Pizzametrics, Week 1: Silfverberg, Perreault and Defensive Breakdowns

Josh Howard (@JHowardDesign)

The goal of the pizza is to be eaten. The goal of the puck is to be scored with. This is a metaphor.

Welcome to Pizzametrics, the most sophisticated advanced statistic in hockey that I totally made up and am still making up each day! In actuality though, the metaphor is simple: eating pizza is delicious. Winning games is also delicious, and winning means scoring goals. Scoring goals is easier when players possess the puck. One cannot eat the pizza without the pie, right?

Each week, after recording and pouring over the games played, I’ll be applying my "complex" system of metaphorical metrics to members of the Anaheim Ducks, calling out the best eaters and delivery guys on the squad on an individual game or group of games basis. Because this is a "stat," I have created a one slice (1P-Met) to six slice (6P-Met) rating system, with six slices of pizza being excellent.

The purpose of Pizzametrics is to continue the possession/fancystats conversation without getting hung up on the numbers themselves. By all means, add whatever you see fit in the comments!

WEEK 1 (Oct 1 - Oct 5):

Wednesday, 10/2 – L, ANA (1) at COL (6)

Saturday, 10/5 – W OT, ANA (4) at MIN (3)

P-METS SLICES (Players):

Jakob Silfverberg, RW (4P-Met) – The primary return in the Bobby Ryan trade hasn’t disappointed through two games. Through two, he has two goals – the first was the only good result on the stat line to show up in the opener. But his second goal was no joke either. Not a bad start.

Normally, two goals in two games is enough for a full six-slice P-Met rating. But Silfverberg’s output isn’t necessarily coming from stellar, unparalleled play. He was just ok against Colorado, in terms of being involved in more possession events for than against. But he was given 10 offensive and neutral zone starts in that game to three defensive zone starts, and he wasn’t wildly dominant on the possession side – that kills a slice. For a player who is a supposed two-way forward, I’m hopeful we see his usage and possession numbers round out.

It was his game against Minnesota though that cost him the next slice of sweet, delicious pizza. Aside from his snipe, his possession numbers were pretty terrible. Silfverberg was outchanced 70% of the time he was on the ice, and he was again being fed friendlier zone starts (13 O/Nz to 6 Dz). The Wild brought it hard against the Ducks though, so it’s no biggie.

In short, Silfverberg has provided the offense needed to overlook that he hasn’t been as stellar defensively as some projected. It’s very early, and both of the games in this sample had oddities to them. What I want to see from Silfverberg is far less shot attempts against when he’s on the ice, especially since he’s being deployed more offensively than not.

The good news is, his numbers were much better in game three, but that’s technically a week two post. Also good: his short-game offensive zone cycle.

Mathieu Perreault, C (5P-Met) – I have enjoyed watching Perreault play thus far. He’s been one of the more noticeable players on the ice to me. Through two games, he had one big game-winning goal and a slick helper on Silfverberg’s second of the year.

What’s impressed me thus far is his containment of the puck. His deployment has been similar to Silfverberg’s, but his overall possession numbers have been better. Despite being on the ice for two goals against in Colorado, he was our second best play-driving center (behind Getzlaf) and the third best at forward overall.

I like this. Good things tend to happen more when a player drives offense.

I want to highlight his game winner though. This goal is the difference between four slices and five slices of pizza, with whatever topping he wants on it.

Perreault gets the puck from Francois Beauchemin on the boards by his bench. Head up, he sees Silfverberg signaling to push play, so he drives toward center ice. This is key, because defending open ice is harder than defending along the boards. Now the best part of this: HE DOES NOT DUMP THE PUCK. Granted, there isn’t enough time to, but ceding possession upon entry is stupid, especially when there’s a player a step or two back entering alongside (Beauch). He inside-outs a guy so hard he falls, dishes the puck over to his less pressured mate, and then continues toward net and into space to receive the easiest helper of Beauchemin’s career.

Goddamn this moment made me proud.

THE TOPPINGS (Concluding Thoughts):

Normally I’ll try to run with three players each week. With two games in the first week, staying with pairs seems fitting – there’s just not that much to work with yet. The season is young. I will say, Cam Fowler has impressed me in both games, and if I was adding in another guy, he’d be in with a surprising 4P-Met this time. Keep that in mind, as Fowler is likely to be a favorite discussion point throughout the season.

Instead, I wanted to go all the way back to game one against the Colorado Avalanche. This was such an interesting game to me. In terms of possession and controlling play, the Ducks played very well. Despite the one-sided score, it seemed to me that Anaheim drove play more often than not – but running into a "hot" goaltender is something that will happen, despite the best efforts.

I thought the goals scored against the team were classic game one, jittery goals. The first was a bad flubbed pass picked off by a superb offensive talent in Ryan O`Reilly – that’s going in. The second goal was a powerplay goal. Now, the team’s penalty kill has to improve, but that goal’s not a 5v5 concern.

The third goal was more bad luck and timing than outright bad play.

Fowler led the rush in on a four-on-four, which is normally fine because he can get back in time. But Semyon Varlamov punched a rebound outside to his guy like he planned it. His teammate was able to push it forward quickly when Getzlaf over committed to taking away the puck – cue the odd man rush the other way that Fasth didn’t play well. Getzlaf and Fasth both mentally pooped their pants there, but nine times out of 10 a good tender is stopping a John friggin’ Mitchell snipe.

Goal four bugged me the most though, because it was an outright breakdown in defensive coverage. Unlucky goals are going to happen, but allowing goals with poor play is what the coaching staff can affect.

The play starts when an Avs player picks up the puck in their defensive zone. The Ducks come back as they should – two defensemen skating backward through the neutral zone with tons of space, the forwards picking up their marks in the neutral zone and applying pressure, which forces a dump-in. That’s all technically sound stuff there.

Where it goes wrong is on the ensuing puck retrieval. With this dump-in, there’s one spy (Fowler) and one cover (Beauchemin). Because the puck is behind the net, the spy chases and the cover stations on the opposite side of the ice in front of the net. With a defenseman chasing, the centerman is supposed to drop low and cover net-front, puck-side. The wingers come back and play in zones – low enough to support if needed, high enough to breakout, but man coverage for anyone skating through.

This goes south because Saku Koivu vacates his cover to assist Fowler, leaving Jamie McGinn open backdoor. This all pretty much falls apart at 0:11-0:12 on the video. Daniel Winnik tracks #11 through his zone pretty well, honestly, but I doubt he assumed Koivu would cheat low, and by the time he tried to cover McGinn was eating pizza.

Nathan MacKinnon had to make a spot-on, beauty of a pass for that play to work. That shouldn’t be ignored. It was pretty, with just the right sauce on it. But had Koivu played his position and let Fowler battle for the puck, no passing lane exists, and neither Beauchemin nor Winnik are scrambling to close on a sprung McGinn. On the chase side, Fowler could have come in a little more heavy, but that’s not really Cam’s game.

This is a prime example of what the Ducks need to trim down on this season. With the defense as thin as it is, the forward group will be relied upon to assist in coverage often. You can see that here in how deep Koivu covers – right where Fowler would collapse without a dump – and how deep Winnik’s puck-side zone is. Some teams play that on the higher side of the dot, whereas #34 sets up on the dot itself. Those few feet make a difference.

But play this out the right way: Fowler gets beat to the puck but MacK can’t score from behind the net, so he’d have to beat him carrying the puck. With Beauch far-side, he can close and cream #29 should he beat Cam and try a wraparound. If Koivu holds his spot, McGinn can’t get behind him for as clean a look, which probably cuts off that lane. Winnik can then pressure McGinn, and the puck probably goes back along the boards to the point. Immediate crisis averted.

Opposite of that, think about how the dump-in only worked because coverage broke down. The Avs had to get lucky to make this work, and the Ducks had to breakdown to let it happen.

See ya next week.

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