- December 9 vs MTL -
Hockey Night in Canada victories, they're good for morale.
Especially in Montreal, especially when they get off to a good start.
Games like these are very weird for this analysis, though. Score effects come in, lots of whistles for penalties both advantage inducing and not, lots of neutral zone face-offs. As you'll see here, Draisaitl started in the defensive zone only two times, and didn't end up there through any other avenue very often, either.
I'd circled the relevant dangerous shots against, before noticing in my viewings that pretty well all of them came at 4v4 and not 5v5, including the goal(the Oilers went 4-0 on 5v5 goals this game). The impressive Khaira-Strome surroundings for 29 begins here. The competition TOI was split near evenly between two D pairings and two forward trios, as the three centre model tends to mush up match up plans of opposing coaching staffs.
The result of the strong shot suppression is there's not much film for this game. The stuff I could pull has value, though.
I'll be trying a new format in this game, it goes like this: I'll freeze frame in significant moments and draw over significant moments with different colours, and then detail the analysis in chronological order with the colours indicating each moment.
Red: Draisaitl sees the play being forced up the wall, and succeeds in disrupting it.
Yellow: Recognising Russell stepping up in the neutral zone, Leon swings back to cover, the bounce comes to him and he puts his back to the forechecker and soft rims the puck to Darnell Nurse.
Green: Nurse's lost the puck, so Draisaitl comes over to cover the boards reversal option, slightly slower than what would have been necessary has that been the Habs' execution, because he'd only be in proximity to one hand reach the puck, rather than have the puck settled on a clean turnover where he can make an easy, quick play on his forehand, pass or carry. You'd like to see him pick his feet up there.
Turquoise: Leon goes to cover the point pass, it goes the other way (understandable, 50/50 play) and then he pivots and goes wide of the second arrow area he should be covering(the cross-point guy is already covered) and the puck gets around him. Strome's quick chip gets blocked at the blueline and the Hab outplays Khaira's check.
Blue: Drai reads the pass to the middle, but just doesn't get a piece of it. This will be a common theme with him, his anticipation is good but the execution just isn't high percentage enough yet. these are good signs for a young player, not bad ones.
He then comically bulldozes a Hab a tad late and the far official calls him. Ha.
Red: Leon contests the shot and the follow-up, but the second Hab takes away the loose puck he created.
Orange: Staying on his man here, he pivots reactively to the play down the boards and ties up his check along the boards, then gives him an outside option(which is fine) and the Hab takes it into a trap. Supports the play after the takeaway and the Oilers break out.
Red: Leon stays on his man as he becomes more dangerous, and I can't really tell if he accidentally slewfoots him, on purpose slewfoots him, or the Hab takes a dive. I highly doubt it was the first two(this was not a game with any tension) and the third there's nothing to be done about.
Orange: He gets frustrated here(I think there was indeed some embellishment), not contesting the extra attacker's entry into the slot or communicating to Strome that he's coming in. Cammaleri doesn't feel like picking up his guy either, and the puck ends up in the net.
That's about as ugly as it gets, but this is propaganda-cut against Leon. These were the only 5v5 chances that happened on his watch, he had a good game on thewhole. He gets frustrated, we know this.
- December 10 vs TOR -
This game is much less lean for our purposes.
Again the three centre model was ran by Edmonton, and Toronto's Auston Matthews was injured for the contest. Babcock responded by matching Kadri vs McDavid, and Nylander at centre with Hyman and Brown at his flanks vs Draisaitl.
This was... a wretched game to watch. The Leafs scored on the first shift, then got trashed for the entire remainder of the game but the Oilers couldn't score. Tragic stuff, really. Let's re-experience it!
Red: Leon shadows this play well up the wall, but stops just short of attempted pick-pocketing, he's got the reach and the hands, you'd like him to be more aggressive here. He's there with separation if a teammate pokes it back though, it's a tradeoff.
Orange: Willie Nye takes his shot when he sees it, and steals the puck away. This represents the successful version of what I'd want to see Draisaitl do in Red.
Green: Nylander surveys the options here, but everyone's either pretty well covered, or out of the reach anyways. Leon should be covering the point pass here, as it's the highest percentage option for Nylander and the one he's best spatially suited to contest. Bill's looking cross ice, he's lying.
The puck gets tipped and ends up going in after a strange delay. This isn't on Leon really, he did give up the point shot uncontested but that shot turning into a goal is something that happens just sometimes, and just that.
There's not much here in this clip, it's placed here just to show how hard it is to turn plays around as F3. Leon just barely gets a split second where he could have turned the puck over. This is in essence an illustration of how some events are out of one players' hands almost entirely. It's also a common shift for the Oilers on a breakout, playing pinball hockey just trying to hit the blueline instead of a concerted, calm pass or two out.
Red: Leon plays the other 29 heavy here, and in the right way, keeping him to the outside and correctly switching opposite side at Orange, making sure he's not pushing him directly into the goaltenders' vision.
This is just good coverage. It's what you want to see.
Red: Draisaitl gets the steal on Nylander here, then while realising that both board plays are covered(Nylander actually doesn't have his stick on the reversal, but he should, and Draisaitl can't see that he doesn't and should play it out as if Nylander's playing it properly), he goes up the middle hitting Khaira on the tape. This is a great defensive play all around, regardless of how it ends up back in the DZ briefly as a result of Khaira's mishandling.
Red: Draisaitl knows where this puck is going based on who's covered (although Khaira's stick is in the wrong spot here) and he does get his stick there, but this play is so telegraphed that he really should have gotten a piece of it, he even could have gone down to one knee and completely neutered it. Still good anticipation(told you this would be the theme) with imperfect execution.
Short last clip here where his usual wingers have already changed, as first man back Drai does some good work here supporting the puck and getting it to Lucic who makes a great physical play along the wall to buy the change to get 97 on the ice for Leon.
This comes back to how Draisaitl's actually a pretty good F1 in the DZ, especially compared to some forwards on the team and I'd like it if he had most of those responsibilities wherever possible going forward, as I feel he's just on the cusp of being a fine defensive player there. This was two full games at centre, and he made few glaring mistakes and on the smaller mistakes he usually had the right idea. Understand that the shot maps in these games tell quite a story of what I haven't shown here.
That's all for today, we'll continue through the days of Christmas in the coming posts. Thank you for reading.