2012 Stanley Cup Final Zone Exits

Corey S.
June 14 2012 02:05PM


Photo by Michael Miller, via Wikimedia Commons

Zone exits are a new development in hockey analytics (or at least they are on the blogosphere) and they are meant to study how effectvie certain players are at moving the puck forward. Most hockey metrics are based on puck possession and driving the play forward. Most plays begin from the breakout game in the defensive zone, and tracking zone exits can give us a better idea of which players are contributing more to pushing the play forward. This is still a work in progress so the method I am using isn't perfect but as of right now, I look for a few different things for when I track zone exits:

Puck Touches: Number of times a player touched the puck in the defensive zone in an attempt to move the puck out of the zone.

Carries: Number of times a player successfully carried the puck into the neutral zone.

Passes: Number of times a player successfully passed the puck into the neutral zone, from the defensive zone.

Other: Number of times that a player successfully moved the puck into the neutral zone without carrying the puck or passing it to another player.

Turnovers: Number of times that a player turned the puck over to the opposing time while still in the defensive zone.

Icing: Number of times the player iced the puck from the defensive zone.

Success Percentage: (Carries + Passes + Other ) / Puck Touches

This is largely based on the method Jonathan Willis used to track zone exits for the Oilers earlier in the season. This is all five on five data.

Kings Zone Exits

Doughty was relied on more to move the puck forward than any other player and he was more effective at it than any other blue-liner. He also turned the puck over less often than any other player and didn't ice the puck much either. This coupled with the scoring chance data shows how terrific he played in this series. It is amazing that he is only in his early 20's and can play at such a high level. The Kings had a much easier time at exiting the zone than the Devils and Doughty's puck-moving skills were a big reason why. He earned a big payday this off-season and he certainly looked like he was worth every penny in this series.

Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and Justin Williams were also very effective at moving the puck forward and Carter was actually the Kings' best player in that area. He wasn't relied on as much as Williams and Kopitar but he managed to at least get the play moving in the right direction whenever get got the chance. Carter is known for being a terrific possession player so this shouldn't come as too big of a shocker. Richards was also good in this area but he also turned the puck over quite a bit.

Mitchell, Scuderi, Voynov, Martinez and Stoll were the Kings worst players at exiting the zone and Voynov constantly put his team in bad situations by turning the puck over. He led the Kings in D-zone turnovers with 17. This could explain why those two had very poor scoring chance numbers. Regarding Scuderi, he ranks so low because he plays with Drew Doughty and constantly relies on him to move the play forward. Every time those two were on the ice and had a breakout attempt, Scuderi would just give the puck to Doughty and let him do the rest. It's not a bad system but it makes me wonder how Scuderi would perform with a different defense partner.

Devils Zone Exits

New Jersey's most effective players at moving the puck forward were Alexei Ponikarovsky, Steve Bernier and Ryan Carter, which is interesting because all three were underwater in terms of scoring chances. This could be due to a small sample size because Carter & Bernier were relied on to move the puck less than most of their teammates. They managed to get the job done, though.

Another one of the Devils better puck movers was Ilya Kovalchuk, who had no issues with exiting the zone by himself but he also turned the puck over more often than all but one of his teammates. Ponikarovsky had the same issue. You'll notice that most of their zone exits were done via carry, which could show that they have problems when having to make an outlet pass to another player. Something that Marek Zidlicky seems to specialize in as he led the team in that category with 23.

Zidlicky was also the Devils most effective puck mover this series, which makes sense because that was the main reason why they acquired him. He had a lot of turnovers, but that doesn't look so bad when you compare it to the Devils' other defensemen. Fayne, Salvador, Volchenkov and Tallinder all turned the puck over more often than Zidlicky did and none of them were as effective at moving the puck forward. Volchenkov and Salvador both struggled mightly in that category and the two were often stuck in their own end when they were used as a defense pairing.

The only defensemen who played a safer game and didn't turn the puck over that much were Peter Harrold and Andy Greene. Harrold's overall ability is obviously very limited but as a puck mover, he doesn't appear to be that bad of an option. Greene on the other hand wasn't great at moving the puck forward but he had to do the bulk of the work on his unit with Mark Fayne, who was New Jersey's worst player at exiting the zone.

 

 

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Corey runs the Carolina Hurricanes blog www.shutdownline.com where he tracks scoring chances and writes about all things related to the Hurricanes and the Southeast Division. He is also a staff writer at www.canescountry.com and is a regular on the NHL Numbers Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @Shutdownline
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#1 Eric T.
June 14 2012, 02:25PM
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Awesome stuff.

Question: carry and pass both sound like plays where the team retains possession of the puck, but you don't have very many in the "other" category.

How are you logging it if a guy just flips it out to clear the zone? Are those being excluded -- and if so, what are the criteria for deciding what should be included?

I did a few games of breakout passes early in the year and focused on plays where the team started with clear possession below the faceoff dots to try to limit it to plays where they were trying to beat a forecheck; I'm wondering how to compare my stats to yours.

Also, I think you have a typo -- success percent is (carries + passes + other) / touches, not (touches + passes + other) / touches, right?

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#2 Eric T.
June 14 2012, 02:34PM
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Hm. Ignore that last part, it looks like someone changed it already.

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#4 PopsTwitTar
June 14 2012, 07:23PM
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Awesome! Ive been trying to find a way to track passing skill (in all 3 zones), and this would fit nicely with that.

A few questions thoughts:

1. "Other". Why would you track the # of times someone "successfully moved the puck into the defensive zone without carrying the puck or passing it to another player" ? Is this a typo? Should it be # of times someone moves puck *out of* (and not *into*) the defensive zone?

In any case, what is an example? You either carry it out of D zone, pass it (meaning moving it to another specific player), or chip it (just dump it out to no one specific).

2. This doesn't seem to effectively value passes that don't cross the blueline. So, a D-to-D pass solely in the D-zone is a "touch", but not a "pass" right? There are times when a pass within the zone is the reason the puck makes it outside the zone, even if the person is not the final actor. [this is basically the argument for weighting first and second assists differently]. The example Im thinking of is the forward on the boards, being pressured by a forechecker, who makes a little chip pass to the D-man who then has the freedom to move or skate the puck out. Im not sure its possible to track what I'm talking about any more than you are already, but I wondered if you tried to account for these types of plays.

3. What is a "turnover"? Does the player have to have control of the puck for it to be a turnover? Go back to the example of the forward on the boards with a puck coming around to him - if he doesnt have control of the puck, and the forechecker stops the play, or the puck richochets off him to another forechecker, is that a turnover? I think you can argue both sides.

4. Any thought to tracking goalie touches as well?

5. Im excited for the day when we can take these stats and link them to scoring chances.

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#6 Eric T.
June 15 2012, 07:25AM
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@Corey S.

I think my concern with the D-to-D pass is mostly with the terminology right now -- your "successes" stat makes it seem like a pass within the neutral zone is a failure.

If your spreadsheet lists the touches in chronological order, it shouldn't be too hard to calculate which defensive zone touches eventually lead to a turnover and which ones eventually lead to a zone exit. Perhaps you might calculate success percentage as (touches that lead to an exit) / (all touches) and involvement percentage as (carries + passes + other) / (exits that occur while the player is on the ice) -- or if you aren't grabbing on-ice information, then a reasonable proxy would be (carries + passes + other) per 60. The (carries + passes + other) / (all touches) stat might then be reframed as a measure of how aggressive the player is.

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#7 Eric T.
June 15 2012, 07:26AM
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@Eric T.

Oops, that first sentence should say "a pass within the defensive zone".

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#8 Brent Morris
June 15 2012, 08:27AM
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Great stuff, Corey.

I have a feeling this sort of tracking will suss out 'high-event players' - I've always felt that Ilya Kovalchuk, with his often high-wire act in the defensive zone, is a high-event player despite the fact that in SF/SA he is not even close to being one. It's not that his being on the ice leads to lots more shots - on the contrary, it leads to fewer shots to some degree, because of his tendencies to turn the puck over in both zones. It might account for why generally he's had a lower SV% ON than his teammates and also a higher S% (this has changed so far as a Devil, though I can't put my finger on why - maybe less blueline-hanging).

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#9 Derek Jedamski
June 15 2012, 09:34AM
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Awesome work here, definitely interesting.

How exactly did you analyze this massive amount of data?

The data does appear to be more harsh on defensemen, which makes sense. They get more touches in the defensive end and more often than not are deeper in their zone with more ground to cover to move it out. It still works just fine to compare d-men to d-men, but there would definitely be issues attempting to compare d-men to forwards.

Nice work though, interesting read.

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#10 PopsTwitTar
June 15 2012, 04:45PM
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"That being said, I won't give credit to a defenseman who simply gives the puck to his partner when there is plenty of time for him to make a play himself. Scuderi did this countless times with Doughty. "

Well, that's the smart play, so maybe he should get credit for like 1/3 of the success ;)

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