Second Units and Zone Entries: Why teams should go all-in on the 4 forward power play

Using 4 forwards on the power play is generally a good strategy. Four forward units take more shots, score more often on those shots, and post a better goal differential than 3 forward groups do.

It’s also a strategy that has become more popular over the last few years. 4 forward units have accounted for roughly 56% of the 5-on-4 ice-time this season, up 4% from last year and more than 15% from 5 years ago.[1]

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Why Possession and Zone Entries Matter: Two Quick Charts

As some of you know, the NHL tracked offensive zone time for two seasons, 2000-01 and 2001-02, then inexplicably stopped. As some of you also know, I have a lot of historical game data, and that includes all the zone time from these seasons. Taking those performances, and focusing on the first two periods to avoid any major score effects (or “protecting the lead“), I charted every single game alongside 2pS%, the historical possession metric.

It’s pretty clear that the spread in shots-for in these games was quite a bit greater than the spread in zone times. Curious, I decided to do a distribution plot, the one that you see leading this piece (2pS% and offensive zone time % in the x-axis, percentage of total performances in the y-axis). Zone time, or generally speaking the flow of the game, has a tighter, much more normal distribution that the distribution of shots. What does this mean? This means that things like how you enter the zone (zone entries), and how you control the puck in the zone (possession, or passing) can make a pretty big difference in how you generate scoring opportunities.

Note: The data I used for these quick graphs were from home team’s perspective, hence why our distribution was a bit north of 50. Keeping that in mind, the 60-40 Rule we established here a year ago looks pretty good for assessing game flow, but there are ways within that flow that can tip the scale.

What’s the deal with Andrew MacDonald: Why do the statistics suggest he’s terrible?

Did you really think I was going to miss the opportunity to post the AMac with chains gif again? You thought wrong.

Islander Defenseman Andrew MacDonald is one of the hot names being bounced around during the trade deadline.  On one hand, this makes sense: He’s making basically nothing on his current contract, he’s one of the time on ice leaders in the NHL this year and has handled top level competition for a few years now.

On the other hand, his conventional fancystats show a well…..massive decline:

AMacThreeYear

Yikes.  That 2013-2014 number is downright terrible, dropping MacDonald into the bottom tier of defensemen.  And no zone starts and certainly not competition (see this article for an analysis of AMac vs various levels of competition) does not account for this.  If you believed the fancystats, AMac isn’t just not a top tier DMan, but not even a 2nd or 3rd pairing guy who could help any team at all.  Yet teams seem to believe he’s worth a high pick?  So what’s going on?  Is the conventional thought completely wrong here?

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