Chicago Blackhawks Royal Road Contributions

What is the Royal Road?

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The royal road can be described as an imaginary line connecting both nets at each end of the ice. A royal road pass can basically be described as a cross ice pass. The puck is moved from one side of the ice, through the “royal road” to the other side of the ice. This puck movement makes it harder for a goalie to make a save. One of the toughest saves to make in the NHL is on a shot where the preceding pass traveled through the royal road.

With royal road shots, less blame can be put on the goalie. Imagine the puck on the goalies left side and he is in position covering the left side of the net. All of a sudden, the puck gets whipped from one side of the ice, through the royal road, and to the other side. The goalie must push-off and move laterally, keep an eye on the pucks trajectory, and move quickly to cover the right side of the net. To achieve this lateral movement, the goalie must open up his body, leaving more of the net open for goals. The goalie has to attempt to read the play and set their depth and angle while on the move.

This is why a shot coming off a pass through the royal road is a very effective goal scoring play.

Here is a freeze frame of a Kane to Panarin royal road goal from earlier in the year vs Vancouver.

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In this freeze frame, Kane has completed the pass to Panarin (green line) and Panarin is in the process of shooting the puck which will follow the pink line.

Notice how much open net Panarin has to shoot at? This is the result of the cross ice, “royal road” pass.

Here is the video of this play.

What do the numbers show?

Thanks to Ryan Stimson who posted a great deal of data at Hockey-Graphs, we can see how often players complete royal road passes and take royal road shots.

Royal Road Passes

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Note: We don’t know how often players attempted a royal road pass, how successful they are at completing them, or any royal road pass that didn’t end in a shot attempt. The data we have only shows royal road passes that led to a shot attempt.

The above chart displays the rate of royal road passes that led to shot attempts in the 2015-16 season. The official stat is Royal Road shot assists per 60 minutes of ice time.

Patrick Kane has outperformed every Blackhawk forward by a wide margin in this stat.

After Kane, there was a major drop off. Panarin in second seems logical, but I was surprised to see Marcus Kruger in 3rd. One doesn’t think of him as an offensive player, but here he is often setting up one of the higher scoring plays (royal road pass) in hockey.

There were also five Blackhawks forwards that did not record a single royal road pass that led to shot attempt last season in Desjardins, Bickell, Panik, Mashinter, and Rasmussen.

Royal Road Shots

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This stat shows how often players take shots directly from royal road passes.

Panarin leading isn’t a surprise as we often see Patrick Kane setting him up with a smooth pass through the middle of the ice. Hossa and Weise were also adept at getting into position to receive a royal road pass.

The shooter has just as much of a role in the royal road pass as the passer does. The shooter has to have awareness to read the play. They need to find the open pocket of the ice and make themselves available for the royal road pass.

Royal Road Contributions

If we combine royal road shot assists with royal road shots, we would get how often a player was involved in a royal road play.

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Yellow = Royal Road passes that directly led to shot attempts/60

Green = Royal Road shots attempts/60

(Basically, this is a combination of the first two charts of this post.)

Kane, Panarin, Hossa, Dano, and Weise were the Blackhawk players most likely to be involved in a royal road play.

Hossa and Weise show more green (shots) than yellow (passes).

Danault and Kruger are the opposite. They were more likely to make a royal road pass than take a royal road shot.

Teravainen was ranked pretty low last season. He surprisingly was not involved in many royal road plays. Playing on a line with Danault and Desjardins for a couple of months probably didn’t help, but still, one would expect more from a playmaking forward.

This Season (small sample size)

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Yellow = Royal Road passes that directly led to shot attempts/60

Green = Royal Road shots attempts/60

Last season, Kane and Panarin completed around 2 royal road plays per hour.

This season, both players are above 5 royal road plays per hour.

They have more than doubled the rate at which they perform royal road plays. Even Anisimov has seen his royal road numbers swell.

Normally, players score on around 8% of shots on goal, which is 8 goals for every 100 shots on goal.

When it comes to shots on goal coming off royal road passes, players score around 30% of the time, which is 30 goals for every 100 shots.

Let’s use some simple math to show how Patrick Kane’s increase in royal road plays can lead to an increase in goals this season.

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The above table shows Kane’s 2015-16 stats. He played 1300 5v5 minutes and averaged around 2 royal road plays every 60 minutes. That comes out to 43 successful royal road plays last season. At 30% shooting on royal road shots, one would guess Kane should have added 13 goals last season in royal road plays alone.

This season, Kane is averaging almost 6 royal road plays per 60 minutes. If he plays 1300 minutes again, he would finish the season with 130 royal road plays. At 30% shooting, Kane should add 39 goals this season on royal road plays alone.

That’s an increase in 26 goals simply by converting more cross ice “royal road” plays.

The Panarin – Anisimov – Kane line is producing more royal road plays this season. This increase in one of the higher scoring chance plays in the game should help that line continue to be one of the dominant forces in the NHL this season.

Further Reading:

The (Royal) Road To The Future Of Goalie Analytics

Further Viewing:

Valiquette: Introducing the Royal Road from NetWork Goaltending on Vimeo.