Analytics can and will continue to play a big role in helping complete the bigger picture when it comes to hockey statistics. There is no question about that. But the so-called “advanced statistics” are only part of the greater landscape, and there are far too many “fancy stats” loyalists out there who claim that faceoffs are not as important as we may think.
That, as far as I see it, is complete bogus.
After going 18-for-58 in the faceoff circle during Monday’s game three at Washington’s Verizon Center, I don’t think any members of the Rangers would venture to say that faceoffs don’t matter either.
The fact of the matter is that they do, and while Jay Beagle’s winning goal was ultimately a wonky one which deflected off of Keith Yandle’s skate and past Lundqvist from a sharp angle, New York’s horrific lack of success at the dots on Monday is a large reason why it now trails the series 2-1 against Washington.
Trouble when it’s come to draws is not something the Rangers are strangers to, as their 46.7 percent winning percentage during the regular season was third worst in the National Hockey League, ahead of only Vancouver and Buffalo. But despite the struggles in that regard, the Rangers found a way and made due all season as they were of course still able to win the Presidents’ Trophy.
On Monday, however, it finally came back to bite the Rangers. Throughout the contest the Blueshirts lost draw, after draw, after draw, and when it came down to it in the waning minutes of the game, the boys in blue continued to come up empty when it came to faceoffs.
After repeated icings on the part of the Capitals in the final 90 seconds of the game, the Rangers had multiple opportunities to win an offensive draw, gain clean possession, and set up a play in order to net the tying goal. Not once, however, were they able to win a faceoff, even at the most crucial of moments.
Now, credit must certainly be given where credit is due as the Capitals won 40 of those said faceoffs. That is a terrific feat on the part of their centers, and their ability to win every draw in their own zone when the pressure was on all but smothered the Rangers’ chances at a last second miracle.
Say what you will about Corsi, Fenwick, and the like, though, and 18 wins on 58 faceoffs is still in large part what cost the Rangers game three, and they trail the best-of-seven series because of it.
The series will resume at the Verizon Center in Washington at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
Jake Gittler is now in his second season as a contributing member of The Hockey Writers. After spending the 2014-15 season working in Communications for Adirondack Flames of the AHL and covering the New York Rangers here for The Hockey Writers, Jake’s coverage has been switched over to the Colorado Avalanche for the 2015-16 season. Jake can be reached via email at Jakegittler@gmail.com, or on Twitter @Jgittler_hockey.