Saturday, October 18, 2008

Leafs Faceoff Follies

The Toronto Maple Leafs have made it no secret that they are in rebuilding mode, or more accurately for long time followers, building mode. That is no excuse for poor performance in the faceoff circle. A centre snagging the puck doesn't guarantee a goal right off the draw but it certainly makes it harder for the opposition to pot the puck into the twine.

With faceoff specialists in the form of Joe Nieuwendyk as Special Assistant to the General Manager and Keith Acton as Assistant Coach this is one area where the Leafs have an excellent opportunity for improvement. Nieuwendyk no doubt has a lot of paper work to deal with in his day job, but surely Acton could spend more time on faceoffs with his pivots. Dealing with draws is done but these days the stats show it needs more practice.

Pittsburgh beat Toronto 4-1 last night but looking at the faceoff stats that's no surprise:

Mayers - 3/5 - 60%
Grabovski - 5/10 - 50%
Stajan - 2/4 - 50%
Antropov - 2/5 - 40%
Mitchell - 5/14 - 36%
Moore - 4/16 - 25%

Compare that to Pittsburgh's pivots:

Crosby - 16/22 - 73%
Talbot - 5/8 - 63%
Staal - 7/12 - 58%
Zigomanis - 5/11 -45%

Head-to-head versus Crosby no Leafs centre could win more than 50% of the draws against him.

9-out-of-12 games played tonight were won by the team with the better faceoff stats. In the age of the salary cap, puck possession off the draw is as cost effective as it gets.

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