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On Henrik Zetterberg’s Unsustainably Hot Start

The Detroit Red Wings have gotten off to a mediocre start under new coach Jeff Blashill. The team has a 5-5-1 record, which has them sitting fifth in the Atlantic Division before the start of play on Tuesday. Often a solid possession team under the now departed Mike Babcock, the Wings rank 26th in the NHL with a score-adjusted shot attempt percentage of 46.7 percent.

Veteran Henrik Zetterberg has seemingly shouldered a lot of that load so far. Prior to Tuesday’s tilt with Tampa Bay, Zetterberg leads the team in both points (14) and assists (11). So, everything is going smoothly for Detroit’s veteran Swedish forward, right? Not so fast. The underlying numbers suggest Zetterberg is struggling, and those will have to change or else his current level of production is due for a noticeable dip.

Below will look primarily at Zetterberg’s 5v5 numbers. But a caveat that shouldn’t be lost is that Zetterberg has notched seven of his points on the power play. Given that the Wings have shot about 26 percent with him on the ice when up a man this season, that level of production is all but assured to slow down.

Starting with Zettergberg’s puck possession numbers, his current +0.7 percent relative shot attempt percentage in 2015-16 is lower than any other season in his career (all career numbers stated in this article exclude Zetterberg’s two season prior to 2005-06, as many of the stats cited were not tracked before then). Even more troubling is his raw shot attempt percentage, which currently sits at 47.2 percent. Zetterberg has never had a season in which is shot attempt percentage, after adjusted for score effects, was lower than 53.7 percent.

While 11 games is a fairly significant sample size, Zetterberg’s 11 game rolling shot attempt percentage has seen similar dips in the past, so perhaps this is just a blip.

But, taking a deeper look at Zetterberg, there are other reasons to be concerned that this isn’t just a blip. Both his scoring chances and high danger scoring chances percentage, as defined by War on Ice, are currently lower than any other season of his career.

Zetterberg’s PDO of 104.12 would be the second highest total of his career, while his current personal 5v5 shooting percentage of 11.8 percent would be his highest percentage since 2007-08. In five of the past eight seasons, Zetterberg has had a 5v5 shooting percentage of 6.2 percent or below. So, he’s not likely to continue to get the puck luck he’s been seeing so far in 2015-16.

Another number that unlikely to be sustained is Zetterberg’s individual point percentage. He’s notched a point on an inordinate amount of the goals he’s been on the ice for so far this season compared to his career mark, a sign that he’s unlikely to sustain his current production. Here’s a look at the past three seasons

Chances are, Zetterberg won’t continue to notch assists at the same rate as his IPP comes back down to earth.

Zetterberg is also firing the puck far less so far this season. His shot attempt rate has been on the decline, but this season it’s taken an even further troubling dip, this far.

Zetterberg will have to start firing the puck again more if he hopes to at all keep up his current level of production when regression comes calling for some of the percentages spelled out above.

Zetterberg is seemingly off to a very good start for a Red Wings team who has been uneven so far this season. But trouble could be ahead, as many signs point to his current level of production being inflated by unsustainable percentages.

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