December 30, 2013
Canada turned a 3-1 deficit into a 5-3 win against Slovakia, drawing upon the advantage that teams naturally get when they fall behind. Hockey analysts frequently cite something called "score effects" when looking at the shot clock. A team that's trailing will direct more pucks at the net, whether it's because they're playing out of urgency, or whether it's because the opposition tends to play a more conservative style which doesn't always yield better results.
So far in this tournament we've seen Connor McDavid The Good as well as Connor McDavid The Bad. It's unfair to blame Canada's loss to the Czechs on a couple of untimely penalties taken by McDavid, who is projected by almost everybody to be the first overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, but a closer look at Canada's comeback win against Slovakia shows that one of the reasons was a much better performance from him and his line.
McDavid's line, with Bo Horvat and Sam Reinhart, was the only Canadian line that was routinely giving up scoring chances to the Czechs, but a roster shuffle from coach Brent Sutter seemed to spark the top six. Despite falling behind early and often, the Canadians managed to draw even thanks to a furious third period where their top two lines were firing on all cylinders. The first was the "Q Line" made up of Jonathan Drouin with Anthony Mantha and Charles Hudon. That line was on the ice for three of Canada's eight scoring chances in the third period. The other line was McDavid with Horvat and Scott Laughton, who had been moved up from the checking line in the third period to give Canada a little extra firepower. They had five combined chances in the period.Here is the full chart of individual numbers. Once again, the definition for a "scoring chance" is the one that can be found over at Copper and Blue. This is basically standard +/- but expanded a little to include all scoring chances and not just goals, to give us a better indication of how certain lines and combinations played during a game:
|Player||Chances For||Chances Against||Chances +/-|
|27 - Jonathan Drouin||6||2||4|
|10 - Charles Hudon||7||3||4|
|28 - Anthony Mantha||7||4||3|
|11 - Bo Horvat||5||0||5|
|17 - Connor McDavid||5||1||4|
|23 - Sam Reinhart||0||0||0|
|19 - Nic Petan||0||1||-1|
|16 - Kerby Rychel||1||0||1|
|26 - Curtis Lazar||2||3||-1|
|21 - Scott Laughton||5||3||2|
|22 - Frederick Gauthier||0||3||-3|
|25 - Josh Anderson||0||3||-3|
|14 - Taylor Leier||1||1||0|
|5 - Aaron Ekblad||7||3||4|
|15 - Derrick Pouliot||6||2||4|
|7 - Josh Morrissey||6||3||3|
|3 - Chris Bigras||2||2||0|
|2 - Adam Pelech||0||3||-3|
|24 - Mat Dumba||5||3||2|
There are two takeaways here: the first is that in the third, with Canada pressing offensively, they may have had their best period of the tournament. Mat Dumba was moved up onto a pairing with Josh Morrissey and while they didn't factor into the offence, they were on the ice for four of the eight even strength chances in the third. Derrick Pouliot and Aaron Ekblad were on for three, and a hybrid Ekblad-Dumba pairing was on when Canada got a chance creating some offensive zone pressure in the middle of a line change. As noted by Buzzing the Net's Neate Sager, Chris Bigras took a seat in the third to open up more offensive possibilities. Adam Pelech was also rarely seen.
The second takeaway is the futility of the checking line. Over the last two games, the Canadian fourth line of Laughton, Josh Anderson and Frederick Gauthier have been on the ice for zero Canadian chances but four against. It's understandable that they haven't created much offence because they don't see a lot of minutes, but Sutter may want to stray away from using a dedicated checking unit if it doesn't particularly prevent against chances. Laughton, Gauthier and Anderson aren't the top offensive players on the team, but they're talented enough to score at the junior level and should be given a little bit more leeway in the offensive zone. Laughton got some very good chances when he played a little more of an open style in the third with Horvat and McDavid. Why not with Anderson and Gauthier?
Those that watched the game against the Czechs know that goaltender Marek Langhammer stole that game in regulation, stopping 20 of the 24 scoring chances he faced (generally 1 out of every 4 chances will find its way into the net). Samuel Baros was not as lucky. He allowed… one out of every four scoring chances that found its way on net, stopping 12 of 16:
Perhaps Canada lucked out here. You couldn't really blame Zach Fucale on any of the goals. One was a tough ricochet and one was a 3-on-5, and both of his saves were five-bell stops. Still, he only got to two of the five Slovakian scoring chances that were actually put on net. Slovakia missed the net six times, including three goalposts.
Lastly, here is how the chances broke down by period. The 9-4 advantage for Canada in the first period was nice, but the 9-2 third period discrepancy won Canada the game:
The other bookend to the McDavid story: he was benched against the Czechs for taking two penalties, both of which directly led to goals. Against Slovakia, the game-winning goal by Nic Petan was scored with Slovakian defender Jakub Predajniansky in the box for high sticking. The player that drew the penalty? Connor McDavid.