Since I started working at The Score, I’ve started to look at hockey games a little slanted. I still enjoy them, there’s no over-saturation here, but there’s a whole side to the game that I just wasn’t paying as close attention to before. Most of this has to do with plowing through box scores and finding odd stats for the all-powerful editor. Actually, it entirely has to do with plowing through box scores. One stat in particular has changed my viewpoint on the game played on a sheet of ice. Face-offs.
Obviously, I know that winning a face-off is important. That factoid is up there with “score more goals than the other guys” and “if the puck goes in, it’s a goal”. But, I tell ya, I’m becoming obsessed.
It all started with Patrik Elias. Here’s the thing about Patrik Elias. When it comes to face-offs, at least in the 2012 postseason, the guy is terrible. Actually, terrible doesn’t even begin to describe how bad he was. On one hand, this made my job of finding interesting stats easier, on the other, it kind of offended me as a hockey fan. Just as an example – in game 4 against the Flyers, a game the Devils won, Elias was 3/14 in the circle. Of the 52 guys ranked for face-offs in this postseason, Elias is 43rd with a 43.2% success rate. Just in case you think I’m screwing the numbers, he’s also 6th in total face-offs taken.
I bring this up because, in case you didn’t hear, the Devils are going to the Stanley Cup Finals. Elias’ face-off numbers are interesting because starting with game 4, Elias began to see his face-off time severely limited. After posting a sub-50% success rate in games 1 and 2 (with an unusually good rate in game 3), Elias began to see his face-off attempts dwindle, starting with taking just 6 in game 4. Oh yeah, and the Devils won all three games where he didn’t take the bulk of the draws.
This isn’t to say that Elias not taking face-offs is what pushed the Devils through, that’d be insane, but the fact that the majority of draws went from a guy who went a big 5/15 in game 1 to, say, Travis Zajac (who in the deciding game 6 was 14/20. Like a boss) can’t be overlooked. Yes, Marty Brodeur suddenly looking six years younger and Ilya Kovalchuk remembering that he’s awesome really helped too. Probably to a larger affect than who was taking the face-offs. But, still, credit to Peter DeBoer. He saw a problem, he adjusted it and he fixed it. And that’s why his team is still playing.
Links To The Past
- You may have heard that the Rangers beat the Devils 18 years ago. You may have heard this because it was goddamn everywhere. Guess the Devils can stop worrying now. (Puck Daddy)
- The Blues are in the market for a new CEO. Any takers? I mean, I guess I’d take the job. If you’re offering. Are you offering? (The Hockey News)
- Rick Dudley is going to the Habs. We were so close to a Pierre McGuire/Rick Dudley combo running that team. I honestly think that would have made me happier than the Leafs winning the Cup. Well, that’s a lie. But it would have been hilarious. (ESPN)
- Maybe it’s a good thing the Devils didn’t have to go to a seventh game. For them, I mean. Infographic! (Silver Oak Casino)
- The Kings are in the finals cause they put out a great team effort, give it 110% and leave it all on the ice. Or something. (LA Times)
- George Burns was right. Playoff overtime is a horrible bitch-goddess. (The Star-Ledger)
- Toronto’s in the finals! You better believe I’m milking this. Seriously though, why the hell are the Marlies in the Western Conference? Didn’t we figure this out in like 1994? (Toronto Star)
- Steve Bernier’s been watching the NBA Playoffs, hasn’t he?