The kind of a perfect game for a coach: a win and a helluva performance on the ice. On the offensive side, your team generated a lot and found solutions to generate more and more as the game progressed. And on the other hand, your goalie didn’t have much to do, if at all, with only 6 easy shots against. Sure, the Hofmann & Cie would have deserved a few more goals and Patrick Fischer certainly wished for a more comfortable lead to manage the end of the game, but even with a one-goal lead, his team never allowed much, even when Ehlers pulled his goalie at the end of the game.
Before digging more precisely into the game. A few key numbers in this game:
4.88 - 0.24 xG for SUI, 4.84 - 0.17 xG at 5v5
29 - 6 shots on goal for SUI and 63 - 18 in shot attempts
22 - 1 scoring chances for SUI, 11 - 0 in high-danger chances, 6-0 rush scoring chances, 5-0 in rebounds
Small discrepancy between our tracking and IIHF’s one, but both indicate a new record according to one IIHF editor.
For this game, Fischer made some adjustments. Genoni, Loeffel and Herzog were replaced by Berra, Heldner and Vermin. Only Frick, Rod (injured) and Mottet haven’t played yet. He also changed some of defensive pairings: Müller played with Siegenthaler and Alatalo with Heldner.
In hockey, there are some pretty established clichés, like using your fourth line, often called the energy line, at the beginning of the game, the start of a period or right after a goal for or against. And that’s what Fischer did against the Czech Republic and Denmark as he sent twice his fourth line (Scherwey - Bertschy - Praplan) to start the game. They wasted no time and directly put pressure on DEN’s defence. Here, Scherwey got the first shot from the high-slot after 16 seconds and delivered a behind-the-net pass to Praplan who nearly opened the score a few seconds later. So far in this tournament, they are a very luxurious fourth line to have. They can provide offence and through various ways: rushes, forechecking or cycling and Fischer seems to trust them on defensive tasks.
After two minutes, Switzerland calmly killed a 2’ penalty. As already noted in the game against the Czech Republic, SUI’s forwards did a great job at pressuring the opposite defensemen high in their zone. Denmark only took one shot from the blue line.
After 5’, on a bad change from Denmark, Heldner was able to find Meier on a stretch pass for a breakaway, but he couldn’t finish.
After 9’, a good stick play by Alatalo at the offensive blue line kept the play alive for the Swiss team. Vermin retrieved the puck and found Ambühl in the slot on a high-danger pass. There’ll be other sequences where Swiss defensemen were able to maintain puck possession or retrieve puck quickly thanks to aggressive plays at the offensive blue line, which was a bit of an issue in the first game.
When your team is having problems entering the offensive zone in control, especially with a trap like Ehlers used for his team in the neutral zone, you either have to smartly dump the puck to retrieve it the offensive zone or you can also rely on your best players being your best players and be able to navigate through the neutral zone, like Hischier did on the SUI’s lone goal. He was able to eliminate three Danish players on the zone entry and to reverse the play to Meier. The Sharks’ player also displayed all his class on the play, eliminating the Danish player and was able to find the opposite top-shelf on his shot.
In our WC preview, we talked about Meier’s difficult season. He had chances but wasn’t able to convert them. For the moment, and luckily for Switzerland, he generates both chances AND goals.
A few seconds later, the … fourth line of course created another chance from behind the net, on a pass from Praplan to Bertschy. 2 minutes before the end of the period, Hofmann found Corvi in the slot for another chance initiated from behind the net. They are hard to defend against and the Swiss definitely capitalized on them.
After 20 minutes: 0.85 xG for SUI, against 0.07xG for DEN
Both teams generated only 22 shot attempts in this second period. For example, there are, on average, 39 shots per 20 minutes of play in the National League (source: NL Ice Data). The Danish players still weren’t able to generate offence and the Swiss team could have increased its lead on a few chances. Especially on chances from Hofmann.
The first notable chance was on a rush from … Hofmann. Of course. Grégory “Connor McDavid” Hofmann was back. On a sequence that started with two good plays from Geisser, escaping DEN’s forechecker twice, Hofmann found a way to eliminate two opponents in the neutral zone and gain the offensive with a lot of speed.
The Swiss team had then a very good one minute sequence that started with the fourth line in the offensive and that finished with the first with a tip from Untersander in the slot. A few seconds later, Hofmann created another chance all by himself, on an even more impressive rush. He ended up facing the Danish goalie on a breakaway. Unfortunately, he missed the net.
Then, the Swiss players killed another penalty. They applied the same recipe as in the first period, by being aggressive in all zones and trying to kill plays high on the ice. Denmark was only able to generate two point shots.
In the first period, Vermin found Ambühl in the slot on a high-danger pass. He did the same here 5’ before the end of the period with a Royal Road pass to Kurashev in the slot for one of the best Swiss chances. This is one of his strengths, as we noted in our preview.
After 40 minutes: 1.70 xG for SUI, against 0.24xG for DEN
This was the best period for the Swiss team. It generated 3.18xG to 0.04. Yes, you read it correctly. This is dominance and it’s unfortunate that the Swiss players weren’t able to score on its chances.
After a few seconds in the third period, the Swiss got a power-play on a penalty drawn by Nico Hischier. As much as it was the main subject of discussion in the first game vs. the Czech republic, there was nothing to write home about it against Denmark.
Then, began the Swiss real dominance. First with a wrap-around chance from Ambühl, that finished on the goal line. Another chance from Hofmann on the rush.
A few seconds later on the same shift, Hischier finds Hofmann in the slot with a pass from behind the net. Hischier nearly scored on the rebound. Still on the same shift, Hischier finds Meier alone in the slot on a rush for another save by Dahm.
The next shift from the first line brings us on the Swiss best chances in the third. Following a good zone entry by Andrighetto and Meier, Müller was able to maintain possession in the offensive zone by denying a Danish zone exit. On the sequence that followed, the Swiss players generated a total of 1.77xG on 6 shots by 4 different players and thanks to multiple rebounds. But Dahm made the necessary stops to keep his team in the game.
10 minutes before the end, the fourth line nearly scored again by Scherwey. Bertschy found Scherwey in the slot after another chance created below the goal line.
Finally, the last great chance from the Swiss players came from Kurashev on a breakaway, following a stretch pass from Alatalo. But again, Dahm stopped the puck.
After 60 minutes: 4.88 xG for SUI, against 0.24xG for DEN
By the numbers
On a personal note, I don’t recall seeing such a beating. Ever. The way Switzerland rolled over Denmark from one end to the other was just extraordinary. Denmark only had 18 shot attempts and 1 scoring chance. But it goes beyond the shot metrics.
The Danes were so much in their zone that they end with an astonishing 102 exits tried ! But only 42% were controlled as the Swiss were pressing them to turn pucks over immediately.
When they were able to break out, Denmark was only able to enter the offensive zone in control 32% of the time. They also connected none of their high-danger passes… There was absolutely no space anywhere for them. Not one second of freedom.
Switzerland did a good zone breaking out cleanly with 72% controlled exits. 47% controlled entries is average but they were facing a wall, and they managed to jump over it quite a few times with 39% of dumps recovered, a good result. It should also be noted how much the Swiss tried to enter the slot, again and again, with 17 high-danger passes, instead of just bombarding from the outside. That philosophy will pay off against tougher opponents.
Not sure Reto Berra had a quieter night in his career. Not sure a goaltender ever recorded a shutout while only saving 0.24 goals…
The top line worked very hard tonight to crack that defense. Hofmann once again was on top of his game with 14 shot attempts and the 4th line spearheaded the whole thing. The new defensive pairs didn’t change anything. Heldner shot a couple times, Moser was more active and unleashed his first pass skills but was still a bit slow in his gap control.
Find more statistics tracked by Thibaud on his Tableau’s page here: https://public.tableau.com/profile/thibaud.chatel#!/vizhome/WorldChampionship2021/GameReport