Washington Capitals Need To Improve Their Faceoff Percentage in 2019

CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 29: Evgeny Kuznetsov #92 of the Washington Capitals and Sean Monahan #23 of the Calgary Flames at face off in an NHL game against the Washington Capitals at the Scotiabank Saddledome on October 29, 2017 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)
CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 29: Evgeny Kuznetsov #92 of the Washington Capitals and Sean Monahan #23 of the Calgary Flames at face off in an NHL game against the Washington Capitals at the Scotiabank Saddledome on October 29, 2017 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images) /

It’s maybe one of the most overlooked aspects in the game of hockey.

It’s the thing that happens after a stoppage in play and before we start paying attention once again. It’s something that a lot of casual fans don’t think is very important. That thing is faceoffs.

It’s not just a way to start play back up after a stoppage in play. Plays can be run off of them. Plays to get out of your own zone, to get into the attacking zone and plays that can be used in the offensive zone to score goals. Faceoffs are a very important part of hockey and attention needs to be paid to them, by teams and fans.

One common thing can be said of faceoffs, if you’re not winning faceoffs consistently you’re probably chasing the game. Maybe you’re not “chasing the game” in score but by losing faceoffs you don’t have the puck and now you’re playing defense. Playing defense is no fun. Winning these draws is important.

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Winnings faceoffs is something the Capitals did not do very well last season. We won’t beat around the bush here, compared to the rest of the NHL the Caps were awful. Washington ranked dead last in the NHL in faceoff% last season winning 45.7% of the draws. The next highest team was the New York Rangers who won 46.9% of the draws.

With the regular season just about two weeks away this is something both the team and fans can watch early on in the season. I’m not going to try to tell you that any team needs to be great in this category. You don’t need your team to win nearly 55% of the draws to win the Stanley Cup. There was only one team near the 55% mark last season and that was the Flyers, they missed the playoffs.

Nonetheless, you can’t really expect to beat great teams when you’re wining only 45% of the faceoffs and for the Capitals it got even worse in the playoffs where they went 44.3% at the dot. The season the Caps won the Cup they won 47.6% of the faceoffs, clearly still pretty bad. Where this differs is the in the playoffs that went up to 49.1%. Still not great, but a whole lot better than this past season.

The Blues this season won 51.4% and 50.3% in the playoffs. They won the cup. The Bruins won 50.7% in the regular season and went up to 52.1% in the playoffs. Bottom line, what I’m trying to say is there is no concrete number you have to be at to be great or even make long runs in the spring.

The Capitals need to be a lot better though. But where and who exactly needs to be better? Well, when you dive in a little further it’s pretty much everyone and everywhere that needs to improve.

In the offensive zone the Caps won 48.3% of the faceoffs, that ranked dead last in the entire NHL. The neutral zone wasn’t any better, at least by ranking where they also finished last winning 45.6% of the draws. Finally the D zone was the best for the Caps, they won 47.8% of the faceoffs in their own end ranking all the way down at 26th.

They need to improve everywhere.

What about when? What’s the situation and how are they performing then? When the Caps are ahead in the game they win 45.2% of the faceoffs and when they’re behind they win 45% of the draws. So when they’re winning they’re not able to win the puck to control play and when they’re behind they can’t win draws to control the puck and possibly tie the game.

Not a lot of pretty numbers in there so far.

Now we’re going to look at who needs to improve. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything here, with numbers as bad as we’ve seen it’s everyone. We’ll show you the numbers anyways.

The best player for the Capitals last season at the dot was Tom Wilson. A guy who isn’t a center won 54.7% of the faceoffs he took. That being said he only took just over fifty draws the entire season but he did win 29 of the 53 he took.

If you want to look at everyday centers the best guy on the team was Nic Dowd who won 51.9. That pretty good but he is your fourth line guy who doesn’t take as many faceoffs. Dowd last season took less than 500 faceoffs last season while the top three centers took well over 1,000.

Nicklas Backstrom won 48.6%, Evgeny Kuznetsov won 38.7% and Lars Eller won 49%. These guys are your work horses. You need these guys to be better at this stat and this part of the game. When you look at these three guys there is only one guy who has a percentage over 50% at one part of the ice. That guy is Eller who won 50.9% in the neutral zone.

(Eller also won 49.9% in the Dzone)

Backstrom and Eller I wouldn’t worry about too much. Backstrom has a career faceoff percentage of 50.4% and has been over 50% in seven of the last nine seasons. Eller, while not as good tends to hover in the 50% area. His career percentage is 49.2%. That being said he hasn’t had a season over 50% since coming to Washington in 2016-17.

The guy to be frustrated with here is Kuznetsov. 38% from one of your top two centers just won’t cut it. Especially when the whole team is struggling. Kuznetsov actually won just over 38% in the playoffs in 2018 but the rest of the team picked him up. Backstrom won about 52% of the faceoffs he took that year. You also had Jay Beagle who won over 60% of the draws he took.

The Capitals are going to need their top two centers to be a whole lot better. You can’t have your top two guys, guys who are on the ice more than any other centers winning just a combined 44.5% percent of the faceoffs they take.

Hot. Caps defeat Blues in 2nd preseason game. light

It’ll be something to keep an eye on all season. It won’t determine whether teams will win Stanley Cups or make long runs, but being a lot better at the faceoff dot could make it a whole lot easier on the Capitals.