What Can Shin Pads Do For You?
From the introduction of John Tortorella as the Vancouver Canucks head coach to their sixth game of the season on Saturday, shot blocking has been a hot topic of conversation for the media and fans alike.
Not to be forgotten, hordes of basement dwelling bloggers from all over the continent have even felt compelled to offer their two cents on the defensive tactic and what it can or can’t do for the Canucks, and most importantly the injury risk associated with it.
And those were all fine and dandy opinions, stats, etc. to heap onto the self-sustaining heap of conversation and data surrounding the topic.
Just not enough to keep me from checking out new-er sets of data to find out what exactly to expect from this system.
More Stylistic Over-Analysis
Equally important, but not remotely as heralded a facet to Tortorella’s defensive structure is the difference in positioning by forwards in the defensive zone.
While Vigneault was content to keep his forwards closer to their own blue-line so as to block shots by the defencemen, Tortorella asks that they come much further into the defensive zone to support their own.
At face value I have hard time believing that either system is better or worse than the other, but rather that they are just different.
With Vigneault’s you get the ability to block considerably more shots from the point; which explains why it always seemed like the opposing team’s forwards could set up shop in front of Luongo.
Less shots will get to the point where a screen or tip can have any effect on the outcome of the original shot.
This system would also lend itself well to controlled zone exits (I admittedly don’t have the data to support this, as there currently is no repository of this information) once the team assumed possession, as the wingers which are generally used for outlet passes along the boards will be closer to the blue-line.
The problem with the aforementioned system is that generally speaking it will just take away low percentage shots anyways, and with Roberto Luongo in net that seems almost redundant.
With Tortorella asking that his forwards come much lower in the defensive zone than his predecessor and even going so far as to insist that they block those shots once they are there, the high percentage shots that are often labeled scoring chances have a better chance of getting picked up.
The trickle down effect of this commitment to blocking forwards shots is that it eventually leads to facing less shots from forwards – go figure.
And the Canucks Thus Far This Season…
Are struggling to adjust to Tortorella’s system, as evidenced by the often awkward and wonky attempts to block shots – I’m looking at you, Chris Tanev. That’s not to say I’m concerned for the club long term, but they’ve still yet to learn the proper techniques and intricacies in blocking shots and it shows.
That being said, there has been progress even this early in the season. In making a concerted effort to block high quality shots from the opposing team’s forwards, the Canucks appear to be doing the right thing.
To block forwards shot, that are presumably taken much deeper in your zone, one would think that the defencemen will have to carry the load.
And thus far in this young season, that has certainly been the case.
The margin isn’t overly wide, but the Canucks are getting 53% of their shots blocks from defencemen in comparison to last years 51%. Surely something has to be said for sample size, but the numbers are encouraging regardless. In general they’re blocking an average of 17 shots a game this season in comparison to last year’s 15.
Not sure how much one can take away from six games, but hey, there’s something there I’m sure.