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Tracking Wall Battles: An Update

An update to my last piece on the tracking project I'm going to start this season.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

previously wrote about a tracking project I'm going to undertake for the upcoming season. You can click the link to read more about it. I asked for feedback in that piece and got plenty of it.

Based on that feedback, I've decided to track two additional things. First, I'm going to track where the wall battle occurred (offensive zone, neutral zone, defensive zone), recorded from the perspective of the Penguins. Second, I'm going to record how many times a player with possession is targeted for a wall battle, and how many times a player without possession initiates a wall battle. I've defined wall battle to require a moment where there is a switch in possession--either two guys race for a loose puck, or one player who had possession is stripped of the puck. Thus, if there's a loose puck that two players are going after, there will be no target or initiation. But if one guy is dispossessed of the puck, there will be a target/initiation.

Here's what my chart will look like. I've added fictional numbers to help (please click to enlarge).


As you can see, I divided up wall battles won (WBW), wall battles lost (WBL), wall battle winning percentage (WBW%) and initiate/target numbers by zone. I'll also continue my plan of splitting up these numbers by game state, i.e. 5v5, 5v4, 3v5, and so on.

One other thing I wanted to address was the situation where a player protects the puck along the boards but is subject to a lot of physical contact and has to work hard to protect the puck. Because possession never switched in that scenario, I wouldn't track it as a wall battle.

Some people objected to this, but I'm going to avoid tracking these instances for two reasons. First, it's not an event that I'm trying to measure. That doesn't mean it worthless; I only say that because I'm looking for players who win lots of loose puck battles and therefore contribute to possession. Who can "protect the puck" is something worth tracking, but I think it should be done in a separate project.

Second, I haven't devised a good way to track these "protect the puck" battles. How much physical contact is needed for a player to get credit for protecting the puck? And what if he gets hit multiple times? Does he get multiple events in his favor? I don't think I could track these events as objectively as I can track wall battles which I've tied to loose pucks and changes in possession. It's worth repeating again that protecting the puck is certainly important. It's just not something I'm going to track with the project.