In a game where possession is increasingly vital, the New York Islanders should do well to get better in the faceoff circle for the 2019-20 season.
The New York Islanders were one of the worst teams when it came to the faceoff last season. By “one of the worst” I don’t mean they’re in the bottom half, or even in the bottom ten. They were the third worst team in the league with a 47.4 percent faceoff win percentage.
The idea of a faceoff is quite obvious. If you win the puck drop you immediately get possession of the puck, while if you lose the faceoff the other team gets the puck. Easier said than done, but the idea is to maximize (gaining possession) the former and minimize the latter (losing possession).
The Islanders weren’t able to do that last season. When you comb through their center’s faceoff stats, the blame rests on most of their shoulders.
Look at the New York Islanders four center faceoff stats across all three situations (5on5, power play, and penalty kill) this season. It isn’t a pretty picture.
*All stats from puckbase.com
**Numbers are percentages and () indicates the number of faceoffs taken
Again, the idea is to win more than you lose. So floating close to the 50 percent line is the goal. Valtteri Filppula was the only one to win more than 50 percent at 5on5 while everyone but Barzal hit above 50 percent on the power play.
Note: Anders Lee took more faceoffs (73) on the power play than Mathew Barzal and held a 45.2 percent efficiency. Almost a full five percentage points better than Barzal.
The Islanders should be able to rely on Mathew Barzal to win close to 50 percent of his faceoffs. Not above 50 percent, but close to 50 percent. As it stands he’s sitting closer to the 40 percent range in any situation. It’s clear that Barry Trotz doesn’t trust him to take a draw.
That has to change going forward. He’s still young and has plenty of time to get better. Hopefully, he can do so.
I’m focusing on Mathew Barzal simply because his numbers are quite low, not only compared to the league but to his teammates. He isn’t the problem when it comes to faceoffs, but he’s a problem in the faceoff circle.
Valtteri Filppula probably won’t be back next season. So the Islanders need to hope they can find someone who can win as many draws as the 35-year-old did. If they can’t, that team-wide 47.4 percent efficiency will fall.
It won’t be the end of the world if they don’t of course, the New York Islanders were the third worst faceoff team in the league last season and still won 48 games. But the goal for the New York Islanders in 2019-20 isn’t to find a way to be a lot better, it’s to find areas where they can find marginal improvements.
Improving their efficiency in the faceoff circle is a perfect candidate for marginal improvement. If they can even be just a bit better it could go a long way to helping them in certain areas. The penalty kill is a perfect example.
A marginal improvement on the faceoff during the PK could result in a marginal improvement in the efficiency of the penalty kill. Exactly the type of improvement the Islanders could be looking for in 2019-20.
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Again, the New York Islanders don’t have to fix much going into 2019-20. Getting more goal scoring is priority number one. Getting better at winning faceoffs has to be on Barry Trotz’s list this offseason.