One of the growing developments in hockey analysis is tracking zone entries to gauge a team's performance in the neutral zone. Why is neutral zone play important? I've gone over this a few times, but I don't have a problem repeating myself. A recent study done by Eric Tulsky and some other hockey bloggers & researchers have shown that being able to win the battle in the neutral zone leads to a team outshooting their opponents more often and in turn, getting more scoring chances and possibly winning more games. However, the team who wins the battle in the neutral zone isn't the one has more entries, but rathers who gains the offensive zone with possession more often.
This was an interesting discovery because dump and chase play is something that's often encouraged by coaches, ex-players and analysts and it kind of makes sense in theory. Simply getting the puck deep is a safe play and often considered a good strategy to use if the other team is playing a trap-style defense that would increase the risk of a turnover if you attempted to carry the puck across the blue-line. Although, how effective dump and chase play is depends on how strong of a forecheck you have because you are essentially giving up possession of the puck and the only way to get it back is to beat out the opposing defense to it or force turnovers. Because of this and many other factors, it has been determined that carrying the puck into the offensive zone is what leads to more shots and in turn, more scoring chances and goals as opposed to entering the zone without possession.
You may remember that I started posting the Hurricanes zone entry stats in my post-game reports later in the season and that I was making note of how often the team gained the blue line without control of the puck. The statements made above as well as in the articles linked should tell you why I was frustrated with that. However, there were some games where the Hurricanes were getting a fair amount of offense off uncontrolled entries and it made me wonder if dump & chase play can also be successful if done with the right players. For instance, a dump-in by Jiri Tlusty would have a better chance of leading to a shot or a scoring chance on goal as opposed to one by Tim Brent because Tlusty plays with better linemates who would likely win the race to the puck. Kirk Muller's system seems to rely on dump & chase play quite a bit and while it worked with some players, it's impact as a whole wasn't great.
We'll explore this more after the jump.no comments