There were several aggressive decisions made during the second Grand Slam of the season, The National, won by Mike "Money" McEwen. Many of these choices were made by the winning squad, others by their finals opponent, Brad Jacobs. Perhaps it's the 5 rock Free Guard Zone rule or maybe just evolution by the Next Generation, but there were some calls we may not have seen even 2 to 3 years ago. Jacobs and McEwen are currently the top two teams in the world and given their level of play, it's difficult to argue with their on ice decisions. That didn't stop Joan McCusker, Mike Harris and Kevin Martin in the Sportsnet booth from wondering aloud if several calls were correct and it certainly won't stop me from digging a little deeper to see if these squads are winning because of or in spite of their on ice strategy.
Round Robin: McEwen vs Jeff Stoughton
In the Second End, McEwen is down 1 and could play a tap for a single point to tie the game (blue line) but instead chooses to try a double for two or three (green line).
The tap is not automatic but the double is very difficult. The rock was almost fully buried and Mike needed the right combination of line and weight to make the shot. The attempt was missed by a fraction and a steal of one was the result.
Let's assume you make the tap almost every time. That leaves you with a WE of 38% (call it 40). Start by guessing an equal chance for every outcome (steal 1, take 2 or take 3). Multiply each WE by 1/3 (round quickly) and add them together. 7.5+20+25 = 52.5. Presto! That's better than taking a single. Even if you surrender a steal one in three attempts, it's the correct decision, if you can get the full 3 points one in three tries.
A very aggressive call. With the amount of curl in this spot, he's able to bury past the guard but the length of the guard and large amount of curl also leaves Jeff a chance to follow him with a soft take-out or attempt a long runback to possibly score two points. Stoughton misses the hit attempt and McEwen steals to go up 4-2.
With hammer in the Extra End, rather than peel a centre guard, McEwen chose to draw around and sit two in the four foot. He slipped a foot heavy and actually left Stoughton some hope.
Jeff's final rock lost its handle, perhaps because of a pick, and McEwen took the win without having to throw his last shot. The draw around vs peel tied with 3 rocks to go, attempting to get position before your opponent, is a play more often seen in the women's game. I was surprised at the call, as were the commentators, but Mike may have felt his second shot, sitting top four foot in the open, would provide an angle raise if needed.
Let's evaluate the risk in this decision and decide if it is the correct call. Naturally, if Mike expects to make a 30 degree angle raise of 12 feet 100% of the time, it is clearly the right decision. I expect team McEwen recognizes this is a difficult shot and they are taking some risk at an attempt to gain early control.
a straight-in shot is 1.97X (97%) easier than a 60 degree cut angle shot.
Mike misses and Jacobs steals 1 (WE = 43%).
Mike is able to contact the Jacobs stone and remove it, but also rolls out and scores 1 (WE = 61%).
Mike makes the shot and scores 2 (WE = 74%).
Like above, let's start by guessing there is an equal chance for each outcome.
That's 59% or nearly the same as the WE of a draw for 1. That's not even taking into account the odds of making the draw to the full four foot in the first end (Kevin mentions it's likely 85 or 90%). A high percentage shot, but certainly not automatic.
The result is a shade light and/or a fraction wide. McEwen hits the yellow Jacob stone but spins away and sits 3rd and 4th shot by an inch.
Brad chooses to play control weight and the result is a soft glance on the shot stone but they fail to move it far enough and McEwen steals 1 point. This appeared to be a difficult shot. Jacob's rock sitting top eight appeared to almost and reduce chance of hitting the red stone on the inside.