January 07 2015 08:30AM
We're about half-way through the 2014-15 season and I finished crunching some numbers for the games up to this point, so let's have some fun and dig into them a bit!
This season we've focused our efforts on two specific areas of data:
- Offensive Zone Entries
- Scoring Chances
Here's a glance at how these figures are settling out so far, as well as how they tie together.
Offensive Zone Entry tracking involves following the games and counting and classifying every time the Flames bring the puck into the offensive zone. A Carry-In is when a player maintains possession as they enter the zone and doesn't immediately voluntarily get rid of it. A Dump-In is when a player either doesn't have possession of the puck (e.g., just fires it in) or loses possession immediately voluntarily once they enter the zone (e.g., they skate a few strides into the zone and chuck 'em in). Shots on net from immediately inside the blueline are dump-ins based on this taxonomy.
Scoring Chance tracking involves tallying every shot, blocked shot and missed shot from inside the "home plate" area around the net. The "home plate" area is used because this is the part of the ice where shooting percentages are the highest - they are literally the "high percentage areas."
- Johnny Gaudreau: 331
- Jiri Hudler: 297
- Sean Monahan: 283
- Curtis Glencross: 263
- Paul Byron: 208
Mark Giordano (204) leads all defenders. These are basically a product of three things: ice time, games played and time spent outside of the defensive end. Monahan and Glencross eat the tough minutes, so this is mostly an indication that they do, eventually, get the puck out of their end. Gaudreau and Hudler get heavily sheltered in terms of zone starts and opposition, so again, this makes sense.
Highest Carry Percentage:
- Johnny Gaudreau: 67.98%
- Mikael Backlund: 59.15%
- Paul Byron: 50.96%
- Matt Stajan: 48.31%
- Sven Baertschi: 48.15%
Four of the five of these guys rely on foot-speed and creativity to do their thing. The fifth guy is Stajan, who is a wily veteran and, by far, the most likely of the bottom-six crew to carry the puck into the zone and make something happen.
Lowest Carry Percentage:
- Ladislav Smid: 4.08%
- Raphael Diaz: 11.76%
- Deryk Engelland: 18.57%
- Devin Setoguchi: 20.00%
- Kris Russell: 22.80%
Shockingly, defenders don't carry much, nor do checkers. Lance Bouma (32.80%), Michael Ferland (29.03%) and Brandon Bollig (23.24%) also dump the puck in a lot, as you'd expect given their roles.
Highest Scoring Chance For Percentage:
- Josh Jooris: 55.10%
- Mark Giordano: 54.56%
- Raphael Diaz: 54.46%
- Jiri Hudler: 54.37%
- Curtis Glencross: 52.42%
Jooris is the beneficiary of playing with Gaudreau and Hudler a lot. And sheltered starts. But, to be fair, other players have been sheltered to a larger degree and been buried alive chances-wise. Diaz is just a weird one, to be honest. Maybe it's a combination of sample size and playing at home a bunch.
Lowest Scoring Chance For Percentage:
- Devin Setoguchi: 33.80%
- Mason Raymond: 37.59%
- Lance Bouma: 41.00%
- Brandon Bollig: 41.88%
- Kris Russell: 43.06%
Checkers, defenders that don't get a lot of zone-start help, and Mason Raymond. This may be the most obvious reflection of how #21 has been playing lately - he's absolutely getting hammered in terms of chances against. You would expect this for Bouma and Bollig, who are relied upon for energy and to create space for their teammates. Not for a player relied upon for offense and given the circumstances to generate some.
SCORING CHANCES AFTER ENTRIES
Through the first 40 games of the 2014-15 season, the Calgary Flames have generated 585 even-strength scoring chances - about 14.6 chances per game.
The Flames had 366 scoring chances within 30 seconds of a carry-in, representing 62.6% of all scoring chances. They had 159 scoring chances within 30 seconds of a dump-in, representing 27.2% of all scoring chances. For the curious, since our last update, their percentage of chances after carry-ins have gone up a bit (from 60.4%) while chances off dump-ins have gone down (from 29.2%).
It's probably just statistical noise based on the (relatively) low sample size, but you never know.
ENTRIES LEADING TO SCORING CHANCES
As with the last time we reviewed this data, most of Calgary's entries are dump-ins - 2,157 even-strength dump-ins versus 1407 even-strength carries.
Carry-ins, even with how rare they are relative to dump-ins, remain much more effective at generating chances. Calgary converts carry-ins to scoring chances at a rate of about 26.0%, while dump-ins convert at about 7.4% - indicating that carrying in the puck is roughly four times more likely to result in a scoring chance than a dump-in.
I had the chance to chat with a couple players about zone entries earlier this week, and Joe Colborne had an interesting insight. When I mentioned our tracking and the differentials between players, he noted that the differentials are likely a product of a few factors: strategy, in-game situations and what he termed as a player's "leash."
Strategy refers to specific things that the entire team is told to do. So, if a team has big strong defensemen, the whole team would be instructed to dump the puck in (use the old "chip and chase") and try to get better angles by going around them. However, most of the time I'd say the Flames are using more of a speed game, so they rely upon clean entries and puck possession to create chaos in the offensive end. The team's reliance on defensemen jumping into the rush is a good example of this: the departure from a usual three-man forward entry creates challenges for defenders, as they have to decide who's picking up which rushing player really quickly and rely upon back-checking forwards to come back and figure out coverage on the fly.
In-game situations refers to things like whether a player is at the end of their shift or the beginning. Previously, the Flames had a tendency on line changes to have one player carry the puck into the zone and let the rest of his line-mates change up. This season, with more of an emphasis on a five-man attack, more often than not they just chuck the puck in and do a full five-man change rather than have an orphan player from a different line. It's also meant to guard against weird bounces and turnovers turning into odd-man rushes going the other way.
As for leashes, here's what Joe Colborne explained in the context of entries:
We talk about leashes that you have from the coaching staff, right? Brandon Bollig is going to have a little bit of a shorter leash than Johnny Gaudreau is going to have, so if Johnny gets it and thinks he can take that Matt Greene on it like he did when we played them [the Kings] here and make a big play for the goal, everyone's loving it. But say the next time Johnny thinks he can do it again and Greene steps up and hammers him, turns the puck over, the coaches are a little more apt to give Johnny [a longer "leash"] because he's thinking of those plays and he can pull those plays off on a pretty regular basis. Where as Bolls is more of a guy, if he's trying to dangle at the blueline, the coaches are going to be saying 'that's not really your type of play,' and they'll get on him a little quicker. A lot of it is coaching style, a lot of it is your role on the team. If you're playing third or fourth line, you're expected more to chip pucks, get in on the forecheck, finish some checks kind of thing... If you're on the top line or you're playing with Huds, look at Huds - I'm sure he has some turnovers some games, but he also makes unbelievable plays that generate chances for us. A lot of it has to do with the type of player and the role.
(Disclosure: Joe Colborne might become a coach some day. He explains most things with this much detail.)
So, in essence, a lot of the differentials between players is more of a reflection of how players are slotted internally and what they're being asked to do by the coaching staff. In this context, Brandon Bollig's asked to chip and chase (and hit) because it eats up time off the clock and wears down the defensemen a bit. At best, he makes some hits and maybe the other team turns it over. At worse, him dumping the puck in a lot makes the defenders run around a bit to collect the puck and transition their game. In this case, you have to have a sliding scale (of sorts) to use these as evaluative metrics because you need to take into account what they're being asked to do.