Marc Staal had a tough game last night. He skated 33:48 and was on the ice for both Caps goals -- his bad clear was the cause of the OT game winner. If you remember from How Jason Chimera Scored A Goal From The Penalty Box, coaches try to keep shift length at about 45 seconds and to keep players at a ratio of two shifts off for every one shift on. Staal’s average shift length was 55 seconds -- a little high but not too bad. But he averaged only 1:20 of gametime on the bench between shifts.
After the jump, you can see how Staal’s night compared shift-by-shift to Caps' defensive TOI leader last night: Scott Hannan. Hannan skated 28:39, with an average shift length of 52 seconds and an average of 1:36 between shifts. That latter number, to me, is the crucial one. Those 16 extra seconds of rest before every shift can make a huge difference. In the table below, every break between shifts of less than 1:30 is in bold, and every break of less than 1:00 is in blue (the links don't go anywhere).
Hannan rested less than 1:30 between shifts fourteen times and less than 1:00 seven times in 33 shifts. You expect to see some short rests (as measured using the game clock) because of TV timeouts and other stoppages. But Staal rested less than 1:30 twenty-three times and less than 1:00 ten times. And among his last five shifts before Semin scored, Staal never rested as much as 1:30 and he rested less than 1:00 three times -- he rested just 23 seconds before that fateful last shift. Staal looked tired to my eyes by the end of the overtime. Those short rests may have caught up to him.
Sometimes a hallmark of good coaching is patience – the willingness to not change anything about a favorable situation and the confidence that if you stick with the plan, the breaks are more likely to come your way than your adversary’s. And sometimes what looks like good coaching is really just a team taking advantage of having greater depth. No matter what you call it, the Caps took advantage of a Rangers weakness in defensive depth last night by wearing down the pairing of Marc Staal and Dan Girardi. It will be interesting to see how the Rangers respond.