Thursday, January 29, 2015

Habs dominated by their opposition's forecheck in recent games

Any semblance of playoff success relies on improved even-strength play.

The Montreal Canadiens last 2 games have seen them put up some disappointing even-strength possession-numbers, while still coming away with wins. Whether it's a testament to their character, the result of a dominating goaltender, simple puck-luck, or a combination of all three; the Habs even-strength performance must improve.


The first step in any forecheck (the responsibility of F1) is to remove puck-possession from the opposition; this is what's referred to as a defensive-touch. Montreal has been out forechecked at even-strength in each of the last 2 games. In fact, their forechecking numbers against Dallas were some of the lowest this season. Forgetting success-rates for the moment, we can see that Nashville averaged over 7 more ES successful forechecking plays per-60 than the Habs during their game, while Dallas averaged over 26 more offensive-zone forechecking plays per-60.

NAS1
HABS
DAL2
HABS
SUC. O-ZONE D-TOUCHES PER-60
56.73
49.21
58.42
32.05
SUC. O-ZONE D-TOUCHES PER-60
ATT. O-ZONE D-TOUCHES PER-60
100.62
77.02
88.95
61.43
ATT. O-ZONE D-TOUCHES PER-60
O-ZONE DTOUCH SUCCESS-RATE
56.4%
63.9%
65.7%
52.2%
O-ZONE DTOUCH SUCCESS-RATE


A successful forecheck makes it difficult for the opposition to leave the defensive-zone and move the puck up-ice while maintaining possession. As we can see in the next group of numbers, both Nashville and Dallas made it quite difficult for Montreal to move the puck up-ice. Montreal was successful with only 68.4% of their attempts to move the puck out of the d-zone with possession versus Nashville, and only 58.9% against Dallas.

The Habs opposition however, had success-rates in the 70's during both games.

NAS1
HABS
DAL2
HABS
D-ZONE EXIT WITH POSSESSION SUCCESS-RATES
74.4%
68.4%
75.0%
58.9%
D-ZONE EXIT WITH POSSESSION SUCCESS-RATES


The second step of any forecheck (the responsibility of F2) is to recover the loose puck created by the initial defensive-touch. The numbers below indicate how many loose-pucks each team recovered (per-60) directly following a successful defensive-touch in the offensive-zone. It's important to remember that any successful LPR (loose-puck recovery) in the offensive-zone provides an extra opportunity to make a play with possession in the offensive-zone.
As we can see, Nashville's forecheck produced 8 more chances to make a possession play in the offensive-zone, while Dallas' gave them an incredible 25 more chances to create offense in the offensive-zone.

 
NAS1
HABS
DAL2
HABS
 O-ZONE SUC. D-TOUCH WITH A SUPPORT LPR PER-60
40.68
32.09
47.80
22.70
 O-ZONE SUC. D-TOUCH WITH A SUPPORT LPR PER-60


At it's most basic level, Forechecking success allows teams to limit the amount of time they spend in the defensive-zone, while maximizing time spent in the offensive-zone. This logically leads to more scoring opportunities, while limiting your opposition's opportunities.
Nashville's forecheck allowed them to produce in 1.1% more offensive-zone events during their loss to the Habs, while Dallas' forecheck helped produce 10.9% more o-zone events.
 
NAS1
HABS
DAL2
HABS
% OF OVERALL EVENTS IN O-ZONE
37.8%
36.7%
44.0%
33.1%
% OF OVERALL EVENTS IN O-ZONE


Tracking individual puck-possession events allows us to break down the defensive-touches mentioned earlier. Defensive-touches (forechecking plays) in the offensive-zone include stick-checks, body-checks (that attempt to remove possession), blocked passes, and blueline holds (defensemen pinching-in).

As we can see, Montreal was actually move active with stick-checks in the offensive-zone than Nashville during their game, while Nashville was more active physically (body-checks). Dallas on the other hand, was more active than the Habs in terms of both stick-checks and body-checks during their game.

All totalled, engaging the opposition in the offensive-zone defensively with a stick or body-check allowed Montreal to create an average of 1 more o-zone loose-puck against Nashville, while this aspect of Dallas' forecheck allowed them to create over 2 more offensive-zone loose-pucks during their loss to the Habs.

NAS1
HABS
DAL2
HABS
SUC. O-ZONE STICK-CHECKS  PER-60
3.425
4.921
4.249
2.137
SUC. O-ZONE STICK-CHECKS  PER-60
ATT. O-ZONE STICK CHECKS  PER-60
7.279
7.061
6.373
5.342
ATT. O-ZONE STICK CHECKS  PER-60
O-ZONE STICK-CHECK SUCCESS-RATE
47.1%
69.7%
66.7%
40.0%
O-ZONE STICK-CHECK SUCCESS-RATE
NAS1
HABS
DAL2
HABS
SUC. O-ZONE BODY-CHECKS  PER-60
1.070
0.428
1.328
1.068
SUC. O-ZONE BODY-CHECKS  PER-60
ATT. O-ZONE BODY CHECKS  PER-60
1.927
1.498
2.124
1.602
ATT. O-ZONE BODY CHECKS  PER-60
O-ZONE BODY-CHECK SUCCESS-RATE
55.6%
28.6%
62.5%
66.7%
O-ZONE BODY-CHECK SUCCESS-RATE


Another way to forecheck is to block out-going pass-attempts, as successful blocked passes also lead to opportunities to recover loose-pucks. While Montreal enjoyed a stick-check advantage against Nashville, it was actually the Predators who outperformed Montreal when it came to blocking opposition passes in the offensive-zone. Dallas also out-performed Montreal in this metric, but on a smaller scale.
 
NAS1
HABS
DAL2
HABS
SUC. O-ZONE BLOCKED PASSES PER-60
2.783
1.712
2.921
2.404
SUC. O-ZONE BLOCKED PASSES PER-60
ATT. O-ZONE BLOCKED PASSES PER-60
3.211
2.140
2.921
3.205
ATT. O-ZONE BLOCKED PASSES PER-60
BLOCKED PASSES SUCCESS-RATE
86.7%
80.0%
100.0%
75.0%
BLOCKED PASSES SUCCESS-RATE


Activating defensemen is another way to forecheck. Both Nashville's and Dallas' defensemen were much more active in the offensive-zone. Nashville's defense created a little over 1 extra offensive-zone loose-puck (per-60) as the result of a blueline hold, while Dallas' D out-performed Montreal's defense in this metric over 3 to 1.
 
NAS1
HABS
DAL2
HABS
SUC. O-ZONE BLUE HOLDS PER-60
4.07
2.78
3.19
0.80
SUC. O-ZONE BLUE HOLDS PER-60
ATT. O-ZONE BLUE HOLDS PER-60
7.71
4.71
6.37
2.14
ATT. O-ZONE BLUE HOLDS PER-60
BLUE HOLDS SUCCESS-RATE
52.8%
59.1%
50.0%
37.5%
BLUE HOLDS SUCCESS-RATE


Forechecking is just 1 aspect of performance. That said, the last 2 games have shown that Montreal struggles when facing an active forechecking team. With that in mind, puck-support, gap control, and easy-outs (dump-outs) are just a few examples of things that need to improve.