Charting the Capitals Failed Defensive Zone Exit Attempts for Capitals at Islanders

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Part two of our look at Capitals zone transitions focuses on failed defensive zone exits. The charting effort sets out to identify and aggregate unsuccessful controlled attempts to move the puck out of the defensive zone. 

You may recall that our first installment charted defensive zone exits and offensive zone entries (you can read that here). Part two builds on some of the insight collected from the first assessment, and identifies and tracks unsuccessful attempts to exit the defensive zone for a single game.

The following data was aggregated and charted for the Washington Capitals at the New York Islanders played on Thursday, March 15, 2018 (Game re-cap is here). Entering the game, the Capitals were 39-23-7 (85 points) and in first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Islanders were 30-29-10 (70 points) and in last place in the Metropolitan Division.

As was the case with part one, It’s important to note that this is a single game sample, and NOT meant to derive any particular trends or unique characteristics regarding Capitals team possession or player capabilities.

For the purpose of this second tracking effort, the following terms and definitions were used to specify failed defensive zone “exits” for the aforementioned game.

  • Exits – “Exits” refer to the zone transitions (crossing the blue line) starting from within the defensive zone and transitioning to the neutral zone or in some cases, transitioning to the offensive zone.
  • Carry – “Carry” represents a controlled exit with a player carrying (controlling) the puck out of the defensive zone.
  • Pass – “Pass” represents defensive zone exist attempts where a player-to-player pass was attempted within the defensive zone or to a player outside the defensive zone.

The charting effort simply identifies each and every failed Capitals defensive zone exit attempt for the game. Each attempt to cross the defensive blue line was identified as “Carry” or “Pass”. Each failed attempt was identified by player number, with the results summarized period-by-period. These are charted in sequential order for the period.

A total of 17 failed exits were charted for the game. The following presents the raw data charted and compiled, period by period.

First Period
The Caps were charted with seven failed defensive zone exit attempts in the first period. All were passing attempts. The Islanders led the Capitals 12-9 in shots.

Brett Connolly’s failed clearing pass attempt, the first attempt of the game, led to the Islanders first goal. Brooks Orpik’ failed clearing attempt would come on a Caps penalty kill, but would not cost the Caps on the scoreboard.

Second Period
The Capitals were charted for six failed defensive zone Exits for the middle frame. The Islanders led 14-8 in shots in the period and 26-17 after the second frame.

Lars Eller’s failed exit attempt came on a Capitals penalty kill. John Carlson’s failed exit attempt came during a Capitals power play.

Third Period
It’s interesting to note that the Capitals had a decisive lead for a majority of the third period, and thus playing a more defensive style of game (prevent defense) as the period went on, yet failed defensive zone exit attempts improved for the period.

The Islanders led 12-5 in shots for the third period.

Again, this is just a one game sample and will need additional data to begin refining trends and characteristics, however, a few specific game-related points can be ascertained:

  • The Capitals were outshot 38-22 for the game.
  • Michal Kempny had a good game, and led all defensemen with no failed defensive zone exits attempts.
  • Dmitry Orlov (4) and Jakub Jerebek (4) led all defensemen in failed defensive zone clearing attempts.

Our next zone transition analysis piece will build on this first two data collection efforts, and take a look at the results of zone transitions. In other words, what was the result of each particular zone transition? (continued possession, turnover, or other). The analysis will also look at better defining game characteristics (score, time, players, power plays/penalty kills, etc.) associated with each of the zone transitions. Additionally, our goal is to continue building unique data sets for use with future assessments.

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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7 Responses to Charting the Capitals Failed Defensive Zone Exit Attempts for Capitals at Islanders

  1. Anonymous says:

    How about failed offensive fore checks or offensive back checks that lead to turnovers or goals (Ex. Isles 1st goal?)

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  3. Dave Spencer says:

    I noticed last couple of games there seemed to be a huge amount of unnecessary icings as a result of failed long bomb pass attempts. Islanders final goal showed the result is of having too many faceoffs in your own zone.

  4. This is such an old story with this team going back–again–to Bruce Boudreau’s era. It seems like no matter who’s coaching or which players happen to be wearing the uniform this keeps coming up.


    It can’t be that the coaching staff doesn’t teach exit strategies, can it? Or maybe they aren’t teaching it properly? Or if they’re using the correct training methods then perhaps the players don’t retain very well? Other teams’ players–particularly the teams who go deep in the playoffs every year– seem to do a lot better at it than we do.

    Last night late in the game I knew in my bones that we’d turn the puck over deep in our zone or else fail to clear the puck and Grubauer would surrender a third goal…I was SURE of it because I’ve seen this garbage from our defensemen and forwards over and over and over again and for the life of me don’t understand why they can’t get it straight. Needless to say it was a good thing we were playing a New York Islanders team that’s even worse with the puck in their own end than we are so we “escaped” with a 6-3 victory (I don’t count empty netters and frankly wish that NHL statisticians would quit including them in a player’s aggregate scoring totals and count them as “team goals” instead…but that’s a different discussion for a different day…)

    Anyway, I’m keeping fingers and toes crossed that we can somehow fix this before the playoffs begin, but given what I’ve seen over the past ten years I’m not holding my breath…


    Santa Monica

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