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Tracking how pucks entered the zone in Stars-Jets
I figured I'd try tracking something by hand, why not?
Using the new Substack chat feature — which I’m still figuring out whether I like it or not — I asked what readers were looking for from the game between the Dallas Stars and Winnipeg Jets.
Understandably, there was an inquiry about puck movement, especially with the Stars playing against their old coach Rick Bowness.
Bowness was the final coach of a trio of Stars coaches — Ken Hitchcock and Jim Montgomery before him — that relied more on a pure dump-and-chase style. The Stars under Bowness, and Montgomery, relied on creating a forecheck where players were told to look for the soft spots on dump-ins and wear opponents down.
The Stars under Peter DeBoer have been more of a puck carrying team, electing to pass or carry the puck over the blue line at a higher clip than under past coaches.
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Winnipeg has played as you might expect under Bowness, it’s more a dump-and-chase game built on an aggressive forecheck. It can be effective, even if not sexy, and the Jets results this season are a fair reflection of that.
With all of that in mind, I wanted to track zone entries attempts at five-on-five for this game. To simplify it I separated zone entries into two categories.
Dumps/chips/shots (DCS) — Essentially anything that looks like dump-and-chase hockey. A chip in along the boards, a shoot-in that the goalie has to handle, an icing. These all qualify as DCS.
Controlled entry attempts (CEA) — This is all attempted entries that came with at least a little bit of control. A puck either carried or passed into the zone falls under this space.
It should be noted that this is not a measure of success or not entering the zone. It’s purely a measure of how the puck entered the offensive zone, even if it resulted in an icing or a turnover. I also want to be clear these stats are far from anything official.
For the game, the Jets played the game you’d expect. Of the 99 entries tracked, 65 were of the DCS variety, while 34 were CEA.
The Stars had 93 entries that I tracked. Of those entries 33 were CEA, while 60 were DCS.
Here is the breakdown by period.
First period: Stars 30 entries, 19 DCS, 11 CEA. Jets 30 entries, 17 DCS, 13 CEA.
Second period: Stars 33 entries, 25 DCS, 8 CEA. Jets 39 entries, 29 DCS, 10 CEA.
Third Period: Stars 30 entries, 16 DCS, 14 CEA. Jets 30 entries, 19 DCS, 11 CEA.
It’s mildly fitting that the Stars got roped into playing Bowness-style hockey against Bowness. And when his team got the lead in the second period, the former Stars coach instructed his new team to do what Bowness-led teams do the best — they suffocated the game and turned it into a field position battle of dumps and chases.
It was a tale of two periods for Scott Wedgewood, who has filled in admirably after Jake Oettinger was injured.
In the opening stanza Wedgewood as perfect, he stopped 18 shots, and as the rest of the Stars were sleepwalking in Winnipeg, the goalie kept the game scoreless.
And then the dam broke in the second period, which frankly felt like a matter of time after how the Stars had been playing.
Mark Scheifele, who has killed Dallas in his career, scored on one of the few clean rush entries for Winnipeg to tie the game at 1-1. The Stars were still in it at that point, before a turnover by Wedgewood behind the net led to a gimme for Pierre-Luc Dubois, the second of four-straight goals in the middle period.
Wedgewood’s misplay will lead to the typical curmudgeon response that goalies shouldn’t play the puck. And honestly, this game should actually be a prime example of why goalies should be playing the puck more often.
All of those dumps and chips that we talked about earlier, remember they are designed to punish and hit defensemen. A goalie playing the puck, even a simple setup, limits the damage defenders take and can completely defuse the dump-and-chase approach.
Wedgewood made a mistake, but if he wasn’t playing the puck as much as he was, the Stars would have been an even worse position possession wise for much of the game.