Back To Basics: Offensive Zone Entries

When I first got into writing about hockey, I did some primers on stats to help people learn. I haven’t done much of that in the past year and recently some hockey people asked if I would be willing to do some more, so basically it’s their fault if you don’t like this.

If you are newer to the statistics side of hockey, you may not know what all the fuss is about with regard to zone entries. Analysts on TV will often preach about the virtues of “getting the puck deep” during games, but on your favorite hockey sites or Twitter, you’ll see analysts yelling about carrying the puck into the zone. Who’s right? Which way is better?

Dumping the puck into the offensive zone is a common tactic when teams are trying to get a line change done, so these are not usually tracked by analysts interested in zone entries. The team dumping the puck in is not giving chase, save for perhaps one forward and that is simply to buy time for the line change to get done.

When teams are on the offensive attack, they have several options for getting the puck into the offensive zone.

Controlled Zone Entries:

Carry Ins: The puck is carried into the offensive zone and control of the puck is maintained well past the blue line.

Passes: The puck is passed from one player to another as the attacking team enters the offensive zone with control of the puck maintained well past the blue line.

Uncontrolled Zone Entries: 

Dump & Chase: The puck is shot into the offensive zone, often by a defenseman, and the attacking team goes on the forecheck to get possession of the puck.

Chip & Chase: The puck is angled off the boards or chipped around the player defending against the entry with the attacking players hot in pursuit. The puck does not go all the way to the end boards, but instead is like an indirect pass to another attacking player or the player who chipped it in the first place.

Turnover Entries:

The defending team retreats into their own defensive zone with the puck usually to buy some time and set up an offensive attack through a regroup or controlled breakout. After bringing the puck back into their own defensive zone, a player from the other team forces a turnover or intercepts a pass thereby gaining possession of the puck in their offensive zone.

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Zone Entries, Exits, Targets CHI vs ANA

The following data was tracked from Game 5 of the Anaheim Ducks vs. Chicago Blackhawks series. Given that Game 7 is also at Anaheim, this information may be useful for insights into how the matchups on Anaheim’s home ice affected the teams’ performances.

*All data herein was tracked by and is the work product of Jennifer Lute Costella.*

PLAYER ID GUIDE

ana chi g5 roster

ZONE ENTRIES – EVEN STRENGTH

The following data is for 5 on 5 play only during Game 5 in Anaheim. Dump ins include chip and chase entries as well as traditional dump ins from the neutral zone. Carry in entries include both entries accomplished by carrying the puck into the offensive zone on your stick as well as a short direct pass from the neutral zone to a player entering the offensive zone. The player making the pass is credited with the carry in for that situation.

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Clearing the Defensive Zone: The Dangers of Dumping the Puck Out

Over the course of the season, I and others have often talked about the importance of defensive zone exits. On numerous occasions, we have debated (on Twitter) the pros and cons of simply getting the puck out of the zone to relieve offensive pressure versus starting a proper breakout play. People often argue that because players are tired at the end of a shift, particularly one where they have been actively defending for an extended period, simply getting the puck out of the zone without icing helps the team.

Ways the puck leaves the defensive zone:

  • Happenstance: a pass from one offensive player to another misses and the puck ends up in the neutral zone causing the attacking team to regroup and restart their attack;
  • Controlled Exit:
    • Carry Out: One of the defending players gains control of the puck and skates it across the blue line;
    • Exit Pass: One of the defending players gains control of the puck and makes a tape to tape pass to a teammate in the neutral zone;
  • Uncontrolled Exit:
    • Dump Out: One of the defending players gains control of the puck and shoots it into the neutral zone:
      • Missing the intended target;
      • Without an intended target, i.e. simply to get the puck out of the defensive zone;
      • To execute a line change.

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Zone Exits & Breakouts: Chicago vs Nashville

Zone Exits and actions taken in the defensive zone are the most intriguing part of microstats to me. I am admittedly a bit obsessed with defensive systems and shot suppression so this is probably not surprising. Defensive zone microstats are key to evaluating players, systems and teams. They can help teams identify areas of weakness or strength in players. In turn, defensive zone microstats can be used to tweak systems to better exploit the strengths of the defensemen and insulate the risks associated with their weaknesses.

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