Puck possession is a huge factor in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The team that has the puck more often is more likely to score and is less likely to be scored upon. With that in mind, here is a breakdown of the top faceoff takers from New York Rangers and the Capitals and how they fared against each other in the regular season.
Backstrom faces off with Richards (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
The Capitals were the #12 team in the regular season in faceoff effectiveness at 50.8%. With the exception of top faceoff man Nicklas Backstrom, the Washington Capitals split their faceoff duties this season among several centers and wingers, with 6 players taking as many as 230 faceoffs. They are Mike Ribeiro, Jay Beagle, Mathieu Perreault, Matt Hendricks, and Troy Brouwer.
As a team, the Rangers finished dead even in faceoffs at 50.0%, sitting 16th in the NHL. The New York Rangers have concentrated their faceoffs among just four centers, and one of them was a trade deadline acquisition. The Rangers top centers all have taken over 380 faceoffs, two other Rangers have taken over 100, and no others have taken more than 32. The Ranger centers the Capitals should expect to face in the playoffs are Brad Richards, Derek Stepan, Derick Brassard, and Darroll Powe. Unfortunately for the Rangers, their top faceoff man in terms of effectiveness, Brian Boyle, is dealing with a lower body injury and his availability is uncertain. He will be included in this analysis.
In the regular season series, the Capitals won the faceoff battle in the 2 of the 3 games and won 53.0% of the 164 faceoffs overall. This trend, coupled with injury to Brian Boyle and lack of depth at faceoffs after trading away Jeff Halpern, does not bode well for the Rangers. With home ice advantage in the playoffs, the Capitals could have a big advantage in puck possession in this series, because as the home team, the Capitals centers can put their stick into the circle after they see what the Rangers' center is going to do.
The Capitals' and Rangers' top five faceoff men are listed below along with their faceoff totals from the regular season:
|2012-13 Regular Season Faceoffs|
|Nicklas Backstrom||432||808||51.4%||Derek Stepan||448||977||45.8%|
|Mike Ribeiro||226||505||44.8%||Brad Richards||391||773||50.6%|
|Jay Beagle||249||444||56.1%||Derick Brassard||215||446||48.2%|
|Mathieu Perreault||168||325||51.7%||Brian Boyle||215||381||56.4%|
|Matt Hendricks||147||259||56.8%||JT Miller||63||118||53.4%|
|Troy Brouwer||111||232||47.8%||Darroll Powe||56||104||53.8%|
Left-handed Nicklas Backstrom (6'1, 210) was exceptional against the Rangers in the faceoff circle this season, winning better than 3 out of 4 faceoffs and had a perfect game on March 10. He took and won the most draws against the Rangers of any Capitals player and had success against all the Rangers centers. Backstrom ranked 35th out of 88 centers in the NHL during the regular season who took at least 400 faceoffs.
The slight-statured Mike Ribeiro (6', 177) is a left-handed center who has never been known to be good at winning faceoffs, and he struggled against Derek Stepan in particular. Ribeiro managed to do better than his season average against the Rangers, but that isn't saying much. Ribeiro ranked 81st out of 88 centers in the NHL. He has been passing off a lot of faceoff duties to his burly, right-handed winger Troy Brouwer (6'3, 213), for all the good that did against New York. Chances are Adam Oates will try to avoid giving this line too many faceoffs against the Rangers.
Right-handed Jay Beagle (6'3, 215) is the current Capitals faceoff wizard, with a win percentage that puts him 11th in the NHL. He did not fare well against the Rangers in limited duty this season, though. If Coach Adam Oates matches lines and uses Beagle as a shut-down center, look for him to take many more draws against the Rangers in this series.
Diminutive third-line center Mathieu Perreault (5'10, 185) is another lefty who performed well against the Rangers this season in two games. Look for him to take quite a few faceoffs in this series.
Left-handed Matt Hendricks (6', 211) is a natural center who will often take left-side faceoffs for Jay Beagle. He fared exceptionally well against the Rangers this season and has been strong centerman at the dot all season in limited duty.
Here are the Rangers' centers and how they fared against the Capitals this season.
Derek Stepan (6', 190) is a right-handed centerman with the worst faceoff winning percentage against the Caps, though he was better than his season average of 45.8%. He ranked 77th of 88 centers in the NHL during the regular season who took at least 400 faceoffs.
Veteran lefty Brad Richards (6', 195) won barely more than 40% of his faceoffs against the Capitals this season, a far cry from his season average of 50.6% (41st in NHL).
If left-handed Brian Boyle (6'7, 244) gets healthy, he will strike an imposing figure in the faceoff circle. His 56.4% win percentage would have ranked him 10th in the NHL if he had taken enough draws to qualify. He won nearly 54% of his draws against the Capitals this season.
Derick Brassard did not play against the Capitals this season. Darroll Powe won 2 of 3 faceoffs against the Capitals on March 10, none of them were against regular centers.