A Study in Red: Zone Entries Part 2Posted on April 08, 2014 by Adam Stringham
In my first look at zone entries I focused in on how the Capitals entered the zone when they had success. I now take a look at a game that I would rather forget, a game where the Capitals did anything but succeed.
The Washington Capitals played their worst game of the year on November 20th when they lost to the Penguins 4-0 at the Verizon Center. A regulation win would have put the Capitals in first place in the metropolitan division. Pittsburgh finished the night with 40 shots while Washington was held to just 18. Pittsburgh may have gotten one of their goals on the power play, but this game was decided at even strength. Washington had a 5v5 CF of 36.7%. Part of the Capitals puck possession problems were caused by their distribution of zone entries.
Game Overview and Graphs:
First here is a general picture of how each team systematically entered the offensive zone at even strength.
To give some context to these numbers I broke up each team and entry type by score differential.
Per entry, carrying the puck into the offensive zone generates more shot attempts than dumping it in. The Penguins entry type distribution is a good example of why the "score effects" that are commonly observed during one sided games occur. As teams dump the puck more into the offensive zone they usually generate less shooting chances. Of course score effects are only observed if the other team starts generating more shots, which the Capitals did not. The Capitals attempted to generate their offense by dumping the puck into the offensive zone for the vast majority of the game.
The Washington Capitals dumped the puck into the offensive zone 40 times at even strength during this game, only 1 resulted in an unblocked shot attempt. Teams that do not generate shot attempts do not win games. Even when it was obvious that the Capitals were not having any success they elected to stay the course. Let's see how each player* on both teams did at generating shot attempts after entering the offensive zone, here is Pittsburgh first.
*Only players that had at least one controlled entry are included
The Penguins' players of note in this game were Crosby, Malkin, and Neal. They consistently generated shot attempts when they carried the puck into the offensive zone.
When looking to generate shot attempts, Nicklas Backstrom is by far the best Capital to have carry the puck into the offensive zone at even strength.
What the Penguins do Differently:
The Penguins are a quick hockey team, and they use that speed to their advantage. Here is a prime example of how the Penguins use their speed on their zone entries.
We pick up this play after Bennet beats the Capitals' forward to a loose puck following a miss fired Pittsburgh pass. Bennet successfully kicks the puck from his skate to stick and finds himself with two options; he can either pass the puck back to his waiting defenseman (black), or dump the puck in and chase after it (red). In similar situations throughout the game Capitals' players decided to dump the puck. Notice Evgeni Malkin wide open on the blue line.
Bennet elected to pass the puck back to Niskanen who then has three options open to him: he can pass the puck to his defensive partner (red), pass the puck up the boards to James Neal (red), or pass the puck to the still open Malkin (black). Notice Bennet complete his turn in the neutral zone to begin facing up ice.
The Capitals have realized that Malkin is open and have quickly over compensated. Bennet now has a full head of steam going through the neutral zone with an open hole in front of him. Note the Capitals player attempting to tie up the Penguin at the top of the screen.
Bennet utilizes his speed to get ahead of the poorly placed Capitals defenseman, and finds himself 1 on 1 with John Carlson. Bennet has the option to slide the puck to his streaking line mate but elects to take the puck in for a shot. Bennet takes the shot and the Penguins go ahead 2 to 0. This play was only possible because Bennet was not afraid to reload the rush rather than dump the puck. The Capitals did play terrible defense on this play, but the speed of the Penguins contributed to that. When the Capitals were coached by Bruce Boudreau they utilized speed in transition to generate scoring opportunities, Adam Oates does not consistently use the speed of his players to attempt to generate chances off of the rush.
Game by Game:
I will be continuing with this project so my sample size will continue to grow, but here is how the Capitals zone distributions varied in the two games that I have looked at so far.
Here is the cumulative Fenwick attempt/entry chart as well.
Thanks to Andy Hom, Neil Greenberg, and Jon Press.
Follow me on twitter @Stringhama and @TalkTheRed