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Who Needs Help in the Faceoff Circle

Today's feature comes via the prompting of David, a reader of this blog who noted to me in an email that "it seems that teams on the power play seem to win face-offs most of the time. I figured it was just one of those weird perception things... that really had no merit." David then showed some numbers from selected teams that seemed to indicate a trend, so I went ahead and pulled all the data for this season up through the games of February 13, and came up with the following results for teams depending on the situation (even strength, power play, shorthanded):

Faceoff Percentages By Team & Situation
TeamEV %PP %SH %Tot %
Anaheim Ducks51.09%50.97%42.45%49.68%
Atlanta Thrashers52.74%58.81%40.92%51.87%
Boston Bruins49.14%54.99%38.19%48.33%
Buffalo Sabres45.99%61.76%42.52%47.71%
Calgary Flames50.33%54.57%41.96%49.71%
Carolina Hurricanes50.08%58.02%46.97%50.92%
Chicago Blackhawks51.74%60.68%46.41%52.41%
Colorado Avalanche47.80%54.29%37.77%47.52%
Columbus Blue Jackets53.04%56.76%44.10%52.29%
Dallas Stars49.14%55.45%49.32%49.98%
Detroit Red Wings54.20%57.71%54.07%54.70%
Edmonton Oilers49.81%59.54%48.43%50.89%
Florida Panthers49.33%53.83%41.89%48.84%
Los Angeles Kings47.38%55.09%42.69%48.00%
Minnesota Wild46.64%53.61%41.47%46.84%
Montreal Canadiens49.02%53.46%41.51%48.65%
Nashville Predators50.84%50.12%45.48%50.04%
New Jersey Devils49.65%56.46%44.42%49.90%
New York Islanders51.43%58.84%45.40%51.45%
New York Rangers51.69%57.70%48.06%52.14%
Ottawa Senators52.09%54.30%43.28%51.08%
Philadelphia Flyers49.07%60.00%41.59%49.63%
Phoenix Coyotes48.97%53.87%36.70%48.06%
Pittsburgh Penguins47.03%54.27%42.40%47.53%
San Jose Sharks51.55%61.59%42.78%52.05%
St. Louis Blues51.26%51.05%55.21%51.76%
Tampa Bay Lightning50.14%56.70%38.46%49.46%
Toronto Maple Leafs50.06%56.39%42.09%49.98%
Vancouver Canucks48.34%55.26%41.74%48.38%
Washington Capitals50.47%52.44%48.49%50.43%
Grand Total50.00%56.04%43.96%50.00%

The Grand Total line does seem to indicate that teams on the power play fare better in the faceoff circle; this makes some sense, given the presence of at least one extra player who can gain possession of the puck after the drop. Taking this view does provide an additional perspective when thinking about what certain teams might try to acquire at the trade deadline. Just about every year, some team picks up a good faceoff guy (like Yannic Perrault), but when reviewing this data, which teams might need help in that area?

The overall laggards are Minnesota, Colorado, Pittsburgh and Buffalo, all below 48% in total. If you look at players who are likely to be acquired for their faceoff ability, however, most of those guys are defensive specialists, not the ones who get prime time on the power play. So, for example, the Nashville Predators (50.12%) and Anaheim Ducks (50.97%) which have won the fewest draws while on the power play, picking a specialist up in trade probably won't help there (although it might be worth considering, given how Anaheim is 23rd on the PP and Nashville is 27th).

It is perhaps more useful to focus on even-strength (where Buffalo, Minnesota and Pittsburgh all lag) and particularly shorthanded (with Phoenix, Colorado and Boston) situations to find teams that could both use and take advantage of help in the faceoff circle. You can also look at the Tampa Bay Lightning, who, at 49.46% overall, would appear to be in good shape, but when you examine their breakdown by situation, you'll see a lousy shorthanded performance. If they become sellers at the trade deadline they could look for a solid PK specialist who can win more of those draws and take some of the load off the Big Three (Lecavalier, Richards, and St. Louis).

The Red Wings boast a sizable lead at 54.7% of faceoffs won in total, including an outstanding figure of 54.07% in shorthanded situations (only St. Louis is also above the 50% mark while a man down). If the Blues and/or Blue Jackets fall out of the Western Conference playoff hunt might they be able to offer assets that could help teams like Colorado and Boston, which are in the midst of exceedingly tight playoff races? I'll leave that for Spector to ruminate on, but hopefully this provides some insight into how your favorite team is working the faceoff dot in various situations.

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