This past season, we here at FlamesNation have been tracking zone entries in addition to our previously-established practice of tracking scoring chances. This was the first season we did this, and as a bit of a disclaimer, it’ll probably take a couple seasons and some tweaking for our data to be robust enough to really know much about what these numbers really mean.
That said, here’s what we have after 82 regular season games looking just at the Calgary Flames. The numbers we present are for the regular season only, but are for even-strength and power-play situations for the most part. (There’s not much tactics or strategy in dumping the puck deep when you’re killing a penalty, after all.)
- There were 7,544 successful zone entries, for an average of 92 entries per game. Generally-speaking, most periods featured about 28-30 zone entries.
- There were 3,076 successful carry-in entries, for an average of 38 carries per game. While the data isn’t complete, the data we have suggests carries result in roughly four times more scoring chances than dump-ins.
- On the season, the Flames averaged a carry on 40.8% of their zone entries. On the flip-side, that means they dumped the puck into the offensive zone 59.2% of the time and then either chased after it or turned back to the bench for a line change.
- Anecdotally, score effects do factor in to period-to-period adjustments. Generally, the Flames dump the puck a ton early in games and then begin carrying it in more and more. That happened in most games, as most games were close. When games weren’t close – and the Flames were leading – the expected score effect occurred: lots of dump and chase to run out the clock.
Most Zone Entries:
- Johnny Gaudreau, 720
- Jiri Hudler, 605
- Sean Monahan, 544
- Lance Bouma, 424
- David Jones, 414
(T.J. Brodie had 413, Mason Raymond had 411.)
- Johnny Gaudreau, 476
- Sean Monahan, 283
- Jiri Hudler, 239
- Mason Raymond, 184
- Mikael Backlund, 182
- Jiri Hudler, 366
- Lance Bouma, 284
- Sean Monahan, 261
- David Jones, 260
- Mark Giordano, 246
Best Carry-In Percentage (Minimum 100 Entries):
- Johnny Gaudreau, 66.1%
- Mikael Backlund, 52.4%
- Sean Monahan, 52.0%
- Paul Byron, 50.7%
- Mason Raymond, 44.8%
Worst Carry-In Percentage (Minimum 100 Entries):
- Deryk Engelland, 13.6%
- Raphael Diaz, 14.7%
- Kris Russell, 20.8%
- Brandon Bollig, 21.9%
- Mark Giordano, 26.7%
Zone Entries & Corsi:
The relationship between zone entries and puck possession seems fairly theoretically straightforward. If you dump the puck in a lot, you give up possession a lot. If you carry it in more often, you don’t give up possession and can generate more shot attempts.
To nobody’s surprise, that comes across in the player-specific numbers. Here’s a scatter-plot with a line of best fit between the Corsi For percentage (on the Y-axis) and Carry-In percentage.
The R-squared value suggests that roughly 14.2% of the variation in Corsi For percentage for each player can be explained by their Carry-In percentage. That’s not terrible, but bear in mind it’s based on one team, one season and a relatively small sample in the context of the whole league. But hey, it’s a start.
Zone Entries & Zone Starts:
Zone entries are easier if you start in the offensive zone (and have to potentially recover clearings to the neutral zone and get back in against tired defenders). Similarly, if you frequently start your shifts in the defensive end and have to bust your way out, your energy will be lower and most likely, you’ll chuck the puck into the offensive zone and go for a line change.
However, that relationship doesn’t really come out in the data. Here’s a scatter-plot of Carry-In percentage (on the Y axis) and Offensive Zone Start percentage.
While R-squared isn’t the be-all, end-all of evaluating statistical relationships, the scatter pattern and the low R-squared suggests that the relationship here is pretty weak, if existing at all. In other words, players that start a lot in the defensive end shouldn’t be expected to dump the puck in more frequently, as plenty of players who spent their time in the defensive end ended up being high carry-rate players – Mikael Backlund and Paul Byron notably.
We have good news and bad news for 2015-16.
The bad news is the online interface we used to collect scoring chances data is being discontinued. But with War On Ice collecting largely the same data, that’s no issue…and it opens up some time to expand our zone entry data collection.
While we haven’t hammered out specifics yet, we’re looking to expand the taxonomy of zone entries beyond the simplified “carry-in versus dump-in” scheme to provide a bit more nuance. For instance: what does a player do after they carry it in, and looking at the differences between the “dump and chase” and the “dump and change.”
In addition, we’ll be looking at how often the Flames get hemmed into their own zone versus how often they hem in the other team. It’s an attempt to capture how often the club is able to use their possession game to wear a team down versus how often they’re worn down by the other team.