A remarkable game for dump-and-chase

Jonathan Willis
March 24 2013 10:22AM

Lost in Edmonton’s lop-sided defeat to St. Louis is a pretty amazing statistic: no 5-on-5 dump-in by either team resulted in a shot on net. Both teams tried the tactic over and over again – but it failed entirely to generate offence.

Zone Entries

One of the items I tracked in last night’s game was zone entries – logging the time and method each team used to gain the other team’s zone. The results are in the chart above, with “shots” referring to both missed and blocked shots. A “controlled” entry means that the team entered the opposing zone with possession of the puck – either via pass or carry. Other options include tip-ins, dump-ins, turnovers on the forecheck and the like.

Of the Oilers 18 shots and missed shots 5-on-5, 17 of them came with a player carrying or passing the puck into the St. Louis zone., something they did 38 (less than half the time). One of them came off a combined 43 other zone entries – in this case, it was the result of an effective Ryan Jones forecheck after the Blues carried a loose puck into their own end and tried to regroup.

Of the Blues 31 shots and missed shots 5-on-5 (excluding two off the faceoff), fully 29 of them came from entering the zone with possession – something they did 45 times. Only two of them came off dump-ins, one early in the second period and one late in the third. Let’s look at those.

Successful Dump-In Number 1

The Blues dump the puck hard in from centre off the opening faceoff of the second period.

The puck goes to the far corner, where Ladislav Smid and an opposition forechecker fight for the puck. Eventually Jeff Petry, Sam Gagner and two other Blues enter the fray; after a long battle St. Louis finally wins possession along the boards.

Eventually they work it to the slot, under constant pressure, and manage a quick shot that goes two feet wide. My best guess is that it was a slap-pass attempt that went off Gagner in the slot (we can see the open Blues’ player on the far side of the net and Khabibulin desperately trying to get into position) but it’s hard to tell from the video and the play-by-play sheet records it as a missed shot. That’s the extent of the offence generated by this dump-in.

Successful Dump-In Number 2

With a little over five minutes left in the third, the Blues dump the puck in from centre – some they did with increasing frequency as the game wound down.

The Oilers have no problem gaining possession – Ryan Whitney takes it behind his net with time and skates it toward the corner, at which point he makes a bank pass to Justin Schultz.

Again, it’s hard to tell from the video whether the puck hops or Schultz just wasn’t ready for the pass, but whatever the case it goes just past the end of his stick and the Blues recapture the puck just inside the Oilers’ blue line.

After working the puck around the Oilers’ end for a while, St. Louis finally gets a decent shot opportunity and rips the puck wide.

In Summary

The Oilers and Blues combined failed to generate a single shot on goal off a dump-in, despite the fact that both teams frequently chose to dump the puck into the opposition zone. I’m not sure if it was an engaged defence or an inactive forecheck – probably a little bit of both – but the reason that game felt like a contest from the dead puck era last night was because neither club could generate anything off a dump and chase game.

Where the Blues were remarkably successful was in generating opportunities after gaining the line with possession. Both teams entered with possession frequently, though the Blues were significantly more likely to get a shot or a scoring chance off such an entry.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including the Edmonton Journal, Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.