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haroldsnepsts

Hockey 101: Zone exits for wingers

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Here's a good article by Justin Bourne that touches on something the Wings definitely need to get better at--zone exits. It sounds like it's one in a series he'll be writing on them.

For those who aren't familiar with him, Bourne is a former minor-leaguer who breaks downs of some of the finer points of the game in an entertaining way. It usually makes for a great read and illuminates aspects that a casual fan might overlook.

http://www.thescore.com/nhl/news/555320

While everyone plays an important role in getting the puck out of the zone, the onus usually falls on the winger to make the crucial play that determines whether your team’s heading on a rush, or doomed to a shift hemmed in your own zone.

A common mistake of wingers (well, of almost every forward) is giving in to their desire to get ahead of the play. You know where the play is headed, so you might as well get there, right?

Well, no. By playing higher in the D-zone on breakouts, you put yourself into traffic, which gives you less time to make a play, forces the D-man to make a harder pass, and puts you first in the queue of players due to get Kronwalled.

So, get low, open up, and pivot towards the boards.

Watching both the Wings and Kings, it's striking how much better the Kings are at exiting their zone, even under pressure. They usually have great puck support and guys and often make it look routine.

amato, number9 and Dave like this

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Watching both the Wings and Kings, it's striking how much better the Kings are at exiting their zone, even under pressure. They usually have great puck support and guys and often make it look routine.

I think this has been one of the most essential problems the Wings need to address. Bad breakouts lead to turnovers, and more time hemmed in. They also don't give forwards a good opportunity to establish the offensive zone. I'm hoping that with Dekeyser and Smith both with a year experience under their belt they will be more effective at moving the puck. Also considering so much of the team's success last year rested on the shoulders of Tater, Nyqvist, Sheahan, and Jurco, I want to think they'll be smarter about breakouts as well, cuz they will also be coming into this year with some nhl experience.

It would still be nice to somehow get a quarterback defensman to start the charge.

Edited by Echolalia

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I don't know if I would be as quick to hop on the wingers about the zone exits. Even momentary hesitation by the Red D allows the opponents to close the gap on the wingers no matter where they are. They need to get more confident on the puck, get their head up and make a decisive first pass. Happy hands are the enemy of the breakout!

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I don't know if I would be as quick to hop on the wingers about the zone exits. Even momentary hesitation by the Red D allows the opponents to close the gap on the wingers no matter where they are. They need to get more confident on the puck, get their head up and make a decisive first pass. Happy hands are the enemy of the breakout!

True. It's based on the assumption that the D-men can actually get the puck to the wingers.

It also might be influenced by Bourne being a winger, and that people assume the D-men play a big role. But it might not be as obvious that the wingers are actually a big factor as well.

Among the Wings d-men, I think Ericsson has a surprisingly good first pass for a defensive defenseman. Kronwall's is obviously very good. Smith's can be good when he doesn't overthink it and force things. Kindl is often a disaster when he's under pressure, and sometimes even when he's not. He's indecisive, then gets pressured and just chips it off the glass, needlessly turning the puck over. Dekeyser I think will improve. Lashoff is what you expect from a defensive guy. He'll try and make the simple play.

The whole team would benefit from a clearer system though. Watching the Kings, it's so obvious they put a lot of work into zone breakouts. A great team can still hem them in at times, but they're very good at getting the puck out under an intense forecheck.

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Our break outs have been bad the last couple years. I'm sure the exact numbers would make me cringe. You go back and look at how flawlessly Lids and Raf were at getting the puck to the wingers in stride to get the attack going and it's just amazing. It's on both the wingers and d-men, but the better the pass the better the chance the winger gets out of the zone with the puck. GMR's right though, our wingers haven't been very strong the last little while either. Tatar and Nyquist both look like guys that'll be possession beasts (so long as they both have the puck :hehe:)

Edited by Detroit # 1 Fan

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We've always been strong at D and up the middle. Which I think is the ideal.

Now we're still strong down the middle, but our D is lacking and our wingers are exposed because of it. Nyquist and Tatar making gains can correct that, but we seriously need a pro puck moving D-man.

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While I agree that this is a problem, I think the bigger problem is in the offensive zone. The team is horrible at puck possession. The most success seemed to come from the rush. The forwards don't cycle particularly well, and the forcheck is almost non existent.

Detroit is 25th for CF%, and 9th for FF%. The team just constantly shoots the puck into defensemen. There's no offensive movement to open things up. Everyone just kind of stands around, loses the puck, and it's time for some more mediocre defense.

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While I agree that this is a problem, I think the bigger problem is in the offensive zone. The team is horrible at puck possession. The most success seemed to come from the rush. The forwards don't cycle particularly well, and the forcheck is almost non existent.

Detroit is 25th for CF%, and 9th for FF%. The team just constantly shoots the puck into defensemen. There's no offensive movement to open things up. Everyone just kind of stands around, loses the puck, and it's time for some more mediocre defense.

As someone who isn't much for stats, something there good for is illustrating just how true things about the Wings are. We are horrible in the offensive zone at creating stuff. You hit the nail on the head talking about the rush, last year it seemed whenever we'd score goals it'd be river hockey style. 3on2 up the ice.... 2on1 back... 3on1 the other way... can't have sucess that way. From 06-11 we'd dominate in zone. We need to get back to the strong cycle game and criss crossing off the rush to enter the zone, we've become much too predictable. Hopefully the 2 new voices behind the bench can change up how we operate, at least a bit.

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We have issues in all three zones, but definitely the d-zone - specifically, our breakouts - is where we're hurting the most. The best defense is never having to play defense, which means never being hemmed in your end, which means being able to get the puck up and out efficiently and precisely. Which means smart, responsible wingers; a balanced mix of righties and lefties; and - above all - mobile, puck-moving defensemen who do good things with the puck. That's why we'd want a Mike Green: he might not be great at defending, but you're going to be spending less time in your end with him on your team. Plus, he's a threat in the o-zone, another thing we're lacking on the back end.

I urge everyone to 1) read Justin Bourne and also 2) check out SBNation, a stats-heavy dealy where you get can find in-depth stuff like, for example, Leaving The Zone With Possession: Which Leafs Forwards Struggled, Excelled?

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Is this a thread where all of LGW is in agreement on our problems moving the puck? The inability of our D to make a pass under pressure? The number of board battles our wingers lose in their own zone? The lack of righties? Check, check and check.

Quincey is the king of passing the puck into his partners skates, Kindl won't take a hit to make a play. Smith got a lot better when he was taken away from Quincey and gained the confidence to start skating the puck out of the zone. Lashoff just chips it out (the "safe" play) which means the puck just comes straight back at us.

Detroit # 1 Fan likes this

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