When it comes to possession the blue lines are two of the most important areas of the ice. Getting across them can be the difference between victory and defeat. You can’t score if the puck never enters the offensive zone and you are going to get scored on if you can’t clear your own zone.
Below are a smattering of stats taken from tracking every Avalanche zone entry and exit from their game against Chicago. Under entry and exit there are three categories: Carry for when a player carries a puck over a blue line, Pass for when a player creates a play that gets over a blue line by passing, and Dump for when a puck is shot across a blue line. Each of those three then have success and failure rates.
As always take these stats with a grain of salt, tracking entries and exits is far from a perfect science. Judgement calls have to be made often on whether it was the pass that created the space to get across the line or if it was the receivers work by carrying the puck across. I was also extremely lenient with dumping the puck, any puck that was pushed across it’s respective blue line and didn’t result in icing or immediately coming back the other way was considered a successful dump. I tried to keep things simple, play type relative to the situation as well as possession retention are topics for another day.
For those of you interested in the raw stat tables I have posted a link at the bottom of the page for you to dig around in, for those of you that don’t want to dig through the numbers to find meaning, here are some of my takeaways:
Total: 51/67 (76.1%)
Carries: 24/34 (70.6%)
Passes: 12/17 (70.6%)
Dump-ins: 15/16 (93.8%)
Total: 97/130 (74.6%)
Carries: 22/28 (78.6%)
Passes: 31/33 (93.9%)
Dump-outs: 44/69 (63.8%)
Overall the Avs had a great game against Chicago and it shows in their exits and entries with numbers right around the 75% mark on both ends of the ice. Passing exits is very encouraging as the Avs rarely looked to make a risky or dangerous pass and breakout passes almost always found their mark. On the other hand the Avs relied on dumping the puck out for more than half of their clearing attempts and saw a significant drop in effectiveness, under pressure the panic move is to blindly throw it up the ice and the success rate of that leaves something to be desired. The turtle from the majority of the second half of the game is abundantly clear with the Avs having nearly twice as many exit attempts compared to entries, a whole lot of dump and change going on.
The Work Horse (Erik Johnson):
No one was more involved in crossing the blue line than Erik Johnson, a perfect 7/7 on entry and a huge work load of 15/19 on exits. Throw him out in all situations and you can reliably expect him to get the puck to where you want it to be.
The Puck Carrier (Nathan MacKinnon):
Mackinnon’s instinct is to carry the puck and do it himself to get across the blue lines, 6/9 in carries when both blue lines are combined. Two of those failures however came on exits, a much riskier proposition than losing the puck on entry. If Carrying absolutely isn’t an option MacKinnon will look to pass and will avoid dumping it whenever possible.
The Breakout Man (Tyson Barrie):
Of 17 zone exit attempts for Barrie only 4 were dump-outs. Granted the Avs generally use him in such a way that he is given time and space to create on the way out of the zone, but he really does shine in that role. Two perfect sets under exits with an 8/8 in passes and 5/5 in carries. Interestingly while they rely on Barrie to start the play from the back end they rarely seem to have him play the puck past center ice in the neutral zone, just two entry attempts on the whole night for Barrie.
Mr. Get It Out (Blake Comeau):
When Comeau gets the puck in the D-zone you can bet it’s getting dumped-out. 8 of his 9 clearing attempts were dump-outs and he succeeded on 7 of them. For entries he almost always deferred to his center in Soderberg to get it across the line for him as he was often the 3rd forward back.
The Sheltered One (A.J. Greer):
With just 3 exits and 0 entries Greer had the least involvement in crossing blue lines on the Avs. On the exits he did make, the puck wasn’t on his stick for very long, he was very ready to just toss the biscuit out of the zone. Even with his low minutes and low involvement in moving the puck forward he was tasked mostly with playing in the defensive end and he didn’t give up any egregious turnovers so you can live with that.
Blue Line Blunders (Patrik Nemeth and Matt Duchene)
Nemeth had a rough night with his puck movement. He focused mostly on dumping pucks in and out and struggled mightily. An abysmal 2/8 on dump-outs it was hard to tell if icing it or failing to clear it past the point man was a worse fate. Even on the entry side he could be found not pushing all the way to the red line and getting dinged for icing.
Chicago’s blue line felt like a brick wall at times for Duchene. With the puck on his stick he was trying to do too much himself and carry through 3 Hawks resulting in a turnover, and when he opted for a pass instead it just wasn’t finding it’s mark. A poor 2/6 with 0 dump-ins attempted. Some times you have to just get it deep Matty.
This was just one games worth of stats, certainly these numbers will fluctuate heavily across an entire season, but it is still interesting to see the different roles players have when it comes to crossing the blue line.