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Boyd Gordon: Superhero

I don't care how good you might think this guy is...Right now, he's better than that.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

While I have been a card carrying member of the Boyd Gordon Fan Club since well before he arrived in Edmonton, I have to give a big hat tip to Bruce McCurdy for pointing out to me just how absurd Boyd Gordon's game last night was.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Interesting faceoff breakdown in that game. Boyd Gordon took 19 draws, 17 (!!) in his own zone &amp; other 2 in neutral zone.</p>&mdash; Bruce McCurdy (@BruceMcCurdy) <a href="">October 23, 2013</a></blockquote>

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During the Oilers4-3 win over the Habs last night, Boyd Gordon put in one of the strongest defensive efforts that you could ever ask of a player. I'll admit up front that he was on the ice for two goals against on the night (only one in a 5v5 situation), but given how poor the Oilers were collectively in the first period, it could have been much worse.

Looking at the game as a whole though, Gordon was signficantly responsible for the Oilers skilled forwards being given the opportunity to come back in that game. Full credit is due to Arcobello, RNH, Eberle, Hemsky and the rest of those who contributed offensively, but their ability to generate opportunities to score was greatly enhanced to the work being done by Gordon when they were on the bench.

Last night, Boyd Gordon took 19 face-offs and won 53% of them. A nice number, but actually a bit below his season average. But let's look a little closer. Of those 19 draws, Gordon took two of them in the neutral zone and an astounding 17 of them in his own end. Gordon wasn't given a single offensive zone start on the night and began 83% of his shifts inside the Oiler blueline. This deployment strategy allowed all of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Nail Yakupov, Marc Arcobello, Ales Hemsky and David Perron (the team's best scoring hopes) to begin a minumum of 75% of their shifts in either the neutral of offensive zones, putting them that much closer to a scoring chance. It's not a huge surprise that those players all factored in heavily to the team's comeback in the second half of the game.

But deployment is not everything of course, how did Gordon perform in those minutes? If he was given difficult assignments but couldn't hold the fort, it would have been a failed experiment.

Well, yes, the Oilers were outscored 2-1 when Gordon was on the ice, (he was an even 1-1 on the scoreboard at even strength, the other goal was scored while he was killing a penalty), but once again, let's dig deeper. Despite the extremely lopsided assignments Gordon received, the Oilers actually outshot the Habs while he was on the ice, 7 shots to 5 overall and 7-4 5v5. Shots don't provide a huge sample size though, so, as is customary in hockey analytics these days, let's expand the data set to look at all shot attempts ("SA") (the sum of shots, missed shots and blocked shots) or "corsi". Using these numbers, Gordon understandably comes in on the losing side of the ledger as the Habs attempted 16 shots against to the Oilers 12, which can then be expressed as a shot attempt percentage, in this case 43% for Gordon.

When you exclude special teams play from that number, you get 15-12 in favour of the Habs (or 44%, slightly better), which means only a single shot was attempted by the Canadiens while Gordon was on the ice killing a penalty (guess which one they scored on?).

Drilling down one step further we can separate out the shots that were blocked by only counting the shots and missed shots or "Fenwick" attempts. This produced some interesting results. When you remove blocked shots, the Oilers actually came out on top, 7-5 at even strength. (Obviously, since the 1 PP shot attempt was a goal, it was not blocked. From here on out, I will use only 5v5 numbers). For his own part on the game, Gordon blocked 6 of the 10 shots that the Oiler players prevented from reaching the net.

One other item of note is that Gordon played almost the entire game with replacement level linemates. What does that mean exactly? Well, given the run of injuries the Oilers have encountered early in the season, within the last few games they have recalled both Ryan Jones and Tyler Pitlick, who started the season with the Barons in Oklahoma City. Jones has played many games in the Oiler bottom six, but is typically overwhelmed when given anything beyond 4th line responsibilities. This was Tyler Pitlick's first NHL game. The only reason this line could have been considered the Oilers' third line on the night is because the 4th line is entirely constructed of players who likely aren't among the team's 12 best forwards when they have a healthy roster.

Lastly, Gordon was not matched up dramatically against any specific line that the Habs used in Tuesday's game, but the forward trio he spent the most time on the ice against was Montreal's EGG line (Eller, Gallagher, Galchenyuk)

So, let's summarize this:

Boyd Gordon:

  • 10/19 on the face-off dot (53%)
  • 17 of those draws took place in his own zone.
  • 83% of his shifts began in his own end, while the other 17% were neutral zone starts. 0 offensive zone starts on the night.
  • All six of the team's top offensive players had defensive zone start percentages of 25% or lower (75% or more of their shifts began in the neutral or offensive zones)
  • Gordon played more minutes against the Habs top offensive line any other Canadiens forwards.
  • While playing with replacement level players at even strength, the Oilers managed 43% of shot attempts with Gordon on the ice (12-15). Respectable given his deployment.
  • Of Montreal's 15 shot attempts, 10 were blocked, including 6 by Gordon himself.
  • The Oilers actually got more shots through to the net than the Habs did during Gordon's time on the ice (7-5).
  • The Oilers outshot the Habs 7-4 with Gordon on the ice in 5v5 situations.
  • The Oilers and Habs each scored one goal a piece at even strength during Gordon's TOI
  • The Habs scored on their only shot attempt while Gordon was on the ice in a penalty killing situation.
With the exception of the blemish on the penalty kill, Boyd Gordon is basically a superhero, and should be credited with giving the Oilers' offensive stars the opportunity to battle back and steal the two points last night.