Quarter Season Review: Scoring Chances and Zone Entries

The Professor is here to learn ya'll a thing or two - Bruce Bennett

Who is driving play for the Los Angeles Kings?

    Today we're going to go over the Kings' numbers in a couple of micro-stats. I talk about the Kings' scoring chance numbers in every analysis post, but zone entry numbers to this point in the season have been for my eyes only. Now you'll get your first look at them (all numbers are current as of 11/17 @ NYR). If you're wondering why zone entries are important or why we're tracking them, this is a good primer written by Eric T. of Broad Street Hockey.

      Basically, zone entry analysis is a way to better quantify just how well teams control the neutral zone. The goal on every zone entry is to gain the zone with speed and control. The average controlled zone entry rate is around 50%. Last season, we discovered that the Kings dump the puck more often than not, but still manage to win the neutral zone battle quite often through tenacious forechecking and excellent neutral zone defense. They limit the opposing team's entries and maximize their own.

      Has anything changed?

      Forwards

      #10 - Mike Richards. To this point in the season, Mike Richards has been an excellent possession player. He's driven possession by consistently gaining the zone with control. He does that 50% of the time, good for second among forwards to Anze Kopitar. Richards has also been an excellent set-up man, with more scoring chance set-ups per 60 on the team. He's also just been straight up involved in more scoring chances per 60 than any other forward on the team. Given that he's often against the best players in the league, it's been an extremely impressive start for Richards.

      #11 - Anze Kopitar. He's the best player on the Kings and one of the best in the league. He gains the zone with control far more often than anyone else (68% overall, 71% in score-close situations). The Kings also control the play with Kopitar on the ice better than they do with any other forward. LA owns 61.72% of the scoring chanes that occur while Kopi is out there.

      #13 - Kyle Clifford. Clifford's case is an interesting one to this point. Though the Kings don't generate much offense with him out there, I'm not sure how much of that is Clifford's fault as opposed to his linemates. LA generates 0.9 shots per controlled entry by Clifford, which is the best number put up by Kings' forwards. However, the Kings generate just 0.12 shots per Clifford dump-in, which is a staggeringly-low number, topping just Colin Fraser. Basically, my conclusion is that Clifford deserves better linemates and an increased role.

      #14 - Justin Williams. Justin Williams is an elite neutral zone player. The Kings give him more responsibility than any other Kings' forward in this regard. While he does fail to enter the zone a bit too often, it's a result of the fact that he is the one with the puck on his stick more often than anyone else in the neutral zone. He has logged 144 zone entries this season, first on the team by a wide margin. On top of that, the Kings generate more offense with him out there than most of the roster (15.85 scoring chances per 60 for the team).

      #17 - Dan Carcillo. Dan Carcillo's effectiveness this season caught everyone a little off-guard. While he's always been tagged as a guy that knows how to play hockey and would be okay if he ever gained a brain, I didn't expect him to be as downright decent as he's turned out to be. He's been an outstanding depth player for LA so far. His lone flaw is that he makes a few too many mistakes at the opposing team's blue line, and I suspect that's the biggest reason Sutter scratches him. After his most recent scratch, he returned to the lineup and has been mistake free. However, he hasn't been gaining the zone as often in his most recent outings either.

      #21 - Matt Frattin. Frattin seemed to struggle to find his role on this team when the season started. He's a fast and physical forward with some offensive ability, and he showed about zero of that through the first three weeks of the season. Since then, however, he's been much better. He's got speed, and he's started to utilize it on entry more often. He's bumped his controlled zone entry numbers up to 38%, and I suspect it will continue rising. He needs to get more involved offensively, but he's on the right track.

      #22 - Trevor Lewis. Hasn't been his best work so far this season. The Kings control just 31.94% of scoring chances with him out there at 5v5. However, his work on the PK has been excellent, and the Kings allow fewer chances per 60 with him out there than any other established forward. Still, his offensive game has been even more absent than usual to start the season, and the Kings generate fewer shots per entry by Lewis than most of the rest of the team.

      #23 - Dustin Brown. He had a rough start, but he's gathered his game and produced some solid results, especially since being put back with Kopitar. Though he hasn't scored much, it hasn't been for lack of effort. He's produced more chances than any other forward on the team. Much like the rest of the team, his zone entry numbers have been steadily improving. The Kings generate 0.55 shots per entry by Brown, which is second to Anze Kopitar on the team.

      #24 - Colin Fraser. Surprisingly effective in the neutral zone. He gains with control 48% of the time and fails to enter the zone just 3.7% of the time. However, he hasn't translated it into much offense. He has registered just 4 scoring chances of his own volition on the season and hasn't set up a single one. The Kings really struggle with him on the ice. They give up 59% of the scoring chances with him out there, second worst by LA's forwards.

      #28 - Jarret Stoll. Stoll's numbers, like several of the Kings if you've noticed, have been on a definite upswing lately. Though the Kings control just 45% of scoring chances with him on the ice, he's shaved some points off of that with his play lately. He's also started skating the puck in a bit more, although he's always been more of a safer player and I doubt that's about to change.

      #57 - Linden Vey. Vey has been a startlingly effective neutral zone player. He's actually controlled more zone entries than Anze Kopitar. 73% of Vey's entries are with control, and he's failed just once this season to carry the puck in. It's a small but encouraging sample.

      #70 - Tanner Pearson. Pearson, on the other hand, has struggled to gain the zone with the puck. He's resorted to dump-ins on two-thirds of his entries. However, it's an even smaller sample than Vey's, and nothing can be drawn from it yet. The team has really struggled with him out there, though.

      #71 - Jordan Nolan. I've talked up Nolan a fair bit this year. So how has he really fared? Not too bad. The Kings produce just 0.33 shots/60 with him gaining the zone, but he's been saddled with weak teammates a lot of the time. He gains the zone with control 43% of the time. However, like a lot of the depth players on the Kings, the team struggles with him out there. In his case, however, I think it's a result of his teammates as opposed to him.

      #73 - Tyler Toffoli. While Toffoli's lack of foot speed won't prevent him from being an effective player, it may prevent him from ever being an effective play driver. He struggles to gain the zone with possession, as teams are able to easily close the gap on him unless he has a wealth of ice to work with. Of Toffoli's 35 entries so far, just 10 have been with control. However, the Kings have been able to control 52% of scoring chances with him out there, and he's been an adequate second line player. He's not going to continue scoring at the pace he's at, but he'll be respectable this season.

      #74 - Dwight King. Sutter loves his stability. And... well... he's earned his keep, for the most part. While he's no play driver, he's been an extremely effective neutral zone player. He carries the puck in just 25% of the time and the Kings don't generate a lot off of his entries, but he rarely fails to enter the zone and hasn't kept Richards or anyone else from producing. Though the Kings have controlled just 47.52% of scoring chances with him out there, it's been a little better lately. He's not the long-term solution to the hole at LW2, but he's an okay temporary solution.

      #77 - Jeff Carter. Not as involved as I'd like him to be personally. He tends to rely on Richards to gain the zone and pass it off. It works, but Carter's speed is an asset that the Kings could and should be utilizing more. He's gained the zone with control just 36% this year and has failed 13% of the time. Not great numbers for our elite goal scorer.

      Defense

      #2 - Matt Greene. Well. He's Matt Greene. He is the only King that has yet to enter the zone with control, and it seems as if that may be the case for a long while. With soft minutes, LA has controlled 56% of the scoring chances with him on the ice. He's been an effective third-pairing d-man.

      #6 - Jake Muzzin. Last year Robert found that Muzzin was more of a passenger than a driver, and this year Muzzin has turned the tables a bit. He gains the zone with control 36% of the time, and most of it is due to excellent neutral zone passing. Next to Doughty, he's been the most effective neutral zone player among the defensemen. It's a small sample, but the Kings have generated an average of a full shot per zone entry when Muzzin is responsible for the controlled entry. On top of that, LA controls 57% of scoring chances with him out there. He's also involved in more scoring chances than any defender except, again, Doughty.

      #8 - Drew Doughty. He's been a beast. He controls 52% of his entries, easily the best on the defense and the second-best number on the team. He's been an extremely effective offensive weapon, particularly in the past month. While his numbers are dragged down by a slow start (take a shot!), he's recovered recently.

      #26 - Slava Voynov. Hasn't been the best start for Voynov, and he's still been up and down in the Kings' most recent games. He's gained the zone with control 31% of the time, third among defensemen. However, LA controls just 49% of chances with him out there, and that hasn't been on a recent surge. He has been progressing like the rest of the team, but at a much slower rate.

      #27 - Alec Martinez. Martinez isn't driving play as well as he has in seasons past, but LA is still controlling 58% of the chances with him out there. And, hey, the Kings are putting up 1.25 shots per controlled entry by Martinez! (he has 4 controlled entries on the season.)

      #33 - Willie Mitchell. Mitchell's actually been less of a play-driver than Robyn Regehr this season. The Kings generate 0.26 shots per entry by Mitchel versus 0.49 shots per Regehr entry. Unfortunately for Regehr, that's where the positives end, as the Kings control 54% of the chances with Mitchell out there.

      #44 - Robyn Regehr. His zone entry numbers have been quietly commendable. He's managed to dump the puck in with some effectiveness, I guess, as the Kings generate more shots per Regehr dump-in than any other player on the team. Unfortunately, the Kings have struggled with him out there otherwise, having owned just 41% of all scoring chances with him on the ice. Doughty's numbers have surged since being removed from him, but Regehr's have remained about the same. While Regehr has certainly been buried in his own zone from time to time, I'm pretty sure it doesn't excuse his lackluster numbers. With that said, he's been *much* better recently. Hopefully that continues. He almost had a scoring chance last night! Go Robyn go.

      The Numbers!

      • Below I'll attach screenshots of the Kings' entry, scoring chance and on-ice scoring chance numbers. I'll also include the goalies, who don't need much analysis at this point as their samples are pretty small and even more self-explanatory.

      • First up we'll go over zone entries. It's fairly self-explanatory. If there are any questions about it, leave them below.

      Entries_medium

      • Next up we'll do the raw scoring chance numbers (so, chances each player has generated individually).

      Skatertotals_medium

      • Here's how the team does with each player on the ice.

      Onice-60_medium

      • Finally, the goalies.
      • Goaliechances_medium

      Summary

      • The Kings' chance numbers don't line up with possession just yet, and I suspect that it will start to (and already has over the past few games) going forward. The Kings still don't control the puck on zone entry very often, but they've been much better over the past 10 games and I suspect that will also continue improving. That's probably important, as there's no way Scrivens maintains his level of play, obviously.

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