If you’ve been a regular follower of our analytics posts over the years, then you are no doubt familiar with the value and insight that the offensive zone shift start percentages stat can provide. Where a player begins a majority of their shifts on the ice says a lot about a players role on the team.
With 15 games of the Capitals 2022-23 season now in the books, it’s a good time to take our first look at the offensive zone shift start percentages for each of the Capitals skaters. While many of the percentages are as somewhat expected, there are a few interesting tidbits of insight, mostly pertaining to the Capitals newest members, but also pertaining to shifting roles for a couple of the Capitals’ veterans.
To no surprise, Alex Ovechkin has the highest offensive zone shift deployment rate of all Capitals skaters. In fact, it’s 5% higher than last season’s mark of 87% (which is a topic for another day). It’s also no surprise that Evgeny Kuznetsov is a close second in offensive zone shift start percentage. The two are paid to score, so deploying them in the offensive zone makes simple sense.
The opposite is true for Nick Dowd and Garnet Hathaway, who are paid to defend, and often tasked at stopping the opposing team’s top line. As a result, they will start a majority of their shifts in the defensive zone. Beck Malenstyn is made for defending, and made to be a 4th liner, so his rate from the few games he played is also not surprising.
I was a little surprised by Erik Gustafsson’s high offensive zone deployment rate. Gustafsson has been filling in for John Carlson in many respects, and thus that might be the cause of his high offensive zone start percentage.
I was also a bit surprised by Dmitry Orlov percentage above 50%. (He had a 35.57% offensive zone shift start percentage last season). Orlov is arguably the Capitals best defensive defenseman, but can also skate and score goals. He’s the most difficult for me. I want him on the backend, defending, but I also want to see him skating into the zone and firing more shots. His increase a shifting of roles for Orlov.
On the low end, I was a bit surprised by Aliaksei Protas’ low offensive zone shift start percentage. It’s apparent that Laviolette is looking to Protas for defense, and that confounds me a bit.
Finally, Martin Fehervary was hoping to provide more offense this season, but the drop to the second pairing has lowered his rate from last season.
By Jon Sorensen