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New Jersey Devils at Columbus Blue Jackets: Zone Exits and Passing Stats

This is a look at the Devils passing and zone exit stats against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Quite simply, it was a game the Devils did well offensively and attempted more passing attempts than almost any game this season.

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The Devils went into Columbus and started quickly, but they soon found themselves in a back-and-forth affair with the Blue Jackets. There was plenty of blame to go around, but the Devils really should have put the game away early on due to how effective they were going forward and generating shot attempts off of their passing. Let's take a look at the (mostly) solid performances.

Passing Stats

Forwards: Collectively, the forwards were good, but not as impressive as the defensemen. 28 SAG is a good total and above their season average, but their OZ% was only 76.5% and lower than their season average. Their shot attempts could have been much higher if for a bit better passing in the final third. They did attempt 102 passes in the offensive zone, which is about 25 more than their season average, again showing they had the puck more often than usual. There were certainly some solid performances.

Reid Boucher continues to be effective at generating shot attempts. He finished tied with Dainius Zubrus and Adam Henrique with 4 SAG, good for the 2nd highest total of the forwards, behind only Jaromir Jagr’s 5. Boucher was busy in each zone, finishing 17/21 overall in his passes. Damien Brunner had a good game all around, finishing 17/20 with 1 SAG. Curiously, Travis Zajac failed to generate a shot attempt despite his 12/14 passing.

Zubrus, Jagr, and Patrik Elias each attempted 16 passes in the offensive zone alone. Elias finished with 3 SAG, but he and Jagr only completed 62.5 and 68.8% of their passes in Columbus’ end of the ice. Wasteful. All three of them were solid in the other zones, combining to misfire on only 1 pass in defensive zone and 1 pass in the neutral zone. If they could only be a bit more efficient in the offensive zone.

Michael Ryder and Steven Bernier had similarly effective, but quieter games, generating 2 and 3 shot attempts respectively. And the aforementioned cavemen had their usual games. At least Sestito generated a shot attempt. Janssen pulled a Volchenkov and only attempted passes in the defensive end of the ice.

Of course, Andrei Loktionov’s numbers continue to decline being paired with Tim Sestito and Cam Janssen. One of the best natural passers on the team and he’s playing with cavemen. Great allocation of assets, Deboer.

Defense: On the season, the group has averaged 82 passes in the defensive zone, 11 in the neutral zone, and 18 in the offensive zone. Against the Blue Jackets, the team totaled 108 passes in the defensive zone, 19 in the neutral zone, and 41 in the offensive zone. Their completion percentage was 10% higher in each zone than they’ve averaged on the season. Simply put, the defensemen literally possessed the puck more in this game than in any other game thus far this season. As a result, they produced their season-high in SAG with 17 (one more than Game 25 against Carolina).

Individually, everyone but Anton Volchenkov generated at least 2 shot attempts. Andy Greene, Mark Fayne, and Eric Gelinas each generated 4 apiece. Jon Merrill finished 3, and Marek Zidlicky rounded out the group with 2. Volchenkov was the only let down in terms of completion percentage, finishing 10/13 in the defensive zone as he didn’t attempt a pass in the other two zones. It really was an amazing passing display by the defensemen.


Passing Data Explained

Pass: A reasonable and deliberate attempt to get the puck to a teammate which maintains possession or results in a shot attempt. This excludes zone clears, dump-ins, and anything that is akin to a desperate swipe at a loose puck. If a player passes a puck into space or off the boards, it finds a teammate, and it appears it was done deliberately, that shall be a pass. When in doubt, common sense will prevail.

What you see below is a chart illustrating pass completions, pass attempts, and pass percentages for each player in all three zones. A pass that goes across a zone or two will be marked as occurring in the zone it originates from.

Each completed pass that results in a shot taken by a teammate counts as one “shot attempt generated” or “SAG” in the chart below. This is tracked to attempt to determine which teammates are better at generating opportunities to shoot.

Zone Exit Stats Forwards: The forwards finished at 90.5% overall success and a 52.4 PE%. Good numbers. Boucher again led the Devils forwards in exit attempts with 12, but only 4 of them maintained possession. Michael Ryder had the best night of any forward, successful on all 10 attempts and 7 maintaining possession. Zubrus, Brunner, Bernier, Loktionov, Elias, and Jagr all finished at 50 PE% or higher. Henrique did as well, but it was just the one exit. Sestito attempted 4 exits, was successful on each, but gave away possession each time. Overall, not a bad night.

Defense: As solid as the passing was for the defensemen, the zone exits weren’t terrible, but not as great. The group’s 50 PE% is above the season average, but it was a mixed bag of results individually. Zidlicky had a turnover-free night and finished at 85.7 PE%. Greene had poor night, with 2 turnovers and finishing at 22.2 PE%. Volchenkov committed 2 turnovers and was successful on only 4/7 exit attempts overall. Fayne had a turnover and was underwhelming, but not awful.

The rookies continue to turn the puck over multiple times a game. Gelinas has 2 and Merrill had 3. Granted, they had the highest PE% rates after Zidlicky, but rarely do they go a full game without a turnover. Of course, it’s a byproduct of simply having the puck more, but if there was a way to look up how many goals are scored off of defensive zone turnovers, I’d imagine it’d be much higher than most other ways goals are scored. Collectively, the group had 10 turnovers on the night.


Zone Exits: Any attempt made by a player to advance the puck from their defensive zone. These actions fall into the below categories (as illustrated on the below chart).

Possession Exits:

(P) Pass: When a player passes the puck out of the zone and it successfully finds a teammate.

(C) Carry: When a player skates with the puck out of the zone, maintaining possession.

Successful Zone Exits without Possession:

(FP) Failed Pass: When a player passes the puck out of the zone, but it fails to find its target.

(FC) Failed Carry: When a player skates with the puck out of the zone, but loses possession shortly thereafter.

(CH) Chip: When the player lifts the puck out of the zone or throws it off the boards and out.

(X) Other: Any action that results in a successful zone exit not already covered.

Unsuccessful Zone Exits:

(PT) Pass Turnover: When a player fails to clear the zone with a pass and it results in a turnover to the opposition.

(CT) Carry Turnover: When a player fails to skate out of the zone with the puck and loses possession.

(I) Icing: An attempt to clear results in icing the puck.

(T) Turnover: Any action that results in a turnover not already covered.

What questions do you have on this data? How does it enhance your viewing of the game? Are there any changes you’d like to see in how the data is recorded?