Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sunday Potpourri: Trappus Interuptus

Listening to the commentary from the Mankato broadcasters this weekend was inspiring to me. Not in the way you might think. I was struck by how many times the color-guy (term used in the loosest possible context) mentioned how Mankato liked to play an uptempo game and UAA preferred to slow it down. I read a number of things here and there calling the games uninteresting or boring and how they had a lack of flow. These observations weren't from rubes; they came from people that follow the game and supposedly know the game. Well, the truth is they're either blind or just stupid.

So my inspiration was to provide a thoughtful analysis that would definitively show how Mankato's high zone trap was the key to disjointed uninteresting down-tempo hockey. I thought I'd begin with another description of the mechanics of their implementation of the strategy. Then I'd move on and give some clear examples of exactly how it affected the flow of the game this weekend. I'd point out the positives of using the high zone trap that Jutting has his team playing. Obviously, they're having success with it. I'd explain the recent history of the strategy and how it's use became so prevalent in the WCHA. I'd then go on to explain the negative connotations that keep the fans of these programs that trap continuously from discussing it openly. When I'm inspired and decide to write, I think in paragraphs and essay formats. For this I had six solid paragraphs planned. But then I remembered the most important rule in writing: think about your audience.

The nature of what I do here attracts two distinct groups of readers as far as I can tell. It attracts hard core fans who love the game but aren't necessarily concerned with the minutia of the game. My other (perhaps smaller) group of readers are those fans that truly know the game. So in both cases, nobody really benefits from another dissertation on "The Trap". I'd like to see other hockey minds on the Internet address the issue of the preponderance of "The Trap" in the WCHA this season. But nobody discusses it. Long ago John Donne eloquently told us that "No Man Is An Island". I don't fear being an island. On the contrary, I hope some of what I do here is unique enough in small ways to qualify for "island" status. From what I've seen this year Wisconsin, MTU, CC and Mankato are the four teams in the league whose primary game plans involve extensive use of "The Trap" both at home and on the road. SCSU trapped UAA when we played down there earlier in the season. I haven't seen Minnesota trapping to any degree. I haven't seen UAA trapping to any degree. DU? Not trapping. UND didn't trap against UAA that I noticed. I've only seen Duluth play twice and I didn't see them trapping. That's it for me though. I decided against a whole piece here about "The Trap" hence the post title. So onto the rest.

I don't know if it means anything that Andrew Hinkleman didn't write either of the UAA game stories for the ADN this weekend. Did he write either of the stories from the MTU series? Could the staff written articles this weekend in the ADN be any more negative in their tone?

I neglected to mention last Sunday the stupidity of Conoco-Phillips passing out blue ear warmers to UAA fans coming through the door for the MTU games. Blue? Are their marketing people really that dense? They're continuously assailing us with ads meant to undercut the most popular Governor in Alaska's recent history and their passing out blue ear warmers at a team who's colors are green and gold? Man, Okies are really dumb.

Anyone who reads me regularly probably knows I hate writing about goaltending. It's a superstition. But I'm going to set that aside today in the spirit of the "Interuptus" theme. First let me say that I like Jonny O in the nets. But there is no denying that he has some of the worst numbers in Division 1 hockey. Sorry Jonny. It's the truth. His save percentage is 64th out of the 70 goaltenders listed on collegehockeystats.net. Jeff Frazee has a better save percentage. I don't want to indict him here but honestly ... Jonny O has given up at least 10 softies this year. I think he has countered that with at least 10 great saves. But the softie/great ratio needs to be better than a net zero for a team to succeed. Bryce Christianson hasn't looked like a world beater yet but in the limited time he's played I'd estimate his softie/great ratio to be a positive number. Where does that leave us (other than the realization that the team would have a better record if the goaltending had been better)? I think Coach Shyiak has to play both of these guys alternately for the rest of the regular season and hope that one of them gets hot and then ride that guy in the playoffs. I'd tend to think that next season the job will be wide open.

I don't want to put the whole burden of the record on the goaltenders shoulders exclusively. The truth is that Jonny O hasn't exactly gotten much in terms of goal support. UAA is 37th in Division 1 in goals per game. Anyone besides me lamenting missed opportunities. You know? Those apparently wide-open nets that pucks sailed wide past? Hey, every team misses a few that they should have had right? It sure seems though that so far this year the Seawolves have had more than their share.

I liked what I saw from the latest blueliner Jeff Carlson. He skates well with the puck on his stick and kept his head up. A time or two he looked like a freshman but he definitely has the potential I'd hoped he'd have. I wish I could find someone in the lineup that was dogging it this weekend. But I didn't. I think I heard Shyiak say something about getting out-competed along the wall but honestly I think that was more a factor of positioning (i.e... "The Trap") than it was of any UAA player's effort.

Why did the Seawolves look like world beaters after Mankato went up 4-0 on Saturday? Because Mankato stopped trapping. I think Shyiak recognized that and called the timeout at the perfect time to rally the guys. The two goal response was nice but after the second UAA score, Mankato went right back to trapping. Without an effective countering strategy to transition out of their own zone and then through the neutral zone the offense just couldn't get going again. So there it is; an effective countering strategy to the trap. What is it? I mentioned it before the Mankato series. Smart tape to tape passing, smart skating and quality rushes. When a team traps you, the burden for beating it starts with the blueliners. After that it's important for the forwards to be effective in the opposition zone. You saw the games. You be the judge.

There's 6 regular season game left to get this all figured out. Any measurable success this season is going to have to be in the playoffs. 7th place isn't out of the question I suppose but that isn't success. Winning the playoff series and doing something noteworthy in the Final Five would be. At this point that seems like a reasonable goal for the rest of the year. I know there's enough talent and I'm not displeased with the effort. The team should still believe in themselves. A good weekend at home against St. Cloud should bolster that confidence. There really isn't anyone on the upcoming schedule that poses an unsurmountable challenge to the Seawolves. Perhaps its a good time for the players to remember running up the mountain in the preseason. They all made it. Time for some more of that eh?

26 comments:

Suze said...

No comments asking you what that picture is? LOL

jjack said...

Hey man nice bone pic.

Anonymous said...

St. Cloud's team is built on team-speed and flying up and down the ice...that is why they had a good series at CC this weekend. CC is built the same way, and on the Olympic ice sheet it made for a wide-open game...much to SCSU's liking. We'll see what this weekend brings in Anchorage.

Chris said...

Nobody talks about it because there's nothing to talk about. They played defense. Big deal. Is your next post going to be about how they had the audacity to pass the puck between teammates?

Every team is going to keep at least one forward on the D-side of the puck when they get a lead(except of course those teams that never actually get leads). It's a stretch to even call most of that a "trap".

As far as the "flow" of the game, one team certainly had no problem with it, since they fired 60+ shots and scored 7+ goals. The bigger issue, as Shyiak pointed out, was that MSU dominated UAA along the boards all weekend, and UAA spent most of the weekend in their own zone, with all five guys below the dots. You're not going to generate much offense that way.

Anonymous said...

Johhny O has had a 900sv pct in 2 out of his last 3 games and Bryce in the first two Complete College games has been over a 900sv pct..Mankato State Coach Troy Juttings Quote in USCHO.Com "I was thinking that the Goalie was playing real good it could have been 6-0".In commenting on the Mavs out shooting UAA by a 16-5 margin in the first period on Sat nite..With the pressure he was under I think Johnny O deserves a medal for holding down the fort untill help arrived...Right now its really about Scoring Goals and some Intestinal fortitude..Losing is tough but try to go out and have some fun this weekend Boys!!College hockey is suppose to be fun..Play for yourselves ,the team ,the coaches who recruited you and Anchorage..Pretty soon you all will be working stiffs like the rest of us..Bored as hell typing on a hockey blog thinking you know everything...Have Fun College goes quick..real quick..

Donald Dunlop said...

Chris:
A high zone trap has NOTHING to do with keeping a forward on the D side of the puck. LMAO. A high zone trap is executed in the "high zone" of the opposition. OMFG. Thats too funny that the author of the Western College Hockey Blog doesn't know what a trap is.

Stick to regurgitating the comments of other recruit mongering jock-sniffers eh? As much hockey as you claim to watch and you really don't understand the game? Poser. Next time you're licking the boots of an actual hockey scout at some Bantam tourney ask him to explain the trap to you eh?

The trap (in it's various forms) is a viable strategy that many teams have used to win championships. Mankato is having nice success with it this year. It doesn't create an "up-tempo" game. It creates a tight checking game that can often result in turnovers and quick scoring chances. But when the opposition broadcasters continuously harp about their team's style being "up-tempo" (in some vain attempt to portray the other team in a bad light) and supposed experts (who are really posers) use words like "uninteresting" to describe the play then I'm compelled to examine the veracity of those claims since my readers are exposed to them. It certainly isn't "uninteresting". I'd call it "tension filled" when you spend the whole game waiting to see if one team can pass and skate well enough to overcome it. Posers who don't know what they are talking about need to be corrected.

You've found a nice niche for your blog; don't be jealous that other people have more experience with the game than you. Perhaps when you've had 30 years of watching the game you can post your own observations and with luck they'll be valid. For now though take your 5 or 6 years experience and be patient and learn not to come onto my blog and question the information I provide to my readers you putz.

Chris said...

That comment about teams that never gets lead must have hit a little too close to home.

In order to trap, a team would need to keep two forwards high. MSU definitely does it on occasion, but for the most part, they're just keeping one forward high to cancel out a forward and eliminate a 3-on-2. Thus, not a trap.

Friday's third period was "uninteresting" because after the first minute of the third period, UAA mounted absolutely no offensive threat. MSU has had to hold on to a lot of third period leads this year, and Friday was easily the least stressful, mainly because the puck stayed about 190 feet away from their goal most of the period.

Anonymous said...

Chris why waste your time arguing with a deranged narcissistic moron like Donald?

Anonymous said...

I think that people should redirect the focus of no offense to the Head Coach. Dave has no offensive strategies other than we need to outwork the other team. This isnt 1940 and once again The Seawolves are playing inconsistant hockey in the 2nd half of the season. That falls on the head coach. Coach Shicker is proving that he was in way over his head when he thought he could coach in the WCHA. Other coaches love seeing the seapups later in the season because they dont improve and dont make any adjustments throughout the season. So lets get out ther and OUT WORK those other teams. What a joke!

Donald Dunlop said...

Chris:
You come here and insult me first ( blah blah blah ... audacity ....) while hilariously blundering with regard to a hockey formation which the team you follow closely uses pretty much 24/7. Then you come back after I shred you blather and completely miss the point by accusing me of being sensitive to your little shot at the team I follow? Truth is; I was laughing to hard at foolishness to notice that weak little jibe. You're a bigger Ann Arbor putz than I thought.

MSU-M sets up with a winger on each side about 10ft inside the blueline and 10ft off the wall with the center (single forechecker) advanced high in the slot. The defensemen line up directly behind the wingers on the red line. High Zone Trap. If I was willing to pull frame grab after frame grab to edify you I can do so. But your ignorance isn't mine to solve. It's yours. Do some homework noob.

That alignment allows them to immediately challenge along the boards with two players if and when the opposition attempts a breakout wide. It allows them two players at the point of attack in any area that the opposition tries to break through. Hence the need for excellent skating and tape to tape smart passing in order to get through.

Shyiak's focus on UAA's inability to win those battles was a reference to the Trap without saying the word. Every coach in the WCHA is sensitive about using the Trap since it has an unwarranted negative connotation and every other coach doesn't want to be perceived as insulting them by noting it. That's another subtle reality in this league that you have ZERO sense about.

The trap is ultra-effective at boxing in the opposition in their own zone when it is well-executed (as it was by MSU-M this past weekend) so your observation that most of the game was played 190ft away from the MSU-M net is valid. You're just not sharp enough to realize the cause.

Now go back to your blog and continue your sickeningly pathetic attempts to pander to Gopher fans in the vain hope that one day they'll like you.

Donald Dunlop said...

anon @808:
What does it say about someone who obviously reads what a deranged narcissistic moron has to say?

Could it be because at this blog there is analysis of the game play? Could it be because this narcissist provides unique commentary? Or perhaps because I understand how to mix irreverence and fact in order to entertain people?

Whatever the reason that you come back again and again doesn't matter I suppose. Just the fact that you do. I don't write for you. I write for UAA fans. You of course wish I wrote for your team.

Donald Dunlop said...

anon@914:
Your criticism has some validity. The tactic of cycling is perhaps simplistic in some ways but it is suited to the types of players currently in the system. Not every forward on UAA's team is capable of executing perfect passes and/or having the anticipation and sense to find those creases where some other talented forward can hit them with a beauty pass. That time is coming but frankly there are older players on the squad that Keith Morris and Jack Kowal and John Hill recruited who don't have that kind of touch. You'll see the offense evolve next year and the year after.

Anonymous said...

I think the coaches have to take their future team, play them, build up their confidence and give them valuable play-off experience.

Anonymous said...

Coach gets 2 more years before you can make a solid decision on the direction of the team..You cant bring anybody else in and start rebuilding..Who the hell are they going to bring in...there arent any first rounders that will come so you cant start ejecting fres/sophs and what have a new staff bring in more freshman??...Nahhh Carry on guys

Anonymous said...

I am not saying to start over. Shyiak has already re-built and has done a great job. This is the future Seawolf team with a few exceptions. Most players will be back with an addition or two. I am very optomistic. I believe the next few weeks of hockey will be important to further develop the younger players for next year. For the rest of this season, good luck to the boys! Keep working hard!

Anonymous said...

I am a UAA fan. I am rather secluded from the team being in Moscow for college. I read your blog because i have no other option, besides the press releases from the GoSeawolves website. Not because this blog is entertaining. I rather find your sense of humor annoying and quite distracting from the gameplay. If there is a better option for putely hockey analysis please point me to it. I am not complaining, as i am not forced to read this. If i found it too revolving i would not continue to read it. To me hearing news about the team i have follwed since i was 4 years old outweighs putting up with your ramblings and insults.

Donald Dunlop said...

Dear Moscow:
Thanks for your observations. By way of explanation/perspective I offer the following:

I've always tried to mix my insults and ramblings with a fair share of self-deprecating commentary. I've admitted to being a dick. I've called myself an asshole. I've admitted to and recognized stepping over a line here and there. I've given my honest interpretations of what I've seen and whatever insights I've been able to glean from events.

Don't think for a second that at any point in my life I haven't realized that I'm not everyone's cup of tea. But hey ... I'm Popeye-The-Sailor-Man ... I am what I am. And I'm all good with that.

I don't expect everyone who reads whatever claptrap I post here to agree with it. My overall feedback (from as wide a variety of associations both inside and outside the program) is more than encouraging enough to keep me interested in continuing the effort I make here. I can be acerbic, arrogant and even rude from time to time. I am that way because nobody pays the bills here except me.

I try to give long and detailed answers to criticism or comments and I personally and respectfully answer every email I get. I've openly offered up the blog to any UAA fan willing to put forth somewhat the same effort I make. I've asked that other interested parties share their views and offered to publish them here. Whether it is a response to something I've written or a unique viewpoint I"d post it.

I thought carefully about the words "A place to share information about UAA Hockey" when I wrote them and to me the most important of those words is "share". I'd be thrilled if someone would take me up on the offers I've made.

I'm glad you read. I've said it before and I'll say it again ... I hope that those people who don't necessarily dig the way i do things here but love the program can find their way through what they see as my bullshit and keep reading. I thank you for doing exactly that. To me that says something about the value (however minimal it is) of what I write brings to UAA fans.

Thanks again.

Runninwiththedogs said...

HEY! FUCK YOU, ANONYMOUS! DONALD ISN'T NARCISSISTIC!

Hee.

Chris said...

I'm pretty sure Shyiak's reference to not winning battles along the boards had more to do with the fact that MSU basically cycled the puck around the UAA zone at will all weekend long.

You should probably worry about actually getting control of the puck first before you worry about your team's inability to break the puck out of their zone.

Anonymous said...

Donald,
I think your fallen off the deep end. Yikes.

Anonymous said...

D.D. The whole towns waiting for hot or not..Start with Badger Bob Motzko..

Anonymous said...

Trap or no trap, get some guys who can beat it, rendering it useless and than we won't have to worry about stinkin' traps. Play the game, pass, shoot, score! Play some D, giving up 4 goals ain't going to allow you to win too many games.

Anonymous said...

Maintaining posession in the opponents end would solve a lot of problems. We need goals.

Anonymous said...

MTU does not trap, don't feel bad, that is a common mistake made by people who do not understand the game very well.

Anonymous said...

Watch the tapes- a trap is a trap is a trap........(analysis derived from over 30 years experience with the game)

Anonymous said...

You are wrong, 30 years or not, better watch the tapes again and study up on what a trap actually is. Like I said, honest mistake, you are not the only one who makes it!

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