When it comes to possession the blue lines are two of the most important areas of the ice. However, they aren’t always the make or break of it as we saw in this one.
Below are a smattering of stats taken from tracking every Avalanche zone entry and exit from their game against Calgary. 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: 86/95 (90.5%)
Carries: 39/44 (88.6%)
Passes: 11/15 (73.3%)
Dump-ins: 34/34 (100%)
Total: 106/128 (82.8%)
Carries: 32/40 (80.0%)
Passes: 47/54 (87.0%)
Dump-outs: 27/34 (79.4%)
From a general overview standpoint getting across the blue lines was not an issue for the Avalanche in this one. In the offensive zone the troubles came with what they decided to do with puck after they had entered the zone, and on the defensive side when a mistake was made it was often unforgivable. We saw the Avs rely on their passing to get themselves out of their zone much more often tonight and that presents a much higher risk reward play. While it usually worked and allowed them to transition through the neutral zone quickly, when it failed the results were usually catastrophic. On the offensive end they put their heads down and focused on either carrying it in or dumping and chasing, get pucks deep was the strategy of choice for the Avs when down on the scoreboard.
The Breakout Hinges On Tyson Barrie:
With the Avs spending the majority of the game behind, they ran the breakout through Barrie as often as possible. No one had more attempts to exit their own zone and he also sat in the top 3 for entering the offensive zone. He had 26 total blue line cross attempts with 16 of those being passes. The 12 successful passes were solid but didn’t really feel like they were making the difference in leading to offensive chances, particularly when you look at just how egregious his 4 failures were, one of which leading to the 3rd goal against the Avs.
Mr. Perfect (Nathan MacKinnon):
If you need someone to carry the puck into the offensive zone Nathan MacKinnon is your man, going 8 for 8 on carry ins he also added a successful pass and dump in on his entries. The story was similar on the back end posting 5 carry outs along with a few dumps and a pass. With 18 attempts at crossing a blue line 0 failures is quite a feat.
The Mail Carrier (Gabe Landeskog):
Alongside MacKinnon, Landeskog made up his mind to carry the puck in as often as possible. 7/7 himself, when you also add in Rantanen’s 3 attempts the Avs top line accounted for for over 40% of the Avs carry in attempts. Add on the other ways of successfully getting into the zone and Landeskog led the team with 11 successful zone entries. Every game Landeskog looks more and more like the power forward we have all wanted to see him be.
Trial By Fire For Sam Girard:
Barely a dozen NHL games under his belt and Girard finds himself as the #2 defensemen in moving the puck up the ice for the Avalanche. He showed a little bit of everything on both entries and exits but in general settled for a pass when available before looking to skate it himself into and through the neutral zone. As the honeymoon period starts to close, his failures were noticeable tonight and a few of them led to some scary opportunities against (though I’m blaming Rantanen for Calgary’s second goal). There is no shelter for Girard to run to, the Avs are ready to commit to him as a top 4 puck mover now.
Quiet Quality (Sven Andrighetto):
After struggling through for the past few games Sven came in and did a fantastic job pushing play across blue lines for the Avs depth. He’s not afraid to hold onto the puck if given room and under pressure he will make sure to make the smart play and get it out of danger. While the goal scoring might have dried up a bit keeping up quality play like this will help push things in the right direction.
Looking at these numbers should give Avs fans some confidence in knowing that the Avs are capable of controlling the puck well against other teams in the wildcard mix of the western conference. Obviously the massive game breaking blunders need to be cleaned up, and figuring out what to do with the puck once you get into the offensive zone is another story entirely. Still, it’s nice to know that the Avs are capable of generating plenty of opportunities for themselves.