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Unconventional Wisdom - Zone Exits

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A continued look at the results gathered from the Three Zones project.

Rob Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports

A couple days ago I took a look at the Pittsburgh Penguins 2014-15 roster in regards to how they performed in Zone Entries. We also saw a couple days prior to that an article about last season's Penguins and they effectiveness at preventing their opponents attempted zone entries. We also checked out David Johnson's article about zone entries at the team level. The data for all of the above was collected by Corey Sznajder, and you can donate to his Three Zones project as we patiently await the accrued data from the remaining games.

Zone Exits

So this time we will continue our look at the currently accumulated data in order to see how our Penguins have performed in regards to getting the puck out of their own zone. The project tracks the number of times each player carried the puck while in their own zone, as well as how often they carried the puck out themselves, passed the puck to a teammate, or got it out in some other way such as clearing it to make a change. Those numbers can be used to calculate the percentage of successful exits, as well as the percentage of exits with possession if we take out the Other category. In addition, he also provides us with the number of times the attempted exit results in a turnover or in icing, which we can then use to get the percentage of failed exits.

One thing that stands out when looking at the numbers is just how much each aspect is specialized at the team level. For the zone entries we saw the vast majority of attempts were made by the forwards, for the Penguins themselves last year it was 79.3% of all entries were carried by a forward. With zone exits we see just the opposite, with most of the touches within the zone attributed to the defensemen whilst the forwards head up ice to await the puck, for last year's Penguins it was 65.5% of zone exits coming from the stick of our D.

Another thing to keep in mind is that a lot of "Touches" in the D-zone involve passing the puck from D to D without exiting the zone, so we aren't going to see the numbers add up to 100% like we did with Zone Entries. So don't look at a low percentage and assume that it must mean a poor performance. The number can influence your perception, but what is important is where that player stacks up in regards to his peers. And as usual when looking at advanced stats, sample size can lead to wonky results, so some of the young limited use guys may appear better or worse than they actually are.

Carry%

Looking at the Penguins team average from last season, they carried the puck out of the zone 10.0% of the time. That is just below the league average of 10.4%. Looking at our current Penguins, we have an even split with all the forwards being above average, from high to low: Megna, Malkin, Bennett, Hornqvist, Crosby, Comeau, Sill, Sutter, Ebbett, Goc, Adams, Kunitz, Dupuis, Downie, and Spaling.

On D we see all of them below the team average, from best to worst: Letang, Ehrhoff, Despres, Bortuzzo, Martin, Maatta, Dumoulin, Samuelsson, and Scuderi.

Pass%

The Penguins team average from last season was 16.8% of zone exits came from passing the puck to a teammate in the neutral zone. That is just above the league average of 16.6%. Looking at our current Penguins, we have 7 forwards who come in above average, from high to low: Kunitz, Dupuis, Downie, Bennett, Crosby, Spaling, and Megna. The remaining forwards fall below the league average, from best to worst: Goc, Malkin, Sutter, Hornqvist, Comeau, Adams, Sill, and Ebbett.

On D there are 4 that come in above the team average, from best to worst: Letang, Martin, Ehroff, and Dumoulin. The remaining 5 D all fall in below the league average, from high to low: Maatta, Despres, Samuelsson, Bortuzzo, and Scuderi.

Possession%

So if we combine the number of carries and the number of passes, we can calculate the percentage of exits that the players maintained possession of the puck. The Penguins team average last year was 26.9%, which is just below the league average of 27.0%. Almost all of the forwards were above average, from high to low: Bennett, Megna, Crosby, Kunitz, Malkin, Dupuis, Hornqvist, Downie, Sutter, Comeau, Goc, Spaling, Adams, and Sill. The only forward that falls below the team average is Ebbett.

On D the only player that is above the league average is Letang. The remaining D fall below the team average, from best to worst: Letang, Ehrhoff, Martin, Despres, Maatta, Dumoulin, Bortuzzo, Samuelsson, and Scuderi.

Success%

If we add in the other events that saw the puck exit the zone without maintaining possession, likely clears and chips to open ice meant to allow the team to make line changes or set up a play further down ice, then we can get the percentage of successful zone exits. The Penguins team average last season was 30.3%, just above the league average of 30.1%. We once again see most of the forwards fall in above the team average, from best to worst: Bennett, Crosby, Hornqvist, Megna, Dupuis, Kunitz, Malkin, Sutter, Downie, Comeau, Goc, Adams, Sill, and Spaling. Once more the lone forward below the league average is Ebbett.

On D we once more see the only player who was above the team average is Letang. The rest of the D were below the league average, from high to low: Ehrhoff, Martin, Despres, Bortuzzo, Dumoulin, Maatta, Samuelsson, and Scuderi.

Turnover%

When looking at the percentage of attempted exits that were intercepted or broken up by the opponent what we want to see is a low result. The Penguins team average last year was 6.5%, which is just above the league average of 6.7%. There were 8 forwards that performed better than the team average, from best to worst: Bennett, Adams, Ebbett, Comeau, Malkin, Dupuis, Hornqvist, and Sutter. Crosby falls in below the team average but above the league average. The other 6 are below the league average, from best to worst: Goc, Spaling, Kunitz, Downie, Megna, and Sill.

On D we have 5 that were above the team average, from best to worst: Despres, Bortuzzo, Martin, Ehrhoff, and Samuelsson. The remaining 4 D were below the league average, from best to worst: Letang, Dumoulin, Maatta, and Scuderi.

Fail%

If we combine the turnovers with the number of time the attempted clear instead resulted in an icing, we can get the percentage of failed zone exits. The Penguins averaged 8.2%, which is just a bit better than the league average of 8.9%. There were 8 Penguins forwards who performed better than team average, from best to worst: Bennett, Ebbett, Adams, Malkin, Dupuis, Comeau, Crosby, and Goc. Sutter was below the team average but above the league average. The other 6 forwards were below the league average, from best to worst: Spaling, Hornqvist, Kunitz, Megna, Downie, and Sill.

On D there were 3 that performed better than the team average, from best to worst: Martin, Bortuzzo, and Despres. Dumoulin and Samuelsson were below the team average but above the league average. The other 4 D were below the league average, from best to worst: Ehrhoff, Letang, Maatta, and Scuderi.

Differential

Lastly what we can do is create a differential, if we take the percentage of successful zone exits in which the team maintained possession of the puck and subtract the percentage of failed zone exits we can get a better idea of who is really good at moving the puck. The Penguins team average from last season was 18.7%, just a tad better than the league average of 18.1%. Most of the forwards were above the team average, from high to low: Bennett, Malkin, Crosby, Dupuis, Kunitz, Megna, Hornqvist, Comeau, Sutter, Goc, Adams, Downie, and Spaling. Ebbett was below the Pens average but above the league average, which Sill fell in below the league average.

On D we once again see just Letang coming in above the team average. The rest of the D we below the league average, from best to worst: Ehrhoff, Martin, Despres, Bortuzzo, Dumoulin, Maatta, Samuelsson, and Scuderi. Scuderi has the distinction of actually earning a negative differential, he failed to exit the zone more often than he succeeded. That is quite a feat, and indicative of an incredibly poor performance.