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Kats Krunch: Examining the Stretch Pass

In a post about drop passes to enter the zone on the power play in Arik Parnass special teams project , he commented about how a stretch pass leading to more quick strikes than sustained zone time.

The quote is here, but I would recommend reading that post for the effects of a drop pass in the neutral zone, personal no-no if I was coaching any team, regardless of the effectiveness.

Here’s Arik’s definition of a stretch pass.

My definition of a stretch pass was a little bit subjective, but I think hockey guys would agree that you kind of know one when you see one. Generally speaking, a stretch pass is a pass that comes before the defensive blue line that tries to stretch the defense, generally hitting a guy with considerable speed in motion at the offensive blue line.

Predictably, stretch passes lead to the fewest average seconds in the offensive zone. They are the highest risk plays and strive for shot quality on the rush over zone time.

I would include passes from the neutral zone, because of the nature of hitting the man on the fly while the speed element backs off the opposition in anticipation of breaking up a streaking man into the defensive zone. Fortunately, subjective as it may be, we have some data for that.

We can explore the stretch pass, considering there’s a small(ish) set of workable data via the passing project. Now we can isolate stretch passes and investigate their impact … if any.

Quick strikes from both teams leads to firewagon hockey, fun to watch but a nightmare to coach, and reliant on both teams abandoning defensive structure, looking for quick rushes the other way, or trying to catch the opposition off guard.

The 2013-14 Toronto Maple Leafs were the epitome of quick strike hockey, trying to take advantage of speed and shots from the rush, forsaking sustained zone time and pressure. Needless to say, the strategy, while indicating some early success, failed miserably.

Clearly, the style is not a sustainable model.

But do stretch passes make any difference? Let’s get into the passing project data for aggregation and context.

The data fortunately allows for event sequencing (labelled as A1, A2, or A3) along with originating zone (A1 Zone, A2 Zone, A3 Zone), beginning with three passes from an eventual shot event, a shot on goal, or shot directed to the net (missed/blocked) and a goal.

The project, to a detriment, doesn’t record passes that don’t lead to an eventual shot event, a void to analysis, since there is value in determining why or how plays broke down into non-events. The non-event could provide quite the bit of value, but with the amount of work involved and all done on a volunteer basis places a great onus on trackers to be focused.

Using the entire dataset from the project’s latest release, I looked at two types of stretch passes at 5v5:

  • a primary pass preceding an eventual shot event designated as a stretch pass as the from the defensive or neutral zone, stamped with a ‘s’ in the zone data
  • a primary pass prior to a shot event originating from the offensive zone, after a stretch pass allowed for entry into the zone either from the defensive or neutral zone.
  • If applicable, the percentage of rebounds generated from both above categories.

Starting with the table below, I’ve separated stretch passes into two categories we can calculate the shooting percentage or efficiency via each event.

Getting a stretch pass and fring a shot on goal has led to an 8.35% shooting percentage. When there’s a pass in the offensive zone after the initial stretch pass, shooting efficiency drops to 5.62%.


# of Events

SOG sh%

Stretch Pass sh%

Stretch Pass




Stretch + 1 OZ Pass









The problem is unfortunately is one of small samples. The Passing project has tracked approximately 270 games, or about 22% of 2015-16 games. With 587 events, there’s approximately 2.2 stretch pass events that leads to a shot on goal.

Intuitively, the results make sense. There’s a greater chance at scoring a goal off a solo rush and quick strike via a stretch pass. When it comes to rebounds, quick strikes lead to less rebounds, by a small percentage difference from a rebound off an offensive zone pass before the shot. An interesting note, of the 21 rebound events recorded - 11 shots on goal - with 10 players getting their own rebound, while 10 times a trailer, or another player, stealthily, or via a speed burst got to the net to take advantage of any loose pucks – without generating a shot on goal.

With the limitations in the amount of tracked games, it’s difficult to attain uniformity among all NHL teams, but we can do an estimate of the amount of stretch passes allowed per game at 5v5. The table below calculates stretch passes per game taken and allowed by all NHL clubs. The amount of individual games tracked is included for context.

From the project data, it seems like San Jose is the biggest culprit on both ends, taking advantage of stretch passes while allowing the most per game. Giving teams chances to score, even if it’s a couple of times per game at 5v5 could be detrimental.

Sticking to California, Los Angeles seems to allow a couple of stretch passes per game in comparison to the amount of passing events they generate (we know of the grinding style LA utilizes, featuring effective zone time and shot generation), while an hour down the way, Anaheim is among league leaders in generating scoring chances from stretch passing.


Tm GP Pass/GM Taken SOG/Gm Taken Pass/Gm Allowed SOG/Gm Allowed
ANA 9 1.89 1.44 1.11 0.67
ARI 8 1.38 0.88 1.63 1.38
BOS 21 1.19 0.86 1.52 1.00
BUF 14 1.36 0.86 1.29 0.86
CAR 15 1.20 0.87 0.67 0.47
CBJ 14 1.36 0.93 1.50 1.21
CGY 15 1.07 0.67 2.00 1.20
CHI 49 1.27 0.69 0.76 0.53
COL 15 0.33 0.20 0.93 0.53
DAL 27 1.63 0.96 1.04 0.59
DET 17 1.29 0.82 1.06 0.76
EDM 20 1.15 0.80 1.85 1.15
FLA 17 0.35 0.29 0.59 0.29
L.A 9 0.78 0.56 2.00 1.56
MIN 12 1.58 0.83 1.50 0.75

 Elliotte Friedman outlined in a 30 Thoughts blog about the Montreal Canadiens propensity to throw pucks into the neutral zone and fight for the puck outside of the defensive zone. It’s not exactly a stretch pass, but this is a similarity to the quick strike notion outlined in the stretch pass definition.

Tm GP Pass/GM Taken SOG/Gm Taken Pass/Gm Allowed SOG/Gm Allowed
MTL 15 1.60 1.40 0.80 0.53
N.J 50 0.44 0.32 0.84 0.64
NSH 12 1.25 0.75 1.00 0.58
NYI 6 0.83 0.67 1.00 0.67
NYR 15 1.60 1.13 0.67 0.53
OTT 13 1.15 1.00 1.31 1.00
PHI 10 0.50 0.40 0.20 0.20
PIT 10 0.90 0.60 1.60 1.10
S.J 21 2.33 1.76 2.62 1.86
STL 14 1.57 1.07 1.07 0.71
T.B 33 0.58 0.30 0.61 0.33
TOR 24 0.79 0.54 0.83 0.63
VAN 16 0.81 0.69 1.06 0.63
WPG 14 0.71 0.43 1.43 0.93
WSH 29 0.79 0.48 0.31 0.21

This, along with a bunch of other interesting items should become a lot more clearer with a greater data set. 

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