Richard Coleman Hockey Analytics discusses measuring defensive performance

Richard Coleman

March 28, 2023

Richard Coleman Blackhawks

It is relatively easy to measure the defensive performance hockey analytics of your team. The video coach can look at all of the opponents’ scoring chances and break them down into types, for example, regular chances versus super chances (recall that regular chances have an 8% probability of becoming a goal and super chances a 31% probability), by category (off the rush, 5-man in the zone, off face-offs, etc.) and then for each opponent chance give each defender either a primary or secondary demerit.

hockey analytics:

Tracking the entire league is more complex; it might require 32 video coaches to do a similar analysis for each team for each game. Instead, it is possible to use a service such as Sportlogiq, which uses software to analyze video from every game automatically. Although more precise a measure than one of your video coaches, one of the measures they use, DZ denials, gives a good starting point.

First, one must understand what Sportlogiq defines as a “controlled entry with play after”. That event would indicate that the player in question (typically a forward) successfully entered the Offensive Zone with at least one successful play after entry. “Play after rate” just means that they had one successful play, which could be a successful pass, shot on net, deke, puck protection, or any of those; it does not mean the entire sequence will be successful. For example, last season Mikko Rantanen in one game. Played 19:54 minutes and had two controlled entries. In the first one, he crossed the blue line and successfully passed to Kadri. And then Kadri lost the puck, but Rantanen successfully entered. And had a successful play after that. On the second one, he enters and successfully protects the puck. When Armia lifts his stick but then is stuck-checked by Chiarot. So he lost possession, but since he got around the first defender, the “play after” was successful. 

Dzone denial rate-defensive performance

 DZ denial rate concerns the defender who was the closest player to the puck carrier when they entered their DZ. It’s almost the inverse of whether or not the attacking player had a “successful first play”. If their first play is a failed event. Defensive player was closest upon the entry. The opposing team can still recover. The puck while in your DZ. But the first play was a failure, so that entry is now considered over.

Below are the top ten NHL defensemen on Dzone denial rate from the 2021-22 seasons.

PlayerPositionTeamTOI (min)Overall DZ Denial RatePERCENTILE
Aaron EkbladDFlorida1073.100.55100%
Jake WalmanDDetroit657.420.5499%
Nikita ZadorovDCalgary1172.840.5499%
Noah HanifinDCalgary1385.980.5498%
Mattias SamuelssonDBuffalo725.080.5398%
Gustav ForslingDFlorida1283.320.5397%
Nicolas MelocheDSan Jose782.560.5397%
Ian ColeDCarolina1080.380.5396%
Jonas SiegenthalerDNew Jersey1254.310.5396%
John CarlsonDWashington1325.550.5395%