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Habs: Does Puck Possession translate to Wins?

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At even-strength, getting the puck is just as important as what you do with it.  But, aside from the obvious goals for and against stat, I have yet to find any one even-strength event involving skaters that is constantly and substantially higher during wins. That said, there are some traditional statistics that are consistently higher during wins. One example is special team success; which I wrote about here. While the other is save percentage; which I wrote about here.

Here, I will focus on the impact the Montreal Canadiens have in their ability to remove or acquire puck-possession, as well as their ability to maintain puck-possession within each zone, and what type of effect this has on wins and losses. The statistics used are from the 2011-12 regular season.

O-ZONE POSSESSION

“Offensive-zone possession” represents a team’s ability to maintain possession of the puck in the offensive-zone. Events included in this category are limited only to those that take place when a player has the puck on his stick inside the opposing team’s blueline.

In games that saw the Habs lose, they were successful with 56.2% of their attempts to either beat opposition players 1-on-1, pass the puck to a teammate, or get a shot on net.  In wins, they were successful with 57% of these events, bringing team average through all 82 games to 56.5%.

At even-strength, the Habs engaged in 14,024 events while in possession of the puck in the offensive-zone. This translates to an average of  171 per-game. Breaking down the above success-rates, we see that the Montreal Canadiens on average were successful  in 98 of those events during wins, and 96 during losses suggesting there was no direct statistical connection between offensive zone possession and wins.

O-ZONE DEFENSIVE

“Offensive-zone defensive” represents the team’s ability to remove or acquire puck-possession from the opposing team in the Hab’s offensive-zone—otherwise known as forechecking. Events included in this category take place either when the opposition, or neither team initially has possession of the puck in the Hab’s offensive-zone.

In games that saw the Habs lose, they were successful with 70.6% of their attempts to either win puck-battles, recover loose-pucks, poke-check, or intercept opposition passes in their offensive zone.  In wins, they were successful with 72.3 % of these events.

The team average through all 82 games was 71.2%.

At even-strength, the Habs engaged in a total of 10,473 events while attempting to remove or acquire puck-possession from the opposition in the offensive-zone. This translates to an average of  127 per-game and breaking down the above success-rates, we see that the Habs were successful with an average of  92 of those events during wins, and 90 during losses.

N-ZONE POSSESSION

“Neutral-zone possession” represents the team’s ability to maintain possession of the puck in the neutral-zone. Events included in this category are limited to only those that take place when a player has the puck on his stick in the neutral-zone.

In games that saw the Habs lose, they were successful with 69.4% of their attempts to either beat opposition players 1-on-1, pass the puck to a teammate, or dump the puck into the offensive-zone.  In wins, they were successful with 70.2% of these events and the team average through all 82 games was 69.7%.

At even-strength, the Habs engaged in 8,833 events while in possesson of the puck in the neutral-zone. This translates to an average of  108 per-game. Breaking down the above success-rates, we see that the Habs were successful with an average of  76 of those events during wins, and 75 during losses.

N-ZONE DEFENSIVE

“Neutral-zone defensive” represents the team’s ability to remove or acquire puck-possession from the opposition in the neutral-zone. Events included in this category occur when either the other team, or neither team has possession of the puck in the neutral-zone.

In games that saw the Habs lose, they were successful with 71.8% of their attempts to either win puck-battles, recover loose-pucks, poke-check, or intercept opposition passes.  In wins, they were successful with 71.4 % of these events. The team average through all 82 games was 71.6%. There is no typo here–incredibly enough, the Habs were actually more successful removing or acquiring puck-possession from the opposition in losses than in wins.

At even-strength, the Habs engaged in 4,875 events while attempting to remove or acquire puck-possession from the opposition in the offensive-zone. This translates to an average of  59 per-game. Breaking down the above success-rates, we see that the Habs were successful with an average of  43 of those events during wins, and an equal 43 during losses.

D-ZONE POSSESSION

“Defensive-zone possession” represents the team’s ability to maintain possession of the puck in the defensive-zone. Events included in this category are limited to those that take place when a player has the puck on his stick in the defensive-zone.

In games that saw the Habs lose, they were successful with 67.8% of their attempts to either beat opposition players 1-on-1, pass the puck to a teammate,  or dump the puck out of the defensive-zone.  In wins, they were successful with 67.2% of these events. The team average through all 82 games was 67.5%. Again, there is no typo here–the Habs were actually more successful maintaining puck-possession in the defensive-zone during losses*.

At even-strength, the Habs engaged in 15,212 events while in possesson of the puck in the defensive-zone. This translates to an average of  186 per-game. Breaking down the above success-rates, we see that the Habs were successful with an average of  125 of those events during wins, and 126 during losses.

*A possible explanation of this result exists in the fact that successful dump-outs are included in this calculation. Successful dump-outs don’t allow you to maintain puck-possession; they simply allow you to avoid a defensive-zone give-away. Looking at the numbers more closely, I found that the Canadiens averaged 2 more successful dump-outs during losses, thereby easily covering the extra successful play during those losses.

D-ZONE DEFENSIVE

“Defensive-zone defensive” represents the team’s ability to remove or acquire puck-possession from the opposition in the defensive-zone. Events included in this category are limited to those that take place when either the other team, or neither team has possession of the puck in the defensive-zone.

In games that saw the Habs lose, they were successful with 68.2% of their attempts to either win puck-battles, recover loose-pucks, poke-check, block shots, or intercept opposition passes.  In wins, they were successful with 69 % of these events. The team average through all 82 games was 68.5%.

At even-strength, the Habs engaged in 18,114 incidents while attempting to remove or acquire puck-possession from the opposition in the defensive-zone. This translates to an average of  221 per-game. Breaking down the above success-rates, we see that the Habs were successful with an average of  153 of those events during wins, and 151 during losses.

CONCLUSION

Although the success-rates calculated during even-strength events barely fluctuate from wins to losses, and are not as apparent as special team numbers, there are still some metrics that change more than others. These include the ability to maintain, remove, and acquire puck-possession in the offensive-zone, as well as the ability to remove or acquire puck-possession in the defensive-zone.

Expressed more simply, among even-strength play; successful forechecking and maintaining puck-possession in the o-zone (completed passes, successful dekes, and shots through to the net), as well as good defensive-play in the defensive-zone (blocking shots, intercepting passes, winning puck-battles, recovering loose-pucks) seemed to have the most possessional impact on whether the Habs won or lost games during the 2011-12 season.

Check out other great articles at Boucher Scouting.