The 2016-17 BU PP: Passes and shot assists

Previous posts:

Intro and general shot locations
Individual shot locations
Shot outcomes

It’s been a little while since my last post, but we are back with some different data to look at this week. After getting most of our shot data sifted through in previous posts, we can look a little bit at some other stuff I was tracking, starting with passes.

To begin, here are a couple basic count plots that should give an idea of who was distributing the puck most for BU’s power play units.

Total passes

So it’s not really surprising that Keller is far and away BU’s most frequent passer, considering PP1 is basically a ‘1-3-1 and Keller can do whatever he wants’ type deal. He absolutely orchestrated and quarterbacked the first unit for the Terriers during this power play. With 71 passes, Keller has everyone beat as Harper, with the second most, only has 53.

Here are further breakdowns of pass totals by unit.



Now the issue with just looking at pass totals is obviously the second unit is going to have fewer overall passes since they were on the ice much less often and had less time and fewer opportunities to pass the puck. By factoring time on ice into the equation, we can see whether the pass rates were similar or vastly different between power play units, without relying just on counts.

Screen Shot 2018-07-18 at 3.22.04 PM

Obviously we’re extrapolating a fair amount here, especially with the second unit, but this at least gives us a look at whether the raw pass rates are all that different between PP1 and PP2. For example, we saw Keller had a dominant lead in passes over anyone on either unit, but the rate at which he passed the puck (125.74passes/60min) wasn’t too different than Chad Krys (135.00/60) or Dante Fabbro (139.05/60) on the second unit. Again, we have to be kind of careful here with the comparisons since the second unit played less than half the time the first unit did, but with what I had, Krys and Fabbro were on pace to surpass Keller’s pass rates.

This isn’t to pass any judgment on talent or rank power play members. It’s just to show that while Keller obviously was the conduit for PP1, PP2 ran through both Krys and Fabbro.

We can also see in the above table that PP2, using this data, had a higher Passes/60 rate than the first unit. Still, keep in mind they played far less time so it’s not clear that this rate would be sustained if they played the same amount of time. And again, this isn’t to necessarily say the first unit was more efficient or worse at moving the puck than the second unit. It could just mean that the second unit’s formation forced them to move the puck more, the way they open up the penalty kill might rely more on passing, they might simply be more stationary than the mobile first unit, etc.

To look a little bit more at the value of these passes, I tracked which ones immediately led to shot attempts. These are known as Primary Shot Assists.

Primary Passes

You’ll notice Kieffer Bellows is not in the graph above and that’s because of his 15 passes, none ever directly led to a shot attempt. Again Keller has pulled away from the pack here, doling out 15 more primary shot assists than anyone else on either unit. Krys’ 10 pale in comparison until we look again at rate statistics and not just raw count.

Just to explain the table below in case it’s unclear, every ‘SA’ refers to primary shot assists, not shot attempts. We are looking at passes only here. The columns are self-explanatory except I think maybe %SA might not be super easy to gauge necessarily. I basically just wanted to look at what percentage of a player’s passes ended up being primary shot assists. For example, you can see Krys, Carpenter, and Keller each had about a third of their passes go for primary shot assists while Harper, who’s second in total passes, only had seven of his (13%) contribute directly to a shot attempt.

Screen Shot 2018-07-18 at 3.41.57 PM

It’s just a snapshot peek into what’s happening here but, again, when you add in /60 rates you see that Krys is operating around the same pace as Keller for this particular sample of data. The two are both expected to record 44 or 45 primary shot assists per 60 minutes though, as I said before, having less TOI for the second unit might mean things even out to less than the first unit over time. Or they could stay the same, I don’t know!

If you look at the table, you might notice that Patrick Curry, Jordan Greenway, and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson each have SA/60 in the single digits. While it may seem unimpressive, if you factor in their respective roles, it makes sense. Curry and Greenway spend almost all of their time directly in front of the net tipping pucks or trying to convert rebounds. JFK usually acts as the bumper on PP1 in the middle of the slot for deflections or will just shoot the puck from that close as well. Their jobs aren’t really to set goals up the way guys farther out are, so even though they might have a decent number of passes to their names, those passes are more to move things around. Greenway especially spends a lot of time behind the net with someone pressuring him, so a bunch of his passes are likely just to relieve that pressure.

And something else I wanted to bring up again because it’s interesting to me is Harper. He has the second most passes on the team, but doesn’t set a lot of things up. If we look at his pass map, it’s a bit easier to see why. The purple dots are where the passes originated, and the line shows where it went! Shoutout to FC Python for their pass map tutorial that inspired these charts.

[EDIT: I have updated the pass maps so that a pass that was indirect (off the boards) or rimmed around the boards is now a dashed line. This is so you can still see where the pass began but now you know it didn’t follow that exact path to get to its destination] 


The vast majority of Harper’s passes originate around the edge of that right circle and 27 of them are received by Keller. That’s half of his passes to one person, and if you remember that Keller patrols the center point/high slot, you can see that many of Harper’s passes go to that general vicinity. The two of them sometimes pass back and forth between one another, or Keller will go to the other wall where McAvoy is set up. For Keller, 25 of his passes went to Harper while 24 went to McAvoy. They spent a lot of time moving the puck around that high triangle.

But back to Harper! If we narrow this down to just his primary shot assists, we can see where those came from in comparison to his other passes.


Alright so one thing that jumps out at me is Harper’s primary shot assists are very long passes, not quite the little back and forths that he does with Keller on the right side, though four of these are still to Keller. Another is that five of his seven primary shot assists are cross-ice and very lateral.

I’m going to show everyone else’s pass maps and primary shot assists charts below so you can compare for yourself.

And for all the nice things I said about Krys, take a look at where these shot assists are coming from. Obviously he’s playing down by the point on a stationary power play so he’s not going to get too crazy, but this is where the difference is. If you scroll down to Keller’s pass maps, compare the locations of his passes and which parts of the ice they cross. Krys here has one pass that crosses the slot (or “Royal Road” if you want to call it that), while all the others don’t really broach any super dangerous areas of the ice. They’re all far away. In fact, the shots taken after Krys passes are, on average, 38.98 feet away from the goal compared to Keller passes that yield shots from about 28.88 feet out. I don’t know how this turned into a Clayton Keller/Chad Krys comparison post, but I’d like to see what Krys can do with a little more freedom on the power play. I haven’t looked at a lot of footage from this past year in depth, and I haven’t checked other PP formations from this year at length, so he could have very well had more free reign with the man advantage already, but still! I’m intrigued.

These two are together because Bellows doesn’t have any shot assists and Curry’s sole shot assist is that pass down from the right circle to the right point. Lots of lower to high passes for these guys.

Those PP2 dmen were really glued to that blue line weren’t they.

Take a look at those passes from below the goal line, wowee. If you watched Greenway play at BU this is wholly unsurprising since that’s where he spends a ton of time just refusing to be knocked off the puck, but it’s still so impressive to see on a chart here.

Like I mentioned under Krys’ charts, Keller has much more variability with his shot assists and sent the puck to lower and more dangerous areas with some more movement. And check out the center point in his overall pass map. Remember what I said about that area being rather bare for shot attempts? Now you can see why!

As I said earlier in this post, a lot of JFK’s passes here on the left are not often setting up goals but instead, like Greenway’s, are likely relieving pressure or trying to get the puck to a better area for someone to work with.

Last note before I kind of wrap this up here. After seeing everyone’s pass rates, for individual players as well as whole units, I was kind of curious whether one unit passed the puck more before a shot attempt than the other. I figured the second unit would pass more since they don’t move as much, but the averages are almost identical. For both units combined, there are, on average, ~2.78 passes before each shot attempt. The average for PP1 is 2.77 (130 passes for 47 shot attempts) while PP2 posted a clean 2.80 (70 passes for 25 shot attempts).

And I think I’m gonna cut this post here! My next post is going to be about pass locations based on penalty kill formation to see if there’s anything that changes shape when BU is playing against a certain PK. I was debating whether or not to include it in this one, but we’re at 1700 words already so I will save it for next time.

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