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Advanced Stats For VGK Dummies: Zone Starts

Next up in our series of Advanced Stats for Dummies (last was Corsi For Percentage) we are taking on a stat that helps to understand what a player does best. It’s called “Zone Starts” and it measures the number of faceoffs a player is on the ice for in the offensive or defensive zone.

Zone Starts are calculated using a very simple procedure. Any time a player is on the ice for a faceoff in the offensive or defensive zone he is scored with a Zone Start. (Neutral zone faceoffs are ignored). If the player is on the ice for a faceoff in the offensive zone, it goes for an offensive Zone Start, if his team is in the defensive zone, he gets a defensive zone start. Zone Starts are then measured by percentage.

Offensive Zone Start Percentage (oZS%) = Offensive Zone Starts / Total Zone Starts
Defensive Zone Start Percentage (dZS%) = Defensive Zone Starts / Total Zone Starts

Example time! Let’s use David Perron because he tweeted at us one time and it made us blush. Perron starts the game on the ice, the opening faceoff is taken (no Zone Start scored). The puck is iced and the Golden Knights get a faceoff in the offensive zone (+1 oZS). Shot goes into the netting, another offensive zone faceoff (+1 oZS). Play continues, the puck goes out of play in the Golden Knights zone, Perron stays on the ice for the faceoff in the defensive zone (+1 dZS).

Offensive Zone Starts (oZS) – 2
Defensive Zone Starts (dZS) – 1
Offensive Zone Start Percentage (oZS%) – 2/(2+1) = 2/3 = 66.6%
Defensive Zone Start Percentage (dZS%) – 1/(2+1) = 1/3 = 33.3%

Perron had an oZS% of 43.9% last season and a dZS% of 56.1. The two years he played in Pittsburgh though, his oZS% was 60% and his dZS% was 40%.

As you can see, you really only need to focus on one side or the other as oZS% and dZS% offset. (43.9+56.1=100 / 60+40=100)

Here’s a look at the Golden Knights top oZS% players. First forwards.

PlayerOffensive Zone Start Percentage (oZS%)
James Neal59.6%
Jonathan Marchessault53.1%
David Perron53.1%
Oscar Lindberg52.3%
William Carrier51.5%

Now defensemen.

PlayerOffensive Zone Start Percentage (oZS%)
Colin Miller65.0%
Brayden McNabb57.3%
Nate Schmidt57.1%
Shea Theodore53.1%
Griffin Reinhart51.2%

And the Golden Knights top dZS% players. Forwards…

PlayerDefensive Zone Start Percentage (dZS%)
Erik Haula55.5%
William Karlsson53.4%
Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare52.0%
Cody Eakin51.5%

Defensemen

PlayerDefensive Zone Start Percentage (dZS%)
Clayton Stoner54.7%
Deryk Engelland52.3%
Jason Garrison51.6%
Jon Merrill50.5%
Luca Sbisa49.7%

But why does it matter?

Well, There’s one simple answer why zone starts are important, player deployment. ZS% reflects how the player is being used on the ice. A player with a high oZS% will likely be on the ice for offensive situations. Players with a higher dZS% would be more likely to jump over the boards for defensive-zone faceoffs. Pretty simple, but it can mean a lot more than that.

Zone Starts also should allow fans to learn about Gerard Gallant’s coaching style. Based off oZS% numbers alone, fans can expect James Neal and Colin Miller on the ice generating offense. On the contrary, Gallant will have checking/shutdown lines he’ll deploy in high-risk situations. Cody Eakin‘s 51.5 dZS% and William Karlsson‘s 53.4 dZS% are good examples of their ability to handle defensive-zone faceoffs.

Erik Haula, Eakin, Karlsson and Deryk Engelland were four players with noticeably higher dZS% stats. Haula’s 55.5 dZS% is a major indication of strong back-checking and take-away/giveaway ratio. Add Karlsson’s 53.4 dZS% or Eakin’s 51.5 dZS% and Bellemare’s 52.0 dZS% and you might have Vegas’s first checking line. This stat also may solve the “is Deryk Engelland actually valuable” conundrum. 52.3 dZS% isn’t overwhelming, but it does indicate he’s a hell of a shot blocker, something Gallant may value.

Then there’s Vadim Shipachyov, who has yet to play a game in the NHL, but is expected to have a major impact on the Golden Knights. His oZS% is going to be a great indicator of what they are expecting of Shippy out of the gate. Is he a two-way player? Is he an offensive powerhouse? Is he out there when the team is up a goal? What about down a goal? Zone Starts is the key.

One last reason Zone Starts can be such an interesting stat is context. When a player like Miller, McNabb, or Neal have oZS% above 59% it’s no wonder they have high Corsi For Percentage, +/- ratings, and even points. Zone Starts go a long way in giving the “why” behind certain surprising numbers. If a guy has a oZS% in the 40’s, and a CF% above many others on the team, he’s clearly doing something really right. On the flip side, there’s no reason to freak out about a low CF% if a guy starts 60% of his shifts in the defensive zone. Think of Zone Starts like the “more you know” rainbow.

Cause, you know, knowledge is power.

Alright, enough with the stupid saying, Zone Starts is over. We’ll see ya next time on Advanced Stats for VGK Dummies when we take on PDO.

***

As we were going through the numbers, a few of the younger guys numbers really jumped off the page at us. You understand Zone Start Percentage now, so I’m just going to post the numbers and let you jump to conclusions.

PlayerOffensive Zone Start Percentage (oZS%)Defensive Zone Start Percentage (dZS%)
Alex Tuch54.3%45.7%
Teemu Pulkkinen65.5%34.5%
Tomas Nosek42.7%57.3%

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7 Comments

  1. JV

    Just wanted to say thanks for doing these. Even as a long time hockey fan, these fancy stats can still be confusing at times. You break them down in an easy to understand way.

  2. James

    @Jason Pothier
    Your best work yet.

    Regarding Alex Tuch, perhaps he’s a player that passes the eye test but not the numbers test. The American Hockey League numbers don’t exactly jump off the page.

  3. Heffay702

    I’m already starting to see another piece of the big picture. Zone starts gives you some context as to what kind of opportunities the player has had and either helps bolster or debunk other advanced stats like CF%

    Thanks for continuing to drop the knowledge.

  4. James

    @Jason Pothier
    You have definitely found your niche! May I suggest touching upon the following subjects in the future:

    How WOWY shows an individual’s statistics with or without certain players on the ice.

    How quality of competition can also play a role in possession numbers.

    Fenwick-close and how it’s better than Fenwick because it mitigates score effects.

    Points per 60 minutes and the value of that number.

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