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Photo Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Zone entries that lead to Shots and Scoring Chances

Thanks to Sportlogiq and we are able to get in-depth answers to questions about where a player excels or struggles.

Yesterday we looked at who are the best defencemen in the NHL at outlet and stretch passing as well as those who are efficient at transporting the puck out of the defensive zone.

Some of the results were expected, but some players were better or worse than what I’ve read or heard about.

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Today we will continue to look at defencemen and which ones are good at offensive zone entries, but also at creating shots and scoring chances after entering the zone.

One of the most common complaints I’ve heard and read in Oilersnation the past few years pertains to Darnell Nurse not making plays when he enters the offensive zone.

Is it true, or is it possible that people focus more on the times he doesn’t make a play and forget the times he does?

Let’s take a look at the Oilers blueliners.

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The columns are straightforward:

How many times do they enter the offensive zone with control?
How often did a shot on net occur after entering the zone?
How often did a scoring chance occur after entering the zone?

Defensemen at 5 on 5 5×5 TOI Controlled Entries Controlled Entries with Shot On Net After Controlled Entries with Scoring Chance After
Darnell Nurse 1371 109 38 23
Oscar Klefbom 1110 47 23 8
Adam Larsson 852 32 7 2
Ethan Bear 1308 29 10 7
Caleb Jones 585 26 7 1
Kris Russell 776 13 7 4
Matt Benning 530 12 6 1
William Lagesson 80 1 1

Nurse’s skating ability allows him to enter the zone much more frequently than any Oilers defender. He played 63 more minutes than Ethan Bear at 5×5 and had 80 more zone entries.

You can use per game or per/60 and Nurse is clearly the best on the Oilers at entering the zone. Anyone who has watched the games would agree.

But when he enters the zone, what happens?

Turns out that 21.1% of his entries lead to scoring chances. Oscar Klefbom, who is second in zone entries, has 17% of his entries result in scoring chances. More of his resulted in a shot on goal, but not a scoring chance. It would be interesting to watch video as to why. Linemates could have something to do with that. Although Bear and Nurse had identical 34% success rate at entries leading to a shot on goal, while Kris Russell was at 53.8% and he played the fewest minutes among the top-five defenders with Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl.

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Bear turned 24.1% of his zone entries into scoring chances, but he also had 80 fewer entries than Nurse. Would he maintain that rate having 80 more entries? Hard to say, but if the goal is to create scoring chances then Nurse’s 23 are much more impactful than Bear’s seven with similar TOI.

Kris Russell had the best scoring chance on zone entries at 30.7%, but he only had 13 entries.

Nurse created 23 scoring chances off of 109 entries. He isn’t among the league’s elite at creating scoring chances, but he is far from the disaster that many claim and in fact he creates far more chances than any other Oilers defender.

Nurse has areas he can improve in his game, no question. I’m not debating that, but I think the false narrative (play dies when he crosses the blueline) comes from the fact that some times he does enter the zone and nothing happens. And because you see him entering the zone more, it stands out and you focus on those plays more than when he does make a play that leads to a scoring chance.

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ACROSS THE LEAGUE…

So how do the Oilers defenders compare to the rest of the NHL? Here are the top-50 in each category.

Defensemen at 5 on 5 5X5 TOI Controlled Entries Top 50 Controlled Entries with Shot On Net After Top 50 Controlled Entries with Scoring Chance After
Roman Josi 1308 278 Roman Josi 106 Roman Josi 79
Thomas Chabot 1491 158 Thomas Chabot 63 Thomas Chabot 37
Miro Heiskanen 1212 126 Colton Parayko 49 Shea Theodore 35
Alex Pietrangelo 1263 119 Miro Heiskanen 49 Nick Leddy 29
Shea Theodore 1262 109 Shea Theodore 47 Charlie McAvoy 23
Darnell Nurse 1371 109 Alex Pietrangelo 46 Darnell Nurse 23
Dmitry Orlov 1275 103 Zach Werenski 40 Adam Fox 21
Samuel Girard 1250 99 Darnell Nurse 38 Samuel Girard 21
Colton Parayko 1228 99 Adam Fox 34 Colton Parayko 21
Mattias Ekholm 1231 98 Seth Jones 33 Alex Pietrangelo 20
Nick Leddy 1081 91 Justin Faulk 33 Zach Werenski 20
Zach Werenski 1142 90 Nick Leddy 32 Jakob Chychrun 19
Ivan Provorov 1216 90 Mike Matheson 32 Erik Gustafsson 19
Devon Toews 1163 84 Ivan Provorov 32 Miro Heiskanen 19
Justin Holl 1082 83 Charlie McAvoy 31 Quinn Hughes 19
Sean Walker 1124 82 Dmitry Orlov 31 Seth Jones 19
Cale Makar 921 81 Devon Toews 31 John Klingberg 19
Charlie McAvoy 1245 80 Mattias Ekholm 31 Cale Makar 19
Quinn Hughes 1132 80 Kevin Shattenkirk 30 Mike Matheson 19
Morgan Rielly 877 77 Justin Holl 29 Dmitry Orlov 19
Jeff Petry 1272 77 Victor Hedman 28 Tony DeAngelo 18
Seth Jones 1062 76 Sean Walker 28 Kevin Shattenkirk 18
John Klingberg 1032 75 Jaccob Slavin 28 Ivan Provorov 17
Mike Matheson 935 73 Cale Makar 27 Morgan Rielly 17
Justin Faulk 1212 70 Tony DeAngelo 27 Devon Toews 17
Victor Hedman 1126 70 Jeff Petry 27 Justin Faulk 16
Aaron Ekblad 1210 68 Jonas Brodin 27 Victor Hedman 16
Jonas Brodin 1246 68 Samuel Girard 26 Justin Holl 16
Adam Fox 1113 67 Morgan Rielly 26 Kris Letang 16
Brady Skjei 1160 67 Mike Reilly 26 Jeff Petry 16
Damon Severson 1191 64 Brady Skjei 26 Nate Schmidt 16
Brendan Smith 551 63 Jacob Trouba 26 Sean Walker 16
Jaccob Slavin 1233 63 Quinn Hughes 25 Rasmus Dahlin 15
Erik Gustafsson 1092 61 John Klingberg 25 John Marino 15
Kevin Shattenkirk 1154 61 Kris Letang 25 Brendan Smith 15
Jakob Chychrun 1117 60 Rasmus Dahlin 25 Jared Spurgeon 15
Tony DeAngelo 1032 59 Damon Severson 25 Vince Dunn 14
Rasmus Dahlin 888 59 Vince Dunn 24 John Carlson 13
Erik Karlsson 989 58 Noah Hanifin 24 Erik Karlsson 13
Vince Dunn 1016 57 Dougie Hamilton 24 Victor Mete 13
Brent Burns 1325 57 Erik Gustafsson 23 Mike Reilly 13
Mike Reilly 669 56 Aaron Ekblad 23 Damon Severson 13
Kris Letang 1149 55 Oscar Klefbom 23 Matt Dumba 12
Jared Spurgeon 1018 55 Rasmus Andersson 22 Noah Hanifin 12
P.K. Subban 1157 55 Neal Pionk 22 Erik Johnson 12
Nate Schmidt 1045 54 Jakob Chychrun 21 Brett Pesce 12
Travis Sanheim 1136 53 Erik Karlsson 20 Jaccob Slavin 12
Neal Pionk 1303 53 Victor Mete 20 TJ Brodie 11
Mikhail Sergachev 1130 52 Brad Hunt 20 Brent Burns 11
Rasmus Anderson 1154 50 John Carlsson 19 Aaron Ekblad 11
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Roman Josi is on a different planet, just like he was in zone exits yesterday. He leads the rush more than any D-man in the league. It isn’t close, and I wonder if that’s due to the Predators’ lack of having an elite forward, or the system they play, or simply that he is that much better than every other D-man in carrying the puck. I have to think system plays a factor as John Carlsson didn’t crack the top-50 in zone entries.

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I’d love to watch video of Brendan Smith with the Rangers. He was the outlier in creating zone entries with a much lower TOI. He had 63 entries in 551 minutes and he created 15 scoring chances.

Nurse is tied for fifth in the NHL in zone entries, eighth in entries leading to a shot on goal and tied for fifth in entries leading to a scoring chance.

If you wanted to use entries entries/60, he’d still be top-ten.

If he could create four or five more scoring chances then his scoring chance off a zone entry would be 24.7% or 25.6%. That would be ideal, but players like Thomas Chabot, Quinn Hughes, Colton Parayko, Alex Pietrangelo and others were between 21-23%. So 24% might even be too high to expect. Maybe only two or three more chances is realistic.

Only 32 D-men in the NHL created 16 or more scoring chances, and only 11 created 20+ and Nurse was one of them.

I should note that among the top-15 scorers (at 5×5) creating changes off of zone entries wasn’t a must to producing points, but it helps.

Josi 38 points.
Carlsson 36.
Aaron Ekblad 31.
Tony DeAngelo 30
Jaccob Slavin 30
Cale Makar and Ryan Suter 28.
Nurse, Charlie McAvoy, Victor Hedman and Kevin Shattenkirk 26.
Pietrangelo, Chabot, Erik Karlsson and Tyson Barrie 25.

Carlson and Barrie weren’t in the top-50 in zone entries. Ekblad was 27th and tied for 50th in entries creating a scoring chance.

FINAL THOUGHTS….

Thanks again to Kenny and the crew at Sportlogiq for helping compile the data. You’re awesome.

I was surprised at the gap on the Oilers blueline in zone entries and scoring chances. I expected Nurse to be at the top, as it is obvious from games he carries the puck more, but the gap was bigger than I expected. And I think it illustrates the need for the Oilers to add some more speed to their backend.

I didn’t have a sense of where Nurse would rank across the NHL, but the numbers illustrate zone entries and creating chances are areas he excels at. I’d like him to be a bit more patient with his D-zone reads and sticking with his man, but I think the narrative that “the play dies when he crosses the blueline,” is much more hyperbole than reality.

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