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Zone Entries: Comparing Game 4 to Game 3

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Entering the zone, grilled cheese style.
Entering the zone, grilled cheese style.

After game 3, we took our first look at tracking zone entries. There were a lot of interesting things to look at, but I was hesitant to draw a lot of conclusions on a single game of data.

Now we have two games' worth, thanks to Geoff's continued dedication. After the jump, we'll look at two things: how did the Flyers do in game 4, and what did/didn't change from game 3?

Who moves the puck into the zone?

In game 3, there was a clear hierarchy of the scoring lines in terms of number of offensive zone entries at even strength.

Game 3 Line Entries Minutes Entries/min
Hartnell-Briere-Leino 20 13 1.5
Carter-Giroux-JVR 17 14:40 1.2
Versteeg-Richards-Zherdev 9 10 0.9

Unfortunately, with the Carter injury, the lines got scrambled in game 4, so it's tough to compare the lines directly, but most of the individuals who were highly involved in game 3 remained so in game 4. HBL were still all among the top five in zone entries. Timonen again led the defense by a big margin and now has almost twice as many entries as the next-closest defenseman.

The biggest change was in Richards, who dropped from 6 zone entries to just 1. People complained in the game thread that he was invisible, and that's true on the stat sheet as well.

I hope to be able to figure out how much a player's zone entry total is driven by his usage and how much is driven by his skill. Empirically, this looks meaningful to me -- picking out JVR, HBL, and Timonen as the players most involved in bringing the puck into the zone in game 4 meshes with my perception of the game, but we'll need more data to know for sure.

How is the puck brought in?

This jumped all over the place at the individual level (e.g. Briere up from 33% to 75%, Giroux down from 100% to 40%, etc). I don't think we should read anything into two games' worth of a number that varies a lot from game to game. With that said, I can't help but point out that for the second game in a row, Leino carried the puck into the zone on 6 out of 7 zone entries.

At the team level things were much more consistent and may be truly indicative of the team's strategy. After bringing the puck in by a controlled method (carrying or passing it) 50% of the time in game 3, they followed up with 54% controlled entries in game 4.

What happens after the zone entry?

Once again, controlled entries were much more effective at generating shots. Here's the comparison between controlled and uncontrolled entries in terms of shot attempts per entry:

Entry style Game 3 Game 4
Controlled 0.74 0.81
Uncontrolled 0.21 0.47

In game 3, I was surprised at how large the disparity was between the types of entry. In game 4, the gap was closed considerably -- mostly because the Flyers did much better at dump-and-chase than they did in game 3. We also wondered after game 3 whether the apparent effectiveness of controlled entries might be skewed by the inclusion of odd man rushes. We're tracking them separately, but they made almost no impact on this game's numbers, so I'm leaving them in to make the cross-game comparison fair.

At the individual level the honor roll members are JVR (9 shots on 8 entries) and Timonen (6 shots on 7 entries). They were the only two players to generate more than three shots, although Carter did get 3/3 in under five minutes of ice time.

Last time we noted that 4 of Richards' 6 zone entries resulted in a shot for Buffalo. In game 4, Richards had only one zone entry, but once again it was quickly turned back for a shot the other way. Let's hope this is just the effect of his cold; if Carter is out, they're going to need him to shake this off.

Leino gets honorable mention in the unsuccessful category -- for the second consecutive game, he carried the puck in on 6/7 entries but generated only two shots. Somehow his puck-carrying was particularly ineffective at getting the offense set up in these two games.

Here are the overall two-game totals:

Player Entries Shots/entry Counterattack % Carry %
Carter 11 1.00 18% 45%
Powe 5 1.00 0% 60%
Meszaros 3 1.00 67% 33%
van Riemsdyk 14 0.86 36% 50%
Zherdev 4 0.75 0% 75%
Timonen 12 0.67 0% 8%
Betts 7 0.57 29% 14%
Briere 11 0.55 18% 55%
Giroux 8 0.50 13% 75%
Versteeg 6 0.50 0% 50%
Carcillo 4 0.50 0% 25%
Coburn 4 0.50 0% 0%
Carle 7 0.43 14% 29%
Richards 7 0.43 71% 43%
Leino 14 0.29 7% 86%
Hartnell 12 0.25 25% 42%
O'Donnell 3 0.00 33% 0%
Syvret 2 0.00 0% 0%

Notice that Leino and Hartnell have the lowest shots/entry of any forwards -- in these two games we've been more likely to get a shot from even a fourth-line zone entry than from HBL bringing it up the wing.

What about the power play?

The sample size is still pretty small, as the Flyers just didn't have that many zone entries on the power play in either game. But it does look like controlled entries are more effective here too, based on the two-game totals:

Entry type Entries % generating a shot Shots per entry
Controlled 7 71% 1.0
Uncontrolled 10 40% 0.5

It's notable that the shots-per-entry numbers on the power play are only a bit higher than at even strength, which is yet another way of pointing out that the Flyers' power play isn't very good.

Key points to remember

There's a lot of information here, and we're still just figuring out what to pay attention to. But a few things jump out at me as being particularly noteworthy:

  • Individual zone entry numbers seem pretty consistent, and clearly pick out the HBL line as being the most offensive line for the Flyers.
  • However, the HBL zone entries -- especially up the wing -- haven't generated very many shots at all in these two games. Carter and JVR have been the leaders in that area.
  • Richards' struggles continue; for the second straight game the Flyers were better off with a neutral zone faceoff than with the puck on his stick approaching the blue line.
  • The Flyers' dump and chase game was a lot more effective in game 4 (0.47 shots per entry) than in game 3 (0.21 shots per entry), but still not as effective as carrying it in (0.81 shots per entry).
  • The Flyers' PP still sucks. Their offense is a bit better on the PP than at even strength, but the difference is appallingly small.
  • Don't forget to thank Geoff for sticking with the tracking project.