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Words on Syracuse-Duke, Princeton-Yale, and Maryland-North Carolina

A hyper-granular look at three games this weekend.

Syracuse at Duke

Possessions are going to play a big factor in this weekend's Orange-Devils matchup, but I'm not sure that the discussion is framed correctly. The focus isn't necessarily on whether Duke is going to dominate face-off play (they probably will); rather, the focus is on what Syracuse does in its defensive postures earned directly off of face-off losses. In last season's national championship game, Duke scored on approximately 11 offensive opportunities that started with a Brendan Fowler win on the whistle. That's one more goal than Syracuse scored in total.

In other words, it means more how Syracuse's defense performs in defensive possessions earned from face-off losses -- creating stops and clearing opportunities -- than the simple disparity in face-off wins. The following table details this:

Percentage of Offensive Opportunities Earned Through Face-Off Wins 32.23% 39.81%
Team Face-Off Percentage 39.53% 57.73%
Percentage of Offensive Opportunities Earned Through Clearing Postures 63.51% 53.29%
Team Clearing Percentage 82.84% 89.41%
Percentage of Offensive Opportunities Earned Through Opponent Failed Clears 4.27% 6.90%
Team Riding Rate 9.00% 13.50%

Some brief notes on this:

  • Syracuse is earning the vast majority of its offensive opportunities from clearing postures generated from defensive stops. If Syracuse can create these stops and efficiently clear the ball (an issue for the Orange this season), Syracuse can allow its offense -- scoring (on a raw basis) on around 39 percent of their offensive opportunities -- to counterpunch Duke. If Orange fail to generate stops and create clearing situations, it could be in trouble: The Devils are scoring (on a raw basis) on around 36 percent of their offensive opportunities.
  • Duke gets a high volume of its offensive opportunities from face-off wins but that volume is nowhere near as high as it was in 2013. The Devils don't need face-off wins to create a possession imbalance and a cushion on the scoreboard, but it helps. The key for Duke is to get defensive stops and continue their strong clearing performance. The Devils have ultimately driven their possession margin on the back of their face-off play, but it's not as significant was it was in 2013.

Princeton at Yale

Princeton's Three Implements of Death: Tom Schreiber, Mike MacDonald, Ryan Ambler
Yale's Three Implements of Death: Conrad Oberbeck, Brandon Mangan, Colin Flaherty

That's great for everyone except the team's goalkeepers. And they haven't had the greatest time in 2014 making the opposition weep in the restraining area due to hurt feelings:

Shots per Defensive Opportunity 1.10 1.05
Defensive Shooting Percentage 30.92% 25.66%
Defensive Assist Rate 17.02 20.69
Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 34.57 27.59
Team Save Percentage 50.39% 50.63%

Some brief notes on this:

  • The key for both teams is to limit the exposure their keepers experience and make life relatively manageable for each crease-minder. Yale's field defense really needs to keep its head on a swivel and limit the number of helpers that Princeton seeks to generate (and the Tigers look to create a lot, especially with Schreiber initiating action and distributing on the move). Princeton needs to focus on yielding non-preferable shots with good looks on cage, forcing the Elis into bad shots and limiting the number of opportunities that Yale has to pepper Matt O'Connor with attempts.
  • There's an odd dynamic here: Princeton has seen O'Connor step forward and generate stops at an average rate, a decent reliance on him to make stops despite the fact that the team's save percentage is below average; the Elis haven't relied on Eric Natale to generate lots of save (and the team's saves per 100 defensive opportunities rate is among the lowest in the nation), and the team's save percentage is below average. This is another illustration of how teams are able to perform despite playing in different ways.

Maryland at North Carolina

Ryan Flanagan wrote this about Mike Chanenchuk and his potential deal this weekend against the Tar Heels:

I have loved what Maryland has done with Chanenchuk by using him at attack and midfield. You will see him line up at attack when Maryland is facing off, then move up to the midfield once Maryland has possession as Tim Rotanz comes out of the box and operates at attack. It’s a small wrinkle that can cause headaches for opposing coaches. Jordan Smith has proven to by Carolina’s top defenseman this season and has experience playing both close defense and longstick midfield. He should draw the Chanenchuk matchup. Chanenchuk is going to shoot the ball; the key is to force him in to low-angle shots and keep a stick in his gloves at all times.

Chanenchuk has been Maryland's biggest factor this year in the team's overall offensive capability. He changes the way defenses approach the Terps' offense and has excelled despite carrying a heavy load for the Terrapins:

Shooting Percentage 30.43% 29.02%
Percent of Shots Saved 27.54% 27.44%
Opponent Save Percentage on Shots 52.50% 48.60%
Percentage of Total Goals Attributable to Chanenchuk 22.83% N/A
Percentage of Total Assists Attributable to Chanenchuk 19.51% N/A
Percentage of Total Points Attributable to Chanenchuk 21.80% N/A
Percentage of Total Shots Attributable to Chanenchuk 21.77% N/A
Percentage of Total Shots on Goal Attributable to Chanenchuk 22.35% N/A
Estimated Percentage of Possessions Ended via Chanenchuk Activity 27.19% N/A
Estimated Percentage of Possessions Ended Positively via Chanenchuk Activity 13.36% N/A
Estimated Percentage of Possessions Ended Negatively via Chanenchuk Activity 13.82% N/A
Estimated Net Benefit via Chanenchuk Activity -0.46% N/A
Estimated Points per 100 Offensive Opportunities 13.36 61.29

Some brief notes on this:

  • The key isn't just to limit the type of shots that Chanenchuk gets; it's also to limit his ability to distribute. Clouding Chanenchuk's vision is huge, and if Carolina is able to limit his role in Maryland's offense, aspects of the Terps' offense could suffer given Chanenchuk's responsibility to generate activity.