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TimeSep 11, 2016

World Cup Forwards - Defensive Proficiency

Photo: David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire

Most of the World Cup exhibition games so far have not been defensive gems, averaging well over 6 goals per game.

If this offensive push continues it will be great entertainment for fans, but rest assured each World Cup staff realizes the path to a championship will require strong defensive play…. at least for stretches of time.

The 2015/16 Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins relied heavily on the strong defensive play of their forward group.

Each line had at least one very strong defensive forward and the Penguins staff inspired their weakest defensive forwards to raise their defensive commitment.

How do the World Cup forward groups compare defensively?

The results below are based on the cumulative per-minute 'defensive’ contributions for all forwards on each team from the 2015/16 NHL season.

The team with the top score has been designated as the standard at 100%, and each of the other team scores have been expressed as a percentage of the leader. In the few instances of players not playing in the NHL last season, we have used an adjusted average.


Defensive Proficiency:

Team Percentage
Finland: 100
USA: 81.3
Sweden: 78.7
Canada: 75.7
Czech: 72.6
North America: 65.6
Russia: 62.8
Europe: 59.8

Based on the sum of the parts, Finland’s forwards stand at the top of the defensive ladder. Unfortunately Finland’s defensemen rank second from the bottom defensively. World Cup Defensemen - Defense

Team USA is a bit of a surprise in second spot, but their forward line-up has several very capable two-way players, including Ryan Kesler, Zach Parise, and T.J Oshie.

Sweden’s forwards rank 3rd defensively, just a shade ahead of the Canadian’s in 4th, who should benefit from the defensive details deployed by Babcock and his staff. The Canadian’s can afford to sacrifice some defense for offense among their forward group when they have the strongest group of defensive defensemen in the tournament.

North American forwards rank 6th but an overwhelming offensive performance in their first few exhibition games has largely hid any defensive shortcomings. They dominated Team Europe, winning both games by a score of 4-0 and 7-4. All eyes are on the young North American team to see if the best defense is really a strong offense.

Team Europe forwards are at the bottom of the 8 World Cup Teams defensively There is significant concern in the Europe camp regarding not only their defensive play but their team speed after struggling against Team North America. Time to find out what the World Cup coaching staffs are made of.



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