I caught a nice point on twitter this weekend, courtesy of Tyler Dellow, who mentioned that one of the big differences between Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin is that the Penguins use the former a lot more in the defensive zone than they do the latter.

I’d always sort of assumed that was the case, but hadn’t ever looked into it, but it got me thinking. Most people have those two and Alexander Ovechkin as the three best players in the world (although there are arguments for others as well, notably Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Kane) and I wondered how they’d compare in terms of faceoffs.

To find out, I went to Gabriel Desjardin’s excellent site, where they keep track of that sort of thing, and did up a chart for this season and the past two, comparing the number of offensive zone and defensive zone faceoffs each has been on for.

Faceoffs Crosby Malkin Ovechkin
07-08 Offensive 221 342 396
08-09 Offensive 390 410 392
09-10 Offensive 260 231 189
07-08 Defensive 223 307 286
08-09 Defensive 297 234 280
09-10 Defensive 231 182 158
Total Offensive 871 983 977
Total Defensive 751 723 724
Total Percent Off.: 53.7 57.6 57.4

Naturally, since these are the game’s best offensive players, all of them are on the right side of 50%; no coach, after all, wants to maroon his best scorers in the defensive zone. However, there is a significant gap between Crosby and the other two.

It’s an important point to note; Crosby’s numbers would undoubtedly be influenced a little bit by an extra 100-or-so offensive zone face-offs. Given that the vast majority of NHL players fall between 40% and 60% on this scale, a 3%-4% shift is fairly significant.

It’s not a critical point, but it is one to keep in mind when comparing these three players.