This is part of something bigger that I may or may not end up posting here but it’s fun and interesting and I thought it worth posting.
In 2010-11, the San Jose Sharks were awesome at 5v4, leading the NHL in shots/60 at 72.6; the next best team had 59.4 S/60 at 5v4. The Sharks were, in a word, awesome, holding teams down and pummeling them. They were tied for second in GF/60 at 5v4 with 8.3. The Oilers were at the other end of the scale: 41.8 S/60, which was last by a considerable margin. They finished a bit better in GF/60 at 5v4, with 5.3 GF/60, tied for 22nd. So, the Sharks are awesome and the Oilers are terrible. (1970′s commercial voice-over voice) “We’ve put these two completely opposite teams against one another at 5v4 at various points in four games during the 2010-11 season. Let’s see what happened.”
Oh dear. So San Jose piled up 5v4 shots against the Oilers at about the same rate that a mediocre team puts up shots at 5v3 and the Oilers put up shots at the Sharks at about the same rate as a mediocre to good team puts up shots at 5v5. San Jose good, Edmonton bad.
OK, nothing too surprising there. Let’s look at something more interesting and novel. What percentage of the time that each team spent on the PP did they spend in the offensive zone? Well, San Jose spent 15.13 out of a possible 25.72 minutes in the offensive zone. Edmonton spent 8.52 out of a possible 15.55 minutes in the offensive zone. That’s 58.8% for San Jose and 54.8% for Edmonton. Which isn’t really much of a difference.
If you assume, as seems reasonable, that teams aren’t taking shots on the PP when they’re outside of the offensive zone then this means that, when the Sharks and Oilers are in the offensive zone, San Jose enjoy an even more crushing advantage over the Oilers in terms of shots, taking 142.8 5v4 S/60 while in the offensive zone to 56.3 S/60 while in the offensive zone for the Oilers. For every shot that the Oilers generated while in the offensive zone, San Jose generated 2.5, which is pretty amazing. If you were wondering what makes the Sharks so good relative to the Oilers, it’s something that happens there, not something related to how successful they are at obtaining entry into the offensive zone.
I broke that down anyway. I split the zone entries into two types: carry and dumps. “Carries” include passes over the blue line to a player. Dump-ins are dump-ins. I then marked them as successful or unsuccessful depending on whether or not the team established possession. So, for example, if you carry the puck over the blue and get immediately checked, it’s not a success just because you got over the blue line. It’s a bit of a “know it when I see it” thing but that’s how I did it. The data.
The success rates on the carries are interesting – they’re reasonably similar, although the Oilers would need another four successful carries with no failures to be at the same percentage as San Jose. Anecdotally, I can tell you that San Jose just looks a hell of a lot better entering the zone. The Oilers have a lot of entries that seem to be Hemsky beating three guys while two Oilers run into each other at the blue line. San Jose is awfully focused on creating mismatches at the left wall. It’s a string of flat footed Oilers D with a Shark F bearing down on them and an easy pass onto the boards available to the Shark. It’s virtually indefensible. The dump-in stats are considerably different, which is interesting to me; anecdotally, I’ve felt for a while that the Oilers are pretty bad at dumping pucks in on the PP and obtaining possession; this (tiny) sample does not contradict that.
Also of note: the Sharks turned things around more quickly when the puck left the offensive zone. When they weren’t in the offensive zone, they averaged 289.1 attempted entries/60 minutes of 5v4 spent outside the offensive zone. The Oilers’ rate was about 77% of that, at 221.8 attempted entries/60 minutes of 5v4 spent outside the offensive zone. Put another, perhaps more helpful, way, it took the Sharks about 12.5 seconds after a puck came out of the offensive zone to attempt their next entry. It took the Oilers about 16.2 seconds. That doesn’t seem like a ton but it’ll add up. It means that the Sharks could attempt nearly five zone entries in the time it took the Oilers to attempt four. That adds up.
One last table that is of some interest to me. This lists the average and median time spent in the offensive zone based on the different types of entries and whether or not they were successful. Again, small samples but it’s interesting to me that the Oilers tended to have their possessions last longer than San Jose’s. I’ve referenced this before with the Oilers (and Hemsky in particular) but from an observational point of view, it does feel like they spend a lot of time just screwing around with the puck – passes around the outside, guys standing at the half boards with the puck. This might mean that there is something to that.
As a whole, I think that this stuff is pretty cool. I’ve kind of lamented for many years that we don’t really seem to have measures that go beyond PP stats in the same way that we do with ES numbers. There’s some interesting kernels of ideas here for anyone inclined to go further.Email Tyler Dellow at firstname.lastname@example.org