Dave Hakstol during UND semi-final game vs BU
Last week, a member of the Broad Street Hockey community posted a link to a full game between Dave Hakstol’s University of North Dakota and Boston University. There’s some good, quick observations in that comment so I suggest you check it out. Being the curious person that I am, I decided to go back and watch the game a few times. in order to track entries and exits. Having absolutely no knowledge of Hakstol, his philosophy, or systems I wanted to get some sort of idea about what we may be able to expect from him this upcoming season. Obviously this is just one game so we can’t draw any absolute conclusions here, but I think there’s still some interesting information there.
I didn’t want to get too detailed with the microstats since this is just data from one game. It’s hard to come away with any concrete evidence with such a small amount of data but I was still curious to see what their numbers looked like after a shaky first period. Overall the team had a 75% success rate exiting the zone this game. In order to get a better picture of how the team was exiting the zone I decided to track it by forwards and defense, rather than focusing on individual player. The defense was fairly active this game and opted to carry the puck out of the zone quite often. It got them into trouble a few times but they will still able to maintain possession for most of the game. The defense never really shied away from carrying the puck. Often, defensemen will elect for the easy chip out of the zone just to alleviate the pressure of the opposition. UND’s defensive unit seemed to avoid that at all costs. They would initially look to their forwards for options and if they weren’t immediately available they would buy themselves some time or attempt to get it out of the zone themselves.
UND really did an excellent job pressuring Boston University in their own zone and making it difficult for them to not only exit the zone, but maintain possession as well. BU only managed to successfully exit the zone with possession approximately 48% in this game. UND’s forecheck gave BU trouble all game, and this definitely wasn’t a case of score effects rearing it’s ugly head. They gave BU all they could handle throughout the game and were a bit fortunate on a couple opportunities.
Entry totals between the two teams were fairly even. If I recall correctly, a lot of BU’s attack time happened during the first period. As I stated above, I don’t believe score effects played a huge part in UND’s comeback on the scoreboard or in their zone entry totals. The forwards were fairly good at controlling play through the neutral zone and the defense did a good job defending the blue line as well. They seemed to have a pretty good handle on at picking their spots to challenge the puck carrier.
Neutral and Defensive Zones
There are minor similarities between UND and the Flyers’ forecheck. They send one man in to apply some pressure on the puck carrier. Rather than having the remaining forwards occupy an area along the boards, they shift over and almost create the illusion that BU will have an easy path into the offensive zone. The weak side forward does an excellent job of deceiving the opposition and closes in on the attacking forward causing him to lose possession of the puck just as he crosses the blue line. The UND defenseman recovers the puck and they are free to start their counter.
It may seem like a minor adjustment but it is so critical and it’s one the Flyers’ may have benefited from this season. The middle of the ice is no longer wide open and prone to getting burned by the stretch passes or controlled entries through center ice. Allowing controlled entries against isn’t ideal but it happens, sometimes often, but forcing them to the outside seems like a much better bet than allowing your opponent to freely roam through center ice with a direct path to your net. For me, this system would seem to rely more on having a group of quick and deceptive forwards rather than an overly mobile defense. I think the Flyers have a number of forwards who would be able to execute this setup.
Defensive Zone Setup
With the exception of the defenseman in front of the net, there is constant movement by UND players in the defensive zone. They are very aggressive in challenging the opposition and forcing them to one side of the ice, making it somewhat difficult for the opposition to work their way out from the sideboards and create chances. It may be a risky option since there is a rather high probability that a man sneaks in behind the play and is left wide open if the players aren’t alert. After watching the Flyers spend the season sitting back and letting opponents dictate play, I’ll take my chances with a more aggressive defensive scheme. If the Flyers manage to get another .920+ season out of Steve Mason I’d say this is worth a try if Hakstol does decided to utilize this system.
Breakouts and the Offensive Zone
Throughout the game, the forwards did a very good job supporting their defenseman in their own zone. The breakout above looks methodical. It’s fast, precise, and even if there is an error made they are in good enough shape structurally to negate most danger. The defense gets the puck up the boards to the forward. F1 and F2 run a quick give and go to get the puck out of the zone while F3 skates over to give them an option in the neutral zone.
The defense wasn’t very shy about trying to make plays in their zone to start the breakout either. While it did get them into trouble at times, I didn’t get the sense that there was any apprehension from a player after he made a mistake in his own end. Having the confidence to hold onto the puck and try to escape while facing pressure in your own zone has to be a two way street. The player has to trust his own skills to be able to pull this off but I’d like to think that the coach also encourages these plays and has a willingness to take the good with the bad. It’s plays like this that make me think that Hakstol encourages his defense to constantly try to maintain possession. At the very least, he may be more willing to give a little leeway to the player even it turns out to be a disaster every once in awhile.
Much like their pressured breakouts, there is still good support, small gaps between the forwards/defense, and lots of movement. One of my major issues with the Flyers transition game was their stagnant breakout when facing almost no pressure from the opposition. Hopefully Hakstol will implement these kinds of breakout schemes during his tenure. Maybe Berube didn’t trust his defense to hit moving targets (can’t say I disagree with that), but trying to create and effective counter-attack with little or no movement isn’t going to generate a lot of dangerous offense, in my opinion.
Like their power play, one forwards occupies the net area while the remaining forwards get a cycle going. Their work along the boards is very impressive. They are constantly moving and creating space until that one second occurs when the defense gets tired or confused which creates an opening for them to drive to the net and create a scoring opportunity. Naturally, the name of the game is to outwork and outsmart your opponent but I just can’t recall the Flyers ever executing a cycle like this. The forwards did a good job of supporting one another, rotating, and creating options for the puck carrier.
The penalty kill units for the University of North Dakota was very aggressive. This past season the Flyers sent one forward in on the forecheck while the other forward dropped far back near the blue line with the rest of the defense at the blue line as they wait for the opposition to attack. UND’s short-handed forecheck is quite different.
F1 goes in on the forecheck to apply some pressure to the puck carrier in the offensive zone. F2 drops back to just below the red line on the weak side shadowing an opposing forward. D1 stays on the strong side just ahead of the read line, also shadowing the opposing forward while D2 hangs back by the blue line towards center ice.
Penalty Kill Set-Up
Once the opposition enters the zone the penalty kill unit begins to shift into their formation. The quicker of the two forwards will pressure the puck at the point. F1 will follow the puck along the point as the opposition moves the puck. F2 plays slightly below F1 so he can rotate and fill the open space left by F1 as he pressures the puck. The defense will hover around the net right below the faceoff circles. In the image above, the defenseman was very aggressive in sliding over and providing support to apply added pressure to the puck carrier. For the most part in this game, the strong side defenseman didn’t make that move until the puck carrier was practically on the faceoff dot. The diamond formation above was frequently present throughout the game (at least I noticed a lot), especially when pucks went into the corner. After a shot they fell into a tight collapse into the slot, which seemed much more efficient than the Flyers method of collapsing into their goaltender. Much like their even-strength defensive zone strategy, UND players actively work to force BU to the outside of the ice and try to keep them isolated on one side of the ice. Unfortunately there is a tendency for the opposition to get left alone in front if weak side D and F are not alert.
From what I could gather, it looked like UND used two different formations on the power play in this game but stuck to relatively the same breakout scheme.
The defenseman will start the rush and get the puck up ice to forward rushing up ice along the boards. It was rare that defense would carry the puck past the blue line on their power play breakouts. The Flyers defense rarely carried the puck into the zone on the power play but their breakout always gravitated toward the center of the ice. The defenseman carries the puck up ice, drops back to the center, and the center will enter the zone with possession. Nearly every time they drove the puck up ice, they attacked from the side boards. I can’t recall many times when they attacked the center of the ice. BU did a good job pressuring the puck and clogging the neutral when UND tried to enter the zone so it’s possible that they were forced into these options rather than willfully keeping everything to the outside on the attack.
Power Play Setup 1
F1 would pass the puck down to the F2. Once F2 received the puck he would rotate positions with F1. As F2 passed the puck back to D1 (not pictured) waiting at the point, he would follow a path along the top arches of the faceoff circle and end up near the top of the slot area. This wasn’t a particularly effective power play. They weren’t able to sustain pressure until the last thirty or so seconds of the power play. Even after getting in the groove of things they didn’t manage to get many shots off.
Power Play Setup 2
They changed things up on their second power play opportunity, opting to have two forwards occupy the slot as F1 worked the puck back to D1 (not pictured) at the point. F3 once again held camped out in front of the net. F1 and F2 would rotate positions depending what side of the ice the puck was on. As it moved along the perimeter of the zone they would shift accordingly. This method seemed to be much more effective than their first setup. They were able to sustain extended zone time and get good cycles going.
Regardless of which power play set up they used, the were always focused on closing in on their opponents and taking shots from the as close to the slot area as possible. That doesn’t overly intriguing but when I think back to the Flyers’ power player, they took shots from almost anywhere: points shots, from the faceoff dot, outside the faceoff circle, or from behind the net. UND looked as if they were specifically pursuing shots from the slot and sometimes elected to not take other opportunities.
Again, I just want to emphasize that this is just one game we’re working with here. I don’t think we can come away from this and say we can expect this exact system to be utilized in Philadelphia. It’s entirely possible he used a different system a few years ago, or even at the beginning of the season. Hakstol may even evaluate the current roster and decide to implement an entirely different system. At the very least, I hope this gave an interesting glimpse at what Hakstol can do as coach.