The Torts Effect: His System & The Effects Of Shot Blocking
Well all know that John Tortorella isn't afraid to speak his mind and seemingly has a fetish for shot blocking, but how about we actually do a little more research before just labelling him based on what he's most famous or infamous for. Will the Canucks really be more defensive under his watch compared to the Alain Vigneault era? Will the offense suffer because of it?
I've tried to do some searching and research on the system Torts actually runs and also the effects of shot blocking. I came across a few great pieces of work by BlueSeatBlogs.com, mc79hockey.com, and NHLNumbers.com(sources and reference links will be listed below).
The Effects Of Shot Blocking
Shot blocking totals are kind pointless to look at, the better stat to use to identify a good shot blocking team is shot blocking percentage. Otherwise teams that aren't very good and are often outshot look like they've got a team full of fearless soldiers while a dominant puck possession team looks like they'd be scared to even get in the way of Keith Ballard slapshot(sorry, Keith). Here's a graph that looks at last year's shot blocking percentage leaders, courtesy of mc79hockey.com.
As you can see, the Rangers and Canucks were basically at the opposite end of the spectrum with a difference of 6.6% when it came to shot blocking percentage. This definitely brings some legitimacy to the argument that Tortorella loves his teams to block shots, meanwhile Alain Vigneault was not as big of a proponent of it. It's interesting to see but it has been argued even further that blocking shots from defencemen isn't as valuable as blocking shots from forwards. Why is this? Well simply put, forwards generally have a much higher shooting percentage than defencmen, their shots are from shorter distances and they're generally the one's shooting the puck on odd man rushes and breakaways and are generally considered to be better shooters and goal scorers. So here's the breakdown of shots blocked percentage on opposing forwards(so basically shot block percentage on shots with a higher percentage of going in).
Ouch, the Canucks ranked dead last at less than 10% last season, while the Rangers were ranked 1st at around more than double the Canucks at around 20.5%. As stated above, you'd much rather have defencemen taking shots than forwards if you want your team to have a higher save percentage and quite likely a lower goals against average. According to Cam Charron defencemen last year had a combined shooting percentage of 3.9% to 9.6% for forwards. So clearly the Canucks were giving up some high quality scoring chances on average and the Rangers were likely not. Something tells me that Henrik Lundqvist is going to miss Torts a bit this season, he's not going to fall off of a cliff and is still a world-class goalie but you could see his save percentage drop a tad. Mean while Luongo could quite possibly see a boost in his save percentage again. The scary part for the Canucks could be that maybe it's not just the systems and the players could be just as part of the problem.
From a league-wide perspective it's not surprising to see quite a few teams with defensive question marks joining the Canucks near the bottom. The next lowest playoff ranked team outside of the Canucks were the Ottawa Senators and they were about 4% higher than the Canucks.
Sitting Back With Leads
This is something that Alain Vingeault was infamous for during his time in Vancouver. Sitting back once the team had a lead. And more often than not it seemingly hurt the team and came back them to bite them in the ass. So let's take a look at the numbers, shall we?
The stat I'm going to use for this analysis is Fenwick(basically means shot attempts excluding shots blocked at even strength).
2011-2012(Two Years Ago)
Overall(when the score was within 2 goals for either side):
Canucks: - 8th Best
Rangers - 14th Best
When Up By One Goal:
Canucks - 9th Best
Rangers - 15th Best
When Up By Two Goals:
Canucks - 10th Best
Rangers - 24th Best
Not much of a difference there, the Canucks were the better possession team, but neither team saw much of a difference when leading by one goal when you compare both categories. But when Torts' Rangers had a 2 goal lead they sat back big time, unlike Vigneault's Canucks.
Overall(up or down by 2 goals or less):
Canucks: 12th Best
Rangers: 7th Best
Up By One Goal:
Canucks: 15th Best
Rangers: 5th Best
Up By Two Goals:
Canucks: 14th Best
Rangers: 13th Best
Again, it seems like neither team really sits back too much with a one goal lead, but Torts sits back a bit more when up by two you look at the differential between "Overall" and "Up By Two" for the past 2 seasons. I quickly glanced at the rankings from the 2010-2011 season to maybe get a better read on this but it complicated things a bit further as that year the Rangers were more aggressive when up by 2 than the Canucks. Meanwhile, once again the numbers didn't differentiate too much for either team when comparing overall Fewnick rankings to Fenwick rankings when up by one goal. So I doubt we see more of an aggressive. I could not find the numbers during Torts' final full year in Tampa during 2006-2007, it would have been interesting to see those numbers since Tampa was a more offensive team than the Rangers have been.
Forecheck And D-Men Joining The Offensive Play
As most Canucks fans know, Alain Vigneault usually deployed a one man forecheck with the Canucks usually with the other two forwards higher in the offensive zone, or even one sitting in the neutral zone. Basically more of a 1-2-2 if you will. So I was curious to find out what kind of forecheck Tortorella used in New York. According to Blue Seat Blog, Torts generally uses an aggressive two man forecheck, or a 2-1-2, I'm assuming he uses this at all times except for when his teams have a 2 goal lead(judging from the Fenwick numbers above).
Again, according to Blue Seat Blogs, Tortorella appears to be on the same page as Alain Vingeault when it comes to defensemen joining the rush or pinching in from the blueline in the offensive zone. Bottom line: He allows it if a forward covers for that d-man. Although speaking to some Rangers fans they believe that he may not be as reasonable with it as the Blue Seat Blog suggests.
And finally defensively when in their own zone, the Rangers were well knows for protecting the front of the net and definitely getting in shooting lanes with a low zone collapse. This could definitely limit the opportunities for odd man rushes for the Canucks forwards this season if Torts uses the same system in Vancouver.
References and Sources:
Thanks for reading! Any and all comments and criticisms are welcome!