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An In-Depth Look at Zone Entries Statistics for the Tampa Bay Lightning

On top of weekly in-depth writing on the Tampa Bay Lightning this season, we have also formed a statistics workbook of hand-tracked microstats to complement articles here at Last Word. Thanks to the efforts of Kyle Pereria and Jack Pallotta, we have a detailed workbook with statistics ranging from shots, passes, zone entries, and more. Today, we will analyze how the Lightning play on zone entries.

Tampa Bay Lightning Microstats: Zone Entries Statistics Breakdown

Before we break down the statistics, we must understand the context and sample size of the data. Last Word tracked 11 games so far throughout the 2023-24 season for the Lightning, where players receive more ice time than others. Moreover, we plan to track additional games to expand our sample size.

When players enter the zone, they have multiple options with the puck on their blade. They can carry the puck in with possession, then fire a shot or pass. On the other hand, they can dump the puck in the zone and retrieve it via the forecheck. Some players even prefer to play with a combination of carries and dump-ins. Furthermore, some players do well without the puck on their stick, so they dish the biscuit to a teammate and get in scoring position. In short, there is no correct way to enter the zone in hockey. However, are some methods more effective while potentially leaving room for risk?

Zone Entry Wizards

The title “zone entry wizard” is awarded to players who frequently carry the puck in the zone with possession. This method of entry is arguably the most effective for creating scoring chances but also involves the most risk. These players typically possess immense speed in their game and are very skilled. 

Brayden Point is the “zone entry machine” of the Lightning. In roughly 169 minutes of 5v5 play, Point leads Tampa Bay with 57 zone entry carries, 20 more than the second-most on the roster. In addition, Point has the highest controlled zone entry percentage on the Bolts, at 70.71%. The superstar is always at the top of zone entry microstats tracked by All Three Zones every season.

Other players who frequently carry the puck with possession include Nikita Kucherov, Brandon Hagel, and Michael Eyssimont. All three are tied for second with 37 zone entry carries. Additionally, they all have zone entry carry-in percentages of around 50%

Dump Trucks

Moving on, “dump trucks” are the players who prefer to dump the puck and provide pressure on the forecheck. These players will have a low zone entry carry-in percentage. However, their successful retrieval percentage will be higher than the “zone entry wizards.” While not the case for all, these players tend to be less skilled and play with more grit.

Nick Paul is the “dump truck” according to the statistics compiled for the Tampa Bay Lightning this season. In about 142 minutes of 5v5 play, Paul leads the Lightning with 39 zone entry dump-ins. Further, the power forward places second in successful retrieval percentage (3.75%). Paul displays great tenacity and pace of the forecheck for the Bolts.

Anthony Cirelli, Tyler Motte, and Luke Glendening also fit this category. Despite their lower skill, they pressure opposing teams’ breakouts and force turnovers. All three players have successful retrieval percentages above 2.5% on the season.

According to Statistics for the Tampa Bay Lightning: The Unselfish Guy

A player of Nikita Kucherov‘s calibre has his own category. While Kucherov has a controlled zone entry percentage of 59.20%, he does not carry at the rate of his linemate Point. Instead, Kucherov controls his entries and follows with a pass. He leads the Lightning with 37 passes on zone entries, 12 more than the second-most on the roster. Kucherov’s poise with the puck entering the zone puts him at the top of the NHL’s leading scorers.

Defencemen Jump-in on the Rush

With the game evolving, we witness defencemen join the rush to give their forwards more passing options by trailing the play. Victor Hedman is the best offensive-transition defender on the roster by a mile without Mikhail Sergachev. Hedman ranks first amongst the defencemen, controlling 48.57% of his entries. Moreover, Hedman leads the blue line with eight zone entry carry-ins and 26 zone entry passes. Hedman continues to play well with the workload he’s handled this season due to injuries.

Plans With the Microstats Workbook

Zone entries are amongst the most vital hockey statistics to analyze a player’s impact on the game. The NHL does not track zone-entry data, so we wanted to discover how each Lightning player prefers to enter the zone. Kyle Pereira and Jack Pallotta will continue to track microstats for the Lightning to get a 15-20 game sample size. We plan to finalize the 2023-24 workbook over the summer. We also plan to create visuals to help comprehend the statistics tracked for fans.

Main photo: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports


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