The "Wheres" and "Whos" of Faceoffs

via abc2news.com

In yesterday's discussion of "Faceoff Position" and how it related to players' Corsi Ratings and individual goal differentials, you may have noticed that, with a few notable exceptions, most Caps skaters were on the ice for approximately as many offensive zone faceoffs as defensive zone draws at even strength - only three Caps (Mike Green, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom) averaged more than 1.5 more faceoffs in the O-zone than in their own end, and only one skater average more than 0.2 more D-zone draws than offensive zone faceoffs (Boyd Gordon at 1.0).

Right off the bat, this tells us a couple of things. First, that the Caps had a massive territorial advantage in draw positioning (as we noted yesterday, play started in the offensive zone 33% of the time and just 27% of the time in the defensive zone for the 2008-09 Caps). But it also tells us that Bruce Boudreau isn't a big fan of matching lines - he plays his guys where he wants to, when he wants to.

To wit, last season only one Cap - Gordon - was on the ice for more than 51% of his non-neutral zone even strength faceoffs in the defensive zone (again, that territorial advantage is a big contributor here). But it's still somewhat surprising, perhaps, that David Steckel - he of the League's fifth-best faceoff percentage - was on the sheet for fewer D-zone draws at even strength than Backstrom (and his 48.7% success rate). To be sure, it speaks to the how incredibly complete Backstrom's game is (already), but it's also evidence of Gabby not sacrificing the playing time of his big guns based on where a faceoff takes place.

Here are the per game averages for the Caps' six centers who took more than 100 even strength draws in 2008-09, along with the percentage of non-neutral zone draws each had in either end and finally their overall faceoff win percentage, ranked by even strength defensive zone draws per game:


Player DEF/GP %DEF OFF/GP %OFF FO%
Boyd Gordon 3.41 58.6 2.41 41.4 56.1
Sergei Fedorov 3.23 47.3 3.60 52.7 56.2
Brooks Laich 3.17 45.8 3.76 54.2 51.1
Nicklas Backstrom 3.12 39.9 4.70 60.1 48.7
David Steckel 3.01 50.2 2.99 49.8 57.9
Michael Nylander 2.43 40.6 3.56 59.4 45.9

So while Backstrom had a relatively low percentage of the non-neutral zone faceoffs for which he was on the ice occur in the defensive zone, it wasn't because Boudreau was hiding him, but rather because he was on so often for draws at the other end of the ice. The same cannot be said, however, for Michael Nylander.

Still, I think I'd have expected a bit more Steckel for defensive zone draws, especially given that these numbers don't just represent faceoffs taken, but faceoffs for which the player lined up elsewhere (i.e. if Gabby had both Gordon and Steckel out for a key draw, they'd both get credited with a defensive zone faceoff here).

The story on the blueline is similar, with nary a rearguard taking the ice more frequently for a draw in his own end than in the offensive zone:


Player DEF/GP %DEF OFF/GP %OFF
Tom Poti
4.44
49.4
4.56
50.6
Karl Alzner
4.20
47.7
4.60
52.3
Milan Jurcina
3.96
47.1
4.46
52.9
Tyler Sloan
3.96
50.0
3.96
50.0
Shaone Morrisonn
3.79
45.8
4.49
54.2
Jeff Schultz
3.73
42.9
4.97
57.1
John Erskine
3.60
48.2
3.87
51.8
Mike Green
3.41
37.5
5.68
62.5

That Mike Green is at the bottom of this list provides fodder for his detractors, and given that he led all Caps in five-on-five ice time, it's an interesting point. It's also interesting to see Milan Jurcina and Tyler Sloan tapped for more D-zone draws than Shaone Morrisonn and Jeff Schultz, but given that Juice and Sloan didn't get much special teams ice, it's likely just a matter of spreading even strength minutes.

The last group of skaters to take a quick glance at are the wings:


Player DEF/GP %DEF OFF/GP %OFF
Alex Ovechkin 3.43 40.2 5.10 59.8
Chris Clark 3.25 51.5 3.06 48.5
Alexander Semin 2.90 40.4 4.27 59.6
Viktor Kozlov 2.82 42.4 3.84 57.6
Tomas Fleischmann 2.56 45.1 3.12 54.9
Matt Bradley 2.48 48.3 2.65 51.7
Eric Fehr 2.39 44.8 2.95 55.2
Donald Brashear 2.00 46.5 2.30 53.5

What jumps out immediately is that the wingers are on the ice for fewer defensive zone draws and a lower percentage of their non-neutral faceoffs are in the defensive zone than the centers (and yes, even if you move Laich into this second group of forwards). Why? Because for key defensive zone draws, Boudreau, like any good coach, puts out two centers in case one gets thrown out of the circle. Not surprisingly, the average number of offensive zone draws for the wings is the same as the centers if Laich is considered in the former group. How 'bout that?

The bottom line here is that other than putting his big guns out for offensive zone draws, Bruce Boudreau isn't much for situational line matching. Is that the result (or perhaps the cause) of the Caps' territorial advantage at even strength? Would he coach differently if he was forced to send out lines as often for draws in his team's defensive end? Hopefully we'll never find out.

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