New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal loses almost 60 percent of the faceoffs he takes. That’s a problem when you consider other factors.
Through the New York Islanders first nine games of the 2018-19 regular season, Mathew Barzal is winning just 41.12 percent of his faceoffs. That sounds quite bad. And it is. Out of the top 100 players in terms of faceoff win percentages, Mathew Barzal ranks 97th.
This isn’t out of the ordinary for Barzal, last season he won an average of 42.57 percent of his faceoffs. And he was still able to be a dominant player. So why is this an issue now?
Losing that many draws might not be an issue if the player and the team are still generating a good amount of possession. But unfortunately for Barzal and the New York Islanders, possession is a problem.
Last season Mathew Barzal lost more faceoffs than he won with that 42.57 win percentage. But he still managed an impressive 53.3 CF% at 5on5. Winning the majority of his draws wasn’t an issue then because when it came to possessing the puck, the Islanders had it for a majority of the with Barzal.
The importance in winning a faceoff is that it allows a team to start the play with the possession. But if you have possession of the puck for the majority of the time without winning the faceoff, was winning it that important? Obviously not.
Faceoffs are still important, but their value isn’t as large as we seem to believe them to be.
A player like Mathew Barzal can get away with losing the majority of his draws if he and his team is in control of the puck for the majority of time after the faceoff. Just like in his rookie year last season.
But this season is different when it comes to possession. This season the New York Islanders are generating a 42.18 CF% at 5on5. Ranking them 30th of 31 teams in the NHL. Mathew Barzal himself holds a 46.7 percent CF% at 5on5. That’s more than a six-point negative swing from his 53.3 CF% from last season.
It’s all resulted in a -0.0697 NPSF/FO for Barzal. A stat that measures the impact of a player’s impacts on possession. That -0.0697 ranks Barzal 95th amongst the top 100 faceoff takers in the league.
I doubt that Mathew Barzal is going to somehow turn into a player that wins 50-55 percent of his faceoffs. He can and certainly will improve at the faceoff circle. But a dramatic positive swing in faceoff wins doesn’t seem in the cards.
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With only two games this season where the New York Islanders outshot opponents the fix has to come from overall possession. It’s easier said than done. But in order to mitigate the negative impacts of losing a faceoff, the Islanders and Mathew Barzal have to sort out their possession game.