Crucial Habits: Shot Generation & Puck Recovery

Overview: Crucial Habits for Good Shot Generation & Suppression

Crucial Habits: Shot Generation & Controlled Zone Exits



When a team enters the offensive zone the obvious goal is to, well, score a goal. Scoring goals requires taking shots. Teams that excel in generating shots have a common habit in the offensive zone: Puck Recovery. These teams aren’t “gaming Corsi” just to trick stats analysts into thinking they are good teams. The spreadsheet darlings of the hockey world control the puck and when they can’t keep possession of it, work like hell to get it back.

Situations requiring puck recovery are numerous in every area of the ice. There are three main ways to go about recovering the puck, which are sometimes used in concert to regain possession, are:

  • Being Quick to the Puck
  • Checking (hitting and/or body position)
  • Anticipation

In the Offensive Zone, puck recovery is the best way to generate shots, wear down the defense and create “mini-rushes” within the zone much as power plays are designed to do. After the play has been low in the zone, the defending team gets possession of the puck and starts to breakout. The attacking team is able to recover the puck before it leaves the zone. With most of the defending players high in the defensive zone or in the neutral zone, there are less bodies available to defend against an offensive attack. This leads to better scoring chances and oddman “mini-rush” situations.

Once the puck is in the offensive zone, the attacking team has to regain possession if they have gained entry by a dump in or chip in. Chipping the puck in requires speed, timing and far more control than a dump in. Some players really excel in this area because of the lines they take, their speed and ability to deceive the defending players. If done properly, the chip in is essentially a pass to the player himself or his linemate providing close support. Dump in entries require the attacking team to use their offensive zone forecheck system to retrieve the puck. This includes waves of pressure on the defending players, speed to the puck and depending upon the situation, hitting. Continue reading

Crucial Habits: Shot Generation & Controlled Zone Exits

Overview: Crucial Habits for Good Shot Generation & Suppression – a post introducing this series.


To be a good shot generation team, you have to take a lot of shots. Shocking information, I know. We know from years of work by many great hockey minds that overall, controlled entries into the offensive zone will lead to more shots being generated. Zone Entry Data Study* Tulsky, Detweiler, Spencer, Sznajder From that same work, we know that some teams are so good on the initial forecheck into the offensive zone that dumping the puck into the zone often leads to shot generation. In a study I did, I found that controlled zone exits (carrying or passing the puck to a teammate) lead to far more zone entry attempts than uncontrolled zone exits (dumping the puck out of your defensive zone). Clearing the Defensive Zone: The Dangers of Dumping the Puck Out

Creating rushes into the offensive zone, i.e. dynamic changes in possession as compared to offensive attacks which start with a controlled breakout or regroup) lead to confusion among the defense, less defending players in the zone and chances to get a dangerous shot on the goalie. In the player tracking project I conducted, over 57.3% of the 7142 goals tracked were scored in 7 seconds or less of zone time. Zone time for the purpose of the project started when the attacking team brought the puck across the blue line into the offensive zone and ended when the goal was scored. This was recorded by stopwatch and marked down to the hundredth of a second. 72 forwards were the subject of the study spanning from the 2012-13 season through the 2014-15 season, including the playoffs. All goals and assists tracked occurred at even strength. 46.1% of the goals tracked in the project were scored in 5 or less seconds of zone time. Continue reading

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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Defensive Targets: CHI vs NSH

While tracking zone entries, I include the defenseman targeted on the entry. I also keep track of whether a forward assisted on defending against the zone entry. This data can help evaluate team and player performance as well as the efficacy of the systems used by the teams. This is particularly true of a team’s neutral zone forecheck, or the system they use to stop the attacking team from entering the zone. Zone targets are heavily dependent upon time on ice, so please keep that in mind while reviewing this information.

Tracking Information:

Targeted D: Defensive player responsible for the side of the ice through which the attacking player tries to enter the zone. This may also be the player pressuring the puck carrier at the blue line or the player filling in for the defensive player on an oddman rush or breakaway.

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What’s Wrong With Patrick Sharp?

Patrick Sharp shot the lights out last season and this season cannot seem to buy a goal. Many have bemoaned his production this season blaming his lack of points up on anything from aging, being overrated or just suddenly forgetting how to play hockey. None of these theories has been backed by any sort of data, so what’s really wrong with Patrick Sharp? Assuming he’s not paying the back end of a deal with the devil for his spot on the Canadian Olympic team last season, nothing is actually wrong with Patrick Sharp aside from some bad luck.

Players go through slumps where things just don’t go right for them. It happens in baseball. It happens in hockey. It happens in virtually every sport. Sharp is in a slump and having some bad luck, but don’t just take my word for it. Let’s look at the numbers.

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Questioning the Credibility of the Jack Adams Award

Every season when the annual awards are being voted upon, big debates spring up about who should win what, usually with a big dose of homerism to go along with it. In the past, I would really get into those, but over the last few seasons I’ve come to find them to be more of an annoyance than anything. The awards themselves are not really the annoyance actually, it’s more the sometimes ridiculous levels the debates around them reach and the fact that so often, the voters seem in large part to do their voting based upon reputation or trendy picks more than anything else.

Recently, I was discussing some of the flaws in the breakout system (defensive zone exits) the Montreal Canadiens use with Mathieu Roy (@Le_Matheux on Twitter) and he told me that Habs’ coach Michel Therrien was getting some mention as a potential Jack Adams Award nominee. This led us into a discussion of how misguided we thought the voting for that award was and spurred me to do a little more digging.

The Jack Adams Award is voted on by the members of the NHL Broadcasters Association and is meant to reward the coach who has contributed the most to his team’s success. Everyone knows that coaching is important and it’s nice to give awards like this, but to think this award actually has anything to do with coaching is largely inaccurate. Frankly, they could easily change this award to something like “we really didn’t think your team would be in a position to make the playoffs this season” or “wow a player on your team had a great year” and it would go to the same people. Continue reading