a Goal For or a Goal Against.

Perhaps there isn’t a more critical time to get that decision making process right then when you are on the backcheck. For the Rangers, executing their backchecking system is crucial to their counter game, which you all know has been the bread and butter of AV’s system during his time in New York.

For today’s post, we’ll breakout the different ways teams execute backchecking systems and discuss whether or not the Rangers are excelling at this aspect of the game. Then maybe if we have some time later in the comments, we’ll discuss what kind of seasonal fabrics everyone should be buying for the holidays!

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Categories : Hockey Tactics
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Nov
29

Missing Mika Zibanejad on the powerplay

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mika zibanejad

When the Rangers lost Mika Zibanejad to a broken leg, the Rangers lost perhaps the one forward that would be the most difficult to replace. Zibanejad is a unique forward for the Rangers not in production, but the curveball he throws to the opposition when matching up. The majority of the Rangers are left-handed, pass-first players. Zibanejad is the exact opposite as a right-handed, shoot-first player.

This is the kind of player that the Rangers sorely needed for the longest time, as he was the pure shooter the Rangers needed not only at even strength, but even more so on the powerplay. It was the most evident the other night against Ottawa, when the Rangers could get nothing going on with the man advantage.

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alain vigneault

The Rangers have been a marvel to watch this season. After a significant upgrade at forward, the Rangers are steamrolling opponents to a top-three in the league 57% scoring-chances-for (SCF%) rating. The league leading 62 (as of this writing) goals scored are also pretty nice as well. But perhaps the biggest difference is the defensive zone play.

Last year, the Rangers hemorrhaged shots from all over the defensive zone, putting up some of the worst Corsi (quantity) and Scoring-Chance (quality) numbers against we’ve seen in a while. It was a two-part problem. The first was personnel, which was going to be almost impossible to fix. The second part was system based, which required an adjustment by Alain Vigneault, something many thought to be impossible based on the comments across the blog and Twitter.

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Photo: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Photo: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The table is set for another round of the Penguins and the Rangers, who seem to meet in the playoffs as often as the Caps and the Rangers. This time around, it will be old friend Mike Sullivan, who was an assistant with the Rangers during the John Tortorella days, behind the bench in Pittsburgh. The change in coach means a change in system from the last time they met in the first round (last year).

The biggest change for the Penguins is that they are run a more aggressive style of play compared to Mike Johnston last year. They are more like Dan Bylsma’s Penguins in this regard, even without half their roster, as Pat pointed out. But even without key players, the Penguins enter the playoffs red hot and have really adopted this new style of play effectively.

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Categories : Hockey Tactics, Playoffs
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