Rule 81: Icing – Should any player of a team, equal or superior in numerical strength to the opposing team, shoot, bat or deflect the puck from his own half of the ice beyond the goal line of the opposing team, play shall be stopped.
Icing is a simple rule that is really designed to keep the game moving and avoid the classic soccer “anywhere will do” type of clearance.
It happens multiple times per period and most of the time has little effect on the outcome of a game. In the NHL this season, icing has been called 3,688 times. A goal has been scored within 30 seconds of the ensuing faceoff just 181, or 5%, of the time.
But that doesn’t mean icing should be taken lightly, because it absolutely shouldn’t. How often a team ices a puck themselves and the frequency in which they force their opposition to ice it is an excellent illustration of a team’s success rate in the attacking zones. It puts a numerical value on things like forechecking, exiting the zone, and pressure.
Thanks to the great folks over at MoreHockeyStats.com, we know that the Golden Knights are terrific in some of these categories.
This season, the Golden Knights have forced their opponent to ice the puck 119 times in 29 games, about 4.25 per game. Despite losing 60% of the ensuing draws (see, I’ve been telling you faceoffs don’t matter), the Golden Knights have scored 10 goals, drawn four penalties, and forced the opposing team to ice the puck again 23 times within 30 seconds of the original icing call.
The 10 goals is second in the league behind Anaheim’s 15. In other words, 8.4% of the time a team ices the puck against the Golden Knights, it ends up in the back of their net in 30 seconds or less.
On the flip side, Vegas ices the puck a lot, like, a real lot.
Their 139 icings in 29 games is the third most in the league and 4.8 per game is good for the second highest average in the NHL.
Like when they force the opposition to ice it, the Golden Knights are terrible at winning the ensuing draw, doing it just 36% of the time (VGK’s overall faceoff percentage is 46.6%). Yet, in those 139 icings taken, the Golden Knights have allowed just six goals against within 30 seconds of the infraction. That’s a 4.3% rate, which is slightly better than the league average of 4.9% and way better than the 8.4% they score on when the other team ices it.
Using MoreHockeyStat’s “icing score” metric (read more about that here), the Golden Knights are the second worst team to ice the puck against, while they sit right in the middle of the pack as to the effect it has on them when they do it.
So, what can we learn from all of this? We’ll start with the positives.
When teams ice the puck against the Golden Knights, they pay a heavy price. The overall number of icings forced, where VGK is 11th in the league, shows their forechecking system is effective. The dreaded “double icing” (which should be a penalty, but that’s a topic for another day) reinforces this notion and also shows that the Golden Knights have strong enough depth to take advantage of getting fresh players on the ice against tired ones.
On the other side of the ledger though, the sheer number of icings taken is a troubling underlying statistic for the Golden Knights’ defense. Though it hasn’t hurt them much this season, icing the puck with a frequency near the top of the league, coupled with winning the least number of ensuing faceoffs of anyone is a recipe for disaster.
The VGK defense is fully capable of defending in these situations (what I mean when I say faceoffs don’t matter), but the more often they find themselves in them, the more likely they are to sustain a lapse which leads to a goal or a dangerous chance.
Defending has been an issue all season for the Golden Knights and this is yet another place where they can improve. Better puck support and decision-making will lead to more consistent exits.
Finally, it’s important to note that the Golden Knights are a team that thrives at the stretch pass, which contributes to their high icing numbers. Players like Alex Pietrangelo, Shea Theodore, Zach Whitecloud, and Alec Martinez are all excellent at firing passes 100+ feet down the ice to streaking forwards leading to quick rush chances. It’s a huge part of the Vegas attack and well worth the risk of taking an icing if the pass is missed. It’s a risk/reward type play, and for the Golden Knights, the rewards far outweigh the risks.