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Tracking the Playoffs: Zone Exits

Part two of this data dump will be focused on zone exits, which are still a growing development in hockey metrics. The ability to exit the defensive zone cleanly is something that's often discussed in hockey, but it hasn't been explored much in the world of advanced statistics. The most commonly used stats like Corsi & Fenwick all deal with a team's ability to keep the puck in the offensive zone, but it's always tough to tell which players are the ones driving the bus. Since Corsi, Fenwick & other possession stats are all on-ice stats, it's possible that someone might look good by the numbers but could have their performance boosted by a strong linemate.

This is where looking at individual contributions like Zone entries, zone exits and scoring chances come in. I've already harped upon the importance of neutral zone play with my look at entries, but exits are also very important. If you've watched any hockey game, then you've probably notice some teams struggle to control play because they simply can not move the puck out of their own zone. This is especially true of defensemen, who are trusted to handle the puck in their own zone a lot more than anyone else.

Having players who can skate, handle and move the puck is very important in today's game because if your team has trouble exiting the zone, then they're likely going to get crushed on the shot clock and put a ton of pressure on their goaltenders. I'm no expert, but that strategy isn't going to win you a lot of games, which is why having guys who can get the puck out of the zone is very important. It's why I begun tracking zone exits for Hurricanes games last year and why other bloggers have done the same thing.

The only issue with zone exits is that they are just one part of the equation and not enough games have been tracked to show if they correlate with possession or anything significant. It's a very time consuming process that has to be done manually, so it will probably take time before we figure out how important zone exits really are. However, I do believe there is some value that can be found in this because, as I mentioned earlier, guys who can move the puck out of the zone are a factor in driving the play forward & controlling possession.

I'll be taking a closer look at this in the coming weeks, but I'll have the data from this year's playoffs posted below for those who are interested.

Chicago Blackhawks

Minnesota Wild

Anaheim Ducks

Detroit Red Wings

Vancouver Canucks

San Jose Sharks

St. Louis Blues

Los Angeles Kings

Pittsburgh Penguins

New York Islanders

Montreal Canadiens

Ottawa Senators

Washington Capitals

New York Rangers

Boston Bruins

Toronto Maple Leafs

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