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Last Updated: Sep 13th, 2007 - 20:41:00 


Behind The Bench
Give stats-taking a try
By Dave Taylor
Aug 30, 2002, 22:47

Dave Taylor is now starting his fourth year as G.M. of the Los Angeles Kings. (Photo courtesy L.A. Kings.)
How often do you watch a hockey game and think about the statistics being compiled by the coaching staff — probably not very often. And I’m not just referring to “shots on goal” or “saves.” There are any number of stats being created during a typical game, particularly in today’s NHL.

Facing the competition
It is also important to note who the competition is when considering or compiling worthwhile statistics. For example, in a play-off series with Edmonton, their defense was extremely effective in blocking shots against the Kings. Noting the player (by number) who was doing the blocking, and where he was on the ice when the block occurred, became a valuable piece of information (stat) for the Kings coaching staff.

It’s very common to chart shots using the triangle-shaped, high-percentage zone as the key. Shots taken from within this zone are charted as important factors in a game, regardless of whether the shots were in the offensive or defensive zone.

Importance of turnovers
Turnovers by your team are also very important to follow through the course of any game. There are patterns that develop by charting these stats. These patterns tell a coaching staff how to react to problems that occurs as a result of these stats (in this instance, turnovers.) If a player’s number keeps coming up who is involved in turnovers that result in out-numbered attacks, or goals against, that player is going to be looked upon as a potential liability. More specifically, there are certain areas (grey zones) that coaches forbid the puck to lost in. These areas are just inside the blue line, four to five feet on either side when defending, or just outside the second blue line when attacking through the neutral zone.

Specific reasons
The reasons these are considered critical turnover areas are:

If the puck is lost as you attempt to clear your own zone, the opposition has already gained entry, and if your teammates are in the break-out process, you’ll most likely find yourself in an out-numbered attack situation. A high-risk scoring opportunity is thus created for the opposing team.

Moving through the neutral zone, on the other hand, as you approach the second blue line on the attack, attempting to gain entry of the offensive zone presents a similar situation.

Loss of possession four to five feet before entering the final zone, not only stalls the attack, but again, the forwards are now caught up the ice, and the opposition is in a position to outnumber your defense in the transition.

Very simply stated, the puck “must come out” when approaching your own blue line, and the puck “must go in” when approaching the opposition’s blue line.

Some other stats
Other statistics not often considered are: goaltender tendencies, regular puck movements, hits, face-offs and others. Sometimes specific players are tracked: centers, wings, defensemen and even goalies.It’s also common when looking for stats, for a coach to segment the game. Each period's stats are analyzed to determine what is important for the next segment or period. Shifts are sometimes altered, match-ups are changed, length of shifts become an issue, etc.

Give it a try
The next time you’re watching a game, take the time to chart something that might seem appropriate to you. It might give you a new perspective on the game. At the very least you will have an appreciation for the coaches and assistants who sit up high (perhaps in the press box) and chart every statistic imaginable.

This first appeared in the 07/1992 issue of Hockey Player Magazine®
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