This morning, I posted some zone entry stats from the Flyers vs Blackhawks game. Tyler Motte dumped the puck in more than any other player. Inversely, Nick Schmaltz carried the puck into the offensive more than any other player not name Patrick Kane
A twitter follower then had a question for me. They wanted to know if dump-ins or carry-ins were more effective for Chicago. As it’s difficult to talk in great detail about a topic on twitter, I thought it would be a perfect post to discuss the effectiveness of different zone entries.Let’s start at the beginning and define what an offensive zone entry is. An attacking player cannot enter the offensive zone before the puck does. Therefore, the puck needs to enter the offensive zone (across the blue line) before the team can. The puck can enter the offensive zone by being carried in by a player or dumped in. Offensive zone entries are very important in hockey and something each fan can pay attention to throughout the course of the game. Let’s take an in-depth look at each type of entry.
A system where the player with the puck, in the neutral zone, shoots the puck in deep. The attacking forwards then enter the zone and chase after the puck. The play is normally called the Dump and Chase. The attacking team dumps the puck in deep which forfeits possession of the puck. The attacking team then must chase after and battle to recover the puck.
This is the known as the safe play. A skater trying to carry the puck in might turn the puck over, possibly resulting in an odd man rush going the other way. Throwing the puck in deep puts the puck 200 feet from your goalie. Even if the attacking team cannot regain possession of the puck after the dump in, the opponent must travel the full length of the ice to score. This allows the team that dumped the puck in to set up their forecheck and slow the opponent down.
The dump-in is often used when making line changes. The tired attacking team shoots the puck in deep in order to make full line changes.
The dump in may also be beneficial vs slow, immobile defensemen. If your skating down the right side with the puck and see opponent Rob Scuderi step up to the blue line to prevent the zone entry, then a dump-in or chip off the boards is fine. As a player, you would know Rob Scuderi is slow, and that you can beat him in a race to the puck. Therefore, when Rob Scuderi comes up to the blue line to stop your zone entry, chip the puck in behind him, and easily go around him and regain the puck.
An attacking team might also be forced to dump the puck in because of good neutral zone defense from the opponent. If the defending team is clogging up the neutral zone, a dump-in or regroup might be the only option. A regroup is when the puck is passed back to a defensemen or goalie so the attacking team can reset and try again to gain the offensive zone.
Dump-ins have a pretty obvious negative in that the team with the puck is willfully giving it up. Today’s game is one of puck possession. and no player should willfully want to give up possession of the puck. The defending teams D-men are then closer to the end boards (the section of the rink behind the goalie) and should therefore be able to win the race to the puck. Often this results in the defending team gaining full possession of the puck and transitioning to offense.
Some teams are better at dump and chase than others. Overall however, dumping the puck in is subpar to carrying the puck in.
A play where the puck handler carries the puck across the blue line with control to enter the offensive zone. This is also known as a controlled entry. It doesn’t matter what the skater does when they enter the zone. They can carry the puck forward or stop and wait for help. All that matters for the carry-in is that the skater keeps the puck on his stick as they enter the offensive zone.
The obvious advantage here is the attacking team never gives up possession of the puck. After the zone entry, the skater is in the offensive zone and has the puck. This is the exact opposite of the dump in where the skater is in the offensive zone and must fight to get the puck back. The old phrase “work smarter, not harder” works perfectly here. One could dump the puck in deep and work hard to try and retrieve it. Instead, they can work smarter and simply run a play to enter the offensive zone with control of the puck. Carry-ins lead to more shots and more goals than dump-ins.
This play is a little more risky than the dump in. A skater trying to force his way through the neutral zone might get stripped of the puck. That turnover may lead to a odd man rush or breakout going the other way. Trying to navigate through a clogged neutral zone could lead to turnovers and high danger chances for the opponent. Although, I should mention that the great reward of keeping the puck far outweighs the risk of an extra neutral zone turnover here or there.
If one runs into trouble trying to execute a carry-in, they can always dump the puck in as plan B. Another plan B that isn’t used as often is the regroup. Patrick Kane gets the puck, he speeds through the neutral zone only to run into a couple opponents. He has no side pass option and there is no way he can get around the opponent. He could either dump the puck in, or he could pass back to Duncan Keith. If he passes back to Duncan Keith, Chicago can skate back towards their defensive zone, regroup, and go on the attack again to attempt an offensive zone entry.
Now it wouldn’t be a Blackhawks Breakdown post if I didn’t provide some data, charts, and actual facts to back up my claim.
I was able to find data showing the shot rate and goal rate of teams by carry-in vs dump-in zone entries. The data was from a Sloan Analytics Conference paper by Eric Tulsky, Geoffrey Detweiler, Robert Spencer, Corey Sznajder titled “Using Zone Entry Data To Separate Offensive, Neutral, And Defensive Zone Performance”
The data is from the 2011-12 season, it is during 5-on-5 play only, and Philadelphia, Minnesota, Washington, and Buffalo were the teams tracked.
Let’s see how many shots each team was able to produce per carry-in (blue) and per dump-in (green) offensive zone entry.
And let’s quickly look at how many goals are produced per entry. Maybe the dump-in produces low shots but a high goal rate?
Wrong. The goal based results resemble the shot based results. When a team carries the puck into the offensive zone, they produce twice as much offense per entry than if they were to dump it in. The controlled offensive zone entry is king.
So how often does Chicago dump the puck in since it’s a subpar offensive zone entry compared to the carry-in? Thanks to Sportslogiq, who tweeted out this exact information, we know that Chicago dumped the puck in less than any other team in the NHL last season. Here are the exact tweets from Sportslogiq.
@NHLBlackhawks are the team that is least likely to dump-and-chase, as they dump the puck in only 45.8% of the time. NHL Median is 52.2%.
Dump/chase vs OZ Entry: The @NHLBlackhawks had the lowest dump-in rate last season with 45.8%. They were 1st in OZ Possession Time (5:11).
Lastly, for those who missed it this morning, here are the two charts I posted from the Philadelphia vs Chicago game.
So when your watching the next Blackhawks game, pay attention to zone entries. Is Chicago carrying in the puck or dumping the puck in? Which players/line are utilizing which zone entry? Are any of the dump-ins leading to shot attempts? Also, are the Blackhawks defense forcing opponents to dump the puck in? You can utilize these questions to analyze neutral zone play.
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