Henrik Sedin Might Never Take Another Defensive Zone Faceoff

Jonathan Willis
March 04 2012 01:35PM

It probably shouldn’t have been a huge surprise when the Canucks acquired Samuel Pahlsson. Pahlsson has long been one of the league’s truly elite defensive zone specialists, and no team matches given lines to given zones like the Vancouver Canucks.

It also shouldn’t be a surprise to note that instead of having one line take all the defensive zone draws, Alain Vigneault has responded to the addition of Pahlsson by giving almost all of the defensive zone draws to two lines.

Via Vic Ferrari’s timeonice.com, here are the even-strength faceoffs by zone that each Canucks centre has been on the ice for in the three games since the NHL trade deadline:

Player Defensive Offensive % Offensive
Henrik Sedin 2 27 93.1
Ryan Kesler 12 16 57.1
Maxim Lapierre 13 3 18.9
Manny Malhotra 16 3 15.8
Samuel Pahlsson 19 2 9.5

The really interesting number here is that of Ryan Kesler. Henrik Sedin has been taking a lot of offensive zone starts for years now – he’s not starting in the offensive zone 9-%+ of the time, but he is starting there a lot. Kesler, however, has started more than half of his shifts at his own end of the ice this year, and we can see the impact that subbing a player like Pahlsson in for Hodgson has. With Hodgson on the third line, Vigneault was forced to use Kesler in a more defensive role, and Hodgson in a more offensive role. By bringing in Pahlsson, Vigneault now has the freedom to use Kesler primarily in an offensive role.

This is a significant point, and one that gets underplayed. In analyzing the Canucks’ deadline moves, many have assumed the team lost offense up front because Pahlsson/Kassian don’t provide as much scoring as Hodgson. In fact, some of the offense lost in the Hodgson trade is going to be made up for simply by shifting Kesler into a more offensive role.

I’ve also included zonestarts by line; at least one of the Canucks’ lines has featured two centres on it, and for two games Pahlsson/Malhotra was the third line with Lapierre on the fourth, while against the Sabres last night Vigneault chose to swap Lapierre with Malhotra.

Line Defensive Offensive % Offensive
First 2 27 93.1
Second 12 16 57.1
Third 18 2 10.0
Fourth 11 3 21.4

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#2 Scott McKenzie
March 04 2012, 01:49PM
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Gonna need a funeral because you guys have officially beaten this story to death.

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#3 Sunshine
March 04 2012, 04:17PM
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Love it! Love reading these types of stat articles! Thanks.

Should be interesting to see how and where Raymond fits into these new line combos given the zone starts. Right now, Raymond is 2nd (only behind the top line) in offensive zone starts.

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#4 Thomas Drance
March 04 2012, 08:18PM
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@Jonathan Willis

great stuff, and don't mind Scott, he's the conservative wing of CanucksArmy's readership.

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#5 Wesley Peters
March 04 2012, 11:09PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Scott McKenzie:

I prefer to think of it as justifiable over-coverage to compensate for more traditional outlets' collective decision to totally ignore a key coaching strategy :)

well put. and of course here we are provided with the numbers to go with a narrative. thanks for all your work.

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#6 JA
March 05 2012, 11:33AM
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Agreed. Like other readers, I had a gun to my head but still enjoyed this article (and others like it).

Wondering, though, if anyone has thought of expanding into comparative work. Like comparing this type of data from Van with what goes on with other league leaders, eg. NYR, Wings. Obviously a lot more work to get the narrative down for all the coaching decisions made in other markets, but even just the raw data comparisons would be interesting.

Of course I'm too lazy and inept to do this sort of thing myself...

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