Bull-etin Zug

EV Zug beat HC Davos in six games and has advanced to the finals for the first time since their championship win in 1998. Before we preview the showdown against SC Bern, we look back at the semi-finals and analyze the main reason for Zug’s success.

By Yannick Ringger

{sitelinkxoff}It was the expected tight, fast and attractive series, but overall Zug has been the better side. They opened the score in five of the six games, trailed only three times and played with a lead through most of the series. Although some commentators argued that Davos has been the better side at even-strength, this is only partially true. Through most parts, it has been a very tight series, in which Zug scored more timely goals and played with more efficiency. The Bulls’ success can, however, not simply be attributed to pure luck. In the first two games, they had a clear edge over Davos in the special teams. In the other four games, the special teams matched pretty evenly. Davos only clearly dominated the fourth game, while Zug was the better side in the fifth.

Goaltender Tobias Stephan was key to EV Zug's success. (Photo: PHOTOPRESS / Gian Ehrenzeller)

Clutch performances from Zug’s key players

The clinching game on Saturday serves as a good indicator as to why Zug eliminated Davos for the first time since 1998 and after three consecutive defeats since then. EVZ managed to close down the neutral zone, which made it hard for Davos to enter the offensive zone with speed, one of their main strengths. As a consequence, Zug could create turnovers, which lead to dangerous chances off the rush, i.e. before the opening goal on Saturday. After that, Zug managed to stay compact without being too passive and created some more chances. They ruthlessly punished Davos’ mistakes and built a clear lead. It only got tight again after Davos scored a couple of quick goals and because Zug played too passively at the beginning of the third period.

During that phase, they could count on goaltender Stephan, who made some big saves, and their key players Diaz and McIntyre, who combined for the fourth goal. The Bulls had the best goaltender, defenseman and forward on their roster, who all were at their best in the most important situations, whereas Davos’ key players such as Ambühl, Dino Wieser and Lindgren played very good, but couldn’t quite dominate like Zug’s trio did. And while Gilles Senn showed glimpses of his potential, he couldn’t maintain his outstanding level of play from the quarter-finals.

Statistical oddities

There were some interesting statistics throughout the series. First of all, there were a lot of goals scored, 6.67 goals per game, which is quite a lot during the postseason. Only half of them have come at even-strength and both teams scored 50 percent of their respective goals at even-strength. Secondly, while Davos clearly outshot Zug (35.50 vs 29.17 shots per game) during the whole series, another shot statistic was indicative of success. In every game, the team which outshot its opponent in the first period (in the first three games the difference was razor-thin), went on to win the game – no matter how the shot differentials changed over the course of the game and how the score looked like after the first period.

Particularly eye-catching were the clutch goals by Jarkko Immonen in the series. After he hadn’t scored for more than three months, the Finn scored the game-winning goals in the first two games. In the fifth game, he added the go-ahead goal and in the sixth, he sealed the victory with an empty-netter. His line with Klingberg and Senteler was arguably the most consistently dangerous line for the Bulls, while the line of Zangger-McIntyre-Lammer was decisive in game six. One could have expected a bit more production by Martschini-Holden-Suri, but as the other three lines and the powerplay (especially in the first two games) contributed, this didn’t matter all that much. The balanced line-up and the chemistry of all defense-pairings and forward-lines – Coach Kreis has relied upon the same combinations for pretty much the whole year – might have been another advantage in favour of Zug.

“Defense wins championships …”

Coach Kreis did a very good job in preparing his team against Davos as they were neutralizing their strengths such as speed and intensity. Especially in games five and six, they found the right mixture between playing compact and patient defensive hockey and creating chances in the offensive zone. This was especially important, as their powerplay lacked the sharpness of the quarter-final-series and the first two games of the semi-finals. Another key to their success lies in the efficiency upfront, as illustrated in the very high and maybe unsustainable shot efficiency percentage of 12.57 percent (as compared to Davos’s 8.45 percent) and the many timely scored goals. Overall, Zug showed that after years of offensive powerhouse-teams, their more defensively sound and patient approach gives them a better chance of winning in the postseason and proved once again that the old saying “offense wins games, defense wins championships” might have some truth to it.

Bull-etin Zug

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