August 11, 2017, 1:01 PM ET [22 Comments]
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It's no secret that I very much enjoy the micro-stat data that is being manually tracked by folks like Corey Sznajder and Ryan Stimson. The findings from the tracking are doing a nice job of combining the eye test with data analysis. We know that passing is important and creates offense. What we didn't have was a searchable database to reference players at any time on the internet. We have an ever growing sample of that now.
By taking this information we can then try to use it to formulate game plans and how hockey team's should go on the attack. What works best? What isn't getting results? The best kind of analysis is going to use data as a starting point to find patterns and then video analysis to find out why the numbers are the way they are.
Today I saw a few tweets from Adam Stringham of Japers Rink Radio that were of interest to me. He used Corey Sznajder's tracking data to show how many seconds after a zone entry yields the biggest offensive production.
So four seconds after a zone entry yields the most offense, but why?
My running hypothesis isn't complicated. When you enter the zone with speed on the rush under control you have enough time to drive the strong side defender back and open up things like a drop pass. After the drop pass there's just enough time to either slide it over again or rip a shot from the slot. I would wager most successful fast break rushes that involve passing fit the four second time frame.
Here are a few good examples of what a four second zone entry which leads to a goal looks like
An oldie but goodie
Yes that is Ryan Whitney out there just to date the clip.
It's pretty obvious with these example why the four second entry leads the pack. Just look at the lead up to the play. The Penguins own the neutral zone with the puck and get clean entries. The speed and control opens up the ice surface for the other Pittsburgh attackers and players like Evgeni Malkin will make the most of that time and space.
It's no surprise that shot attempts off the rush and goals are correlated. Four seconds is optimal for both
Four seconds also leads the way in the amount of goals that are scored on the first shot attempt
Six seconds leads the way with goals that are scored with a second shot attempt. These are very likely your rebound goals off of a controlled entry.
It's great when we can marry data with visual evidence. This is practical and can help shape and mold tactics in order to recreate the situations that have the most optimal results. Sure, it takes talent to make the plays that the players above did in the offensive zone, but how they earned that time and space the precipitated it is just as important and deserves the focus.
As our databases grow with information we will continue to gain confidence in what works in hockey and why.
Thanks for reading!