Loose-puck recoveries remain the number one way for a team to gain control of the puck. Teams that recover more loose-pucks than their opponents out-chance the opposition, while players who produce more offensive-zone LPR's are regularly among their team's top offensive-players. LPR's (particularly in the offensive zone) are among the key factors in maintaining puck-possession and creating offense.
Loose-puck recoveries occur when a player gains control of a puck that was (at the time of his acquiring control) not in the possession of any other player on the ice. Loose-pucks can be the product of a broken play, a blocked shot or pass, a successful stick or body-check, a dump-in, dump-out, or rebound.
There are two main ways for a player to find the puck on his stick; he can either be the recipient of a pass from a teammate, or he can acquire possession by way of a loose-puck recovery. During the almost 1000 games I've tracked, an impressive 59.4% of individual player even-strength possessions begin by way of a loose-puck recovery, while only 40.6% begin as the result of a pass from a teammate.
In the offensive-zone, 56.8% of possession come off of LPR's, in the neutral-zone 58.4% of possessions are the result of an LPR, while 61.7% of defensive-zone possessions originate with a defensive-zone loose-puck recovery.
If we compare how teams perform in regards to loose-puck recoveries, we see a direct correlation with success and LPR's. Teams who out-chance the opposition at even-strength average 8 more offensive-zone loose-puck recoveries per-60 than those teams that are out-chanced. In the neutral-zone, teams that out-chance the opposition average 3 more n-zone LPR's per-60, while defensive-zone LPR's actually drop by 4 (per-60) when teams out-chance the opposition at even-strength. Not surprising, since teams that out-chance the opposition spend less time in their own end; thereby reducing the necessity to recover loose-pucks in the defensive-zone.
Offensive-zone loose-puck recoveries in particular correlate well with players who create scoring-chances. Of the teams I've tracked more than 500 even-strength minutes, the list of leaders in offensive-zone loose-puck recoveries is identical to the list of leaders in scoring-chances. Those players helping to produce at least 12.3 scoring-chances per-60, and recovering a minimum of 37.6 offensive-zone loose-pucks per-60 include; Mats Zuccarello, Max Pacioretty, Phil Kessel, Nazem Kadri, James Van Riemsdyk, Taylor Hall, and Tyler Seguin.
Dump-in attempts still outnumber controlled offensive-zone entries; despite evidence showing that controlled entries produce substantially more scoring-chances than dump-ins. Until teams rely less on dump-ins, the offensive-zone loose-puck recovery will remain the wheel-turning piston of offensive-production in the NHL.