Six reasons why the puck dump-in is key to your team’s success
By Rick Traugott
There’s been a lot of talk lately about advanced analytics (statistics) in the NHL. Next to Corsi and Fenwick (new terms for shot-attempt statistics), one of the hot topics in the hockey stats game is Zone Entry and Zone Exit success. I’ve been particularly interested in using Zone Entry statistics to rationalize my thoughts on carry ins versus the puck dump-in.
In the NHL, most teams will generate a shot (on net, blocked, missed) an average of about 66% of the time when the puck is carried over the blue line. At the same time, NHL teams will generate a shot around 29% of the time when they dump it in. Reading these statistics, you have to wonder why a team would ever want to dump the puck in when they are generating a shot more than twice as often on carry ins (see Dom Luszczyszyn’s article in the Hockey News “Two Years of Research, 1230 Games Watched: Why Neutral Zone Play is Much More Important than You Think”).
But here’s the thing. Dumping the puck into the offensive zone is essential to a team’s success. It may not be crucial to shot generation, but so much more happens when the puck is dumped in that it is a vital part of a team’s playbook.
Why Dump Ins Are So Important
1) A good puck dump-in can gain 100 feet of ice in one second. A player stepping over the center ice line and dumping it in past the defenseman will advance the puck a long way in a very short period of time. This forces the opposition to bring the puck 200 feet back to your net to create offense. Simply put, a good puck dump-in is a good defensive strategy as well.
2) There are no worse places to turn over the puck than at the blue lines. It’s almost an instant scoring chance for the other team if they can take the puck away while a team is going hard on offense. Therefore, if there is any doubt about losing the puck at the offensive blue line, without question it has to be dumped in.
3) Good line changes are key to team success. A well-communicated dump in (and the subsequent line change) can keep momentum going on the forecheck, while getting fresh legs on the ice relatively seamlessly. As a coach, my command from the bench when we need a change on the rush is “Over and In.” That signals to the forwards that the puck carrier is to skate to the red line and dump it in, while the other two forwards come straight to the bench for a good change—hopefully not losing (and maybe even gaining) ground going down the ice.
4) A mix of both puck dump-ins and carry ins will keep the opposition defensemen honest. If all your team does is carrying it in all the time, defensemen get comfortable always stepping up and closing the gap. If a team throws in a few dump ins, then defensemen have to cheat a little in case the puck is dumped in past them and they have to contend with a fast forecheck.
I liken this to good tennis playing. A few drop shots keeps your opponent wary and doesn’t let them get comfortable just hitting the ball from the baseline.
5) Dump ins create forechecking situations, and forechecking can create good team speed. I’m a big believer that a lot of your team’s speed and momentum is generated on the forecheck, and that games can be won and lost in the effort of chasing down the puck in the offensive zone. I will often tell my players that they MUST dump the puck in on their first two shifts when they cross the red line. The effort in sustained forechecking, the time spent in the offensive zone, and the speed of play only contributes to team speed right off the bat.
6) Finally, in keeping with the momentum theme, it is very tough on the opposing defensemen when forwards are crashing down on them full speed. A good forechecking team can literally take a game over by good chasing in the offensive zone. Teams that can read and react to the breakout can often demoralize the opposition—it can feel like there are seven players forechecking rather than five.
My rule of thumb for the teams I coach has always been to dump it in on even-man rushes, and carry it in on rushes where we have an advantage—3 on 2, 2 on 1. But that’s just a rule of thumb. My most skilled players will be able to create scoring chances on even-man rushes, but they must never turn the puck over at the blue line.
The Takeaway: Dumping the puck in is simply an important part of a team’s arsenal. Always carrying the puck in makes teams a little bit of a one-trick pony. Practicing puck dump-ins and subsequent forechecking is imperative; it’s not always the easiest thing in a practice setting, but hugely necessary. Even though the stats say there are fewer shots, there is too much upside to this team tactic to ignore.
Rick Traugott is a veteran coach who has served with Hockey Canada as a camp coach, with both the National Women’s U18 and U22/Development teams. His teams have won numerous championships and medals in international competitions. For more information visit his website, www.ricktraugott.com. Reproduced with permission of Rick Traugott.