If you've read Jewels from the Crown all season, then you'll have an idea of what this post will be about. If you have not then this is a great primer. You can get a better feel for what lies ahead in my older posts on the subject like this or this.
The general idea of zone entries goes as follows: carrying the puck in is good and dumping the puck in is less than ideal. Carry-ins definitively produce more shots on goal than their chip-and-chase counterparts. As a team, the Kings produced 0.68 shots per carry-in compared to 0.35 shots per dump-in. That's obviously a significant difference.
With that knowledge, it's kind of distressing to find that the Kings carry the puck in at a significantly below average rate. The league average for carry-ins is around 50%, and the Kings sit at a paltry 44% for the season.
Which individual players really excelled in this regard? Kings forwards were led by Marian Gaborik, who controlled the puck on 73% of his entries. It was a tiny sample, but it's still a stunning figure. He was followed by Linden Vey (66%), Anze Kopitar (65%), Mike Richards (53%), Dustin Brown (50%) and Tanner Pearson (50%). The rest of the Kings forwards sit below 50%. Even 50% for forwards is moderately misleading. That's the league average, but I'd wager league average for forwards is probably a bit higher, given that they're more often the ones with skill and the ones leading the rush. In all honesty, probably the only above average puck carriers in the forward group are Kopitar and Gaborik.
It's somewhat surprising to me that players like Jeff Carter and Justin Williams sit below 50%. Jeff Carter is so fast that it seems like he would be able to back off the defense to create space at the blue line with relative ease. However, he controlled the puck on just 48% of his zone entries. On the other hand, Justin Williams is such a smart and skilled player that he seems like he would excel at this type of thing, but it seems that his skills sit more in puck recovery than anything. With that said, we'll have more on him later.
On the defensive side of the puck, Drew Doughty blows away the competition. This should surprise no one. Among players with a sizable sample, he's actually second on the team in controlled entry success at 60%. He had more carry-ins (146) than Robyn Regehr or Willie Mitchell had zone entries altogether (121 and 128, respectively).
Doughty also had a pretty surprising lack of failed carry-ins. Defensemen generally speaking suffer fewer failed entries than forwards, but it's still shocking that he fails so infrequently given how often he handles the puck. Just 15.1% of his carry-in attempts failed. This is a better figure than every single Kings forward. Not only is he exceptionally talented, but he picks his spots well and displays incredible hockey sense.
As far as the other puck-movers go, Jake Muzzin leads the way. He and Slava Voynov actually had identical 34% success rates, but Muzzin had just slightly more impact by entering the zone more often. Muzzin had 3.28 carry-ins per 60 minutes, while Voynov sat at 2.57. Alec Martinez trails the puck-movers with a paltry 20% carry-in rate.
The defensive defensemen are too depressing to even discuss really, but I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that Matt Greene had just 3 carry-ins this season. All season. 3. In 475.4 5v5 minutes. He had 3. How does that even happen? It seems like by accident you should have more than that. He did not. Amazing.
Pure success rate isn't all we're interested in though. I determined that Jake Muzzin had more impact than Slava Voynov by pointing out that he involves himself in the play slightly more often. Which other players have big impact on the game, even if it isn't displayed in pure percentages? This is where Justin Williams makes his mark.
'Stick' is a neutral zone machine, plain and simple. The guy just does not stop gaining the offensive blue line. He probably is still doing it right now. His 494 total entries (27.2 entries/60) lead the team by a mile. Though his controlled entry success rate sits at just 46%, he gains the blue line so often that he still wound up second on the team in total carry-ins with 227 (Kopitar had 277 to lead the way).
Dustin Brown was also excellent at getting involved in the play, as Andrew described in Brown's season review. His 26.3 entries/60 and 13.16 carry-ins/60 are both good for second on the team. I cannot stress enough that I still believe Brown is a very useful player that had a tough luck season. He is still a play-driving forward; nearly everything in his statistical profile suggests this. His contract will still probably turn out to be a disappointment, but he has some useful years ahead of him still.
At the other end of the spectrum is the dearly departed Linden Vey. Though Vey's percentages are good, he simply did not involve himself in the action that often. His 15.5 entries/60 rank dead last among Kings forwards. Though 66% of his entries came with control, he generated just 10.19 carry-ins/60, good for 8th on the team. That's not bad for a depth forward, and he certainly will grow into this league, but he has some work to do before Vancouver can anoint him their second-line center and then run him out of town.
At the team level, the Kings were rather successful compared to their opponents. Though the Kings themselves did not carry the puck into the zone that often (again, 44%), they only let their opposition control the puck on 39% of their entries. They also generated more entries, more shots per entry, more shots per dump-in, and more shots per carry-in. Perhaps the Kings were not an ideal neutral zone team given their propensity for dumping the puck in, but they were still better than their opponents nearly every night of the season. The only team that showed any ability to contend with them in this regard was Chicago, and, well, we got the cup suckers. Eat it.
Below I'll attach a sortable table so you can see just how infrequently Dwight King carried the puck in or if you want to imagine what life would be like if Matt Greene had legs. Enjoy!
Zone Entry Data
|##||Player||Entries||Entries/60||Shots/Entry||Carry-ins||Shots/carry-in||Carry-in %||Carry-ins/60||Failed Entry %|