Wednesday, May 16, 2012

HABS: Neutral-zone Success-rates while Defending

The eventual goal of any defending player in the neutral-zone is to remove or regain puck-possession. Creating neutral-zone turnovers is a huge part of every NHL team's game-plan. These turnovers can be accomplished by winning a puck-battle (either with a hit or with a stick-check), recovering a loose-puck, or intercepting a pass. The graph is a visual representation of every Montreal Canadiens skater's success-rate when engaging in one of these neutral-zone events. The calculation allows us to quantify each player's ability to play defense by either removing or regaining puck-possession from the opposing team. The events used in this calculation include:

  • Neutral-zone puck-battles
  • Lost neutral-zone puck-battles
  • Neutral-zone loose-puck recoveries
  • Lost races to loose-pucks in the neutral-zone
  • Blocked/intercepted passes
  • Failed Blocked/ intercepted passes (puck goes under stick or through legs)
  • Successful poke-checks

These results are restricted to even-strength play in the neutral-zone. 





Gabriel Dumont earned the top defensive-rating in the neutral-zone. That said, he engaged in a limited number of neutral-zone events. Therefore, his results are incomplete. The same can be said for Andreas Engqvist.

FORWARDS

Among forwards with significant neutral-zone events, the top defensive-rating in the neutral-zone was earned by Tomas Plekanec. Plekanec was successful with 71% of his defensive-events in the neutral-zone. He won only 44% of his neutral-zone puck-battles, but recovered 120 loose-pucks. He also intercepted 50 opposition passes. In terms of percentage, he was able to get his stick or body on 67% of opposition players' high-risk passes (under his stick/through his legs).

The only other player with a success-rate above 70% was Max Pacioretty. Pacioretty was successful with 70% of his defensive-events in the neutral-zone. He won 51% of his neutral-zone puck-battles, and recovered 154 loose-pucks. He intercepted 51 opposition passes, and was able to get his stick or body on 57% of opposition players' high-risk passes.

The lowest success-rates belonged to Brad Staubitz (50%), and Louis Leblanc (51%). Leblanc won only 32% of his neutral-zone puck-battles, while Staubitz was not able to intercept any opposition passes in the neutral-zone.



DEFENSEMEN

Defensemen's positioning allows them the opportunity to see the play develop. As such, their defensive-ratings in the neutral-zone are significantly higher than forwards. Forwards are often forcing the passer; this makes it more difficult to block passes, as their positioning doesn't give them enough reaction-time. Defensemen, on the other hand, are usually positioned more closely to the receiver of the pass, thereby allowing more time to intercept or block the pass.

Among defensemen, the top defensive-rating in the neutral-zone belonged to Josh Gorges. Gorges was successful with an incredible 90% of his defensive-events in the neutral-zone. He won 66% of his neutral-zone puck-battles, and recovered 83 loose-pucks. He intercepted 44 opposition passes; for a success-rate of 81%. He was also successful with 28 attempted poke-checks.

Other d-men with success-rates above 84% include; Chris Campoli (88%), Alexei Emelin (84%), and Andrei Markov (85%). Campoli and Emelin did a solid job intercepting passes, while Markov won 80% of his neutral-zone puck-battles.

Raphael Diaz (74%) and Tomas Kaberle (76%) had the lowest defensive-rating in the neutral-zone. Kaberle won only 44% of his neutral-zone puck-battles, while Diaz won only 45% of his n-zone puck-battles. Both players also had low success-rates when attempting to intercept opposition-passes.


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