Does Aggressive Equal Risky?


One thing that often comes up in conversations about zone entries is that dump-and-chase is widely perceived as the safe, responsible play. Let's see whether the data supports that belief. (All data here is for 5 on 5 play and as always, it excludes dump-and-change plays where no real effort is made to recover the puck.)

Question 1: Which method of bringing the puck into the offensive zone most often results in the play getting shifted to the other end of the ice?

Method of bringing puck into zone How often is the next play in your defensive zone?
Carrying the puck in 50.9%
Passing the puck in 51.4%
Deflecting the puck in 51.8%
Dumping the puck in 58.7%

It would seem that dumping the puck in is the least defensive play -- the least likely to prevent the opposition from shifting the play to your end of the ice.

This isn't really surprising, since dumping the puck in means giving up possession at least temporarily. But one might imagine that getting the puck in deep and making the other team go the full length of the ice through a forecheck would at least limit the dangerous chances against.

Question 2: Which method of bringing the puck into the offensive zone most often results in an odd man rush at the other end of the ice?

Method of bringing puck into zone How often is the next play an odd man rush against?
Carrying the puck in 2.4%
Passing the puck in 1.5%
Deflecting the puck in 0.8%
Dumping the puck in 2.8%

Geoff has been recording odd man rushes as part of his zone entry data. This lets us see that dumping the puck in actually results in the most odd man rushes against.

Dumping the puck in generates half as many shots as carrying it or passing it, and it results in more chances against and more odd man rushes against. Keeping control of the puck is just better.

The bad turnover that leads to a chance against is easy to see and remember, and it is often clearly the result of the puck-carrier's actions. The causal chain is usually not as clear after a dump-in, and the play is virtually never blamed on the player who dumped the puck in. But try to overcome the memory biases here; remember that even though the unsuccessful blue line pass is frustrating and stands out strongly in your memory, the player who makes the aggressive play is helping the team in the long run.

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