Aggression & Possession: How Modern NHL Offenses are Thriving

Aggression & Possession: How Modern NHL Offenses are Thriving

Goal production soared last season with 18 teams finishing the year averaging over 3.00 goals per game and the Florida Panthers, who won the Presidents’ Trophy, averaging 4.11 goals per game. Halfway through the 2022-23 season, goals are on the rise again. Heading into All-Star Break, 23 of 32 teams are scoring 3.00 or more goals per game as the offenses continue to play at a high level.

The recent rise in scores can be attributed to a host of factors, including league player skill, a drop in elite goaltending, and advanced data becoming more of a part of the game than ever before. league quantify data using advanced statistics to optimize their team’s skaters and help their attacks, allowing teams to accumulate goals. Most advanced stats or metrics on which teams assess talent and build their systems fall into two main categories: possession and aggression.

These two categories can sometimes come into conflict. After all, an offense more willing to throw the puck risks losing possession and creating scoring opportunities the other way. Likewise, teams that overvalue possession may take a minimal number of shots on the net and limit scoring chances. So how do teams balance the two attacking categories and succeed in the modern game?

How the Avalanche used possession to win the Cup

The Colorado Avalanche won the Presidents’ Trophy in 2020-21. Their offense was one of the best in the league and it allowed them to overwhelm their opponents. Led by Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog, their offense possessed quick puck movement and the ability to create open shots. However, their weakness was their overly aggressive defense, especially when their defenders played deep in the attacking zone, allowing scoring opportunities the other way. This vulnerability allowed the Vegas Golden Knights to consistently crush them in the second-round rush and knock them out in a six-game series.

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