Since there isn’t much to report on Fantasy-wise at this time of year, let’s face it your teams are drafted and now there is just the waiting, I thought I would get in on the face-off debate.
Don Cherry and many analysts want to see the linesmen give more leeway in the faceoff circle. I, as a former linesman, disagree. It is simple to take a legal faceoff. The reason more guys are getting tossed out of the dot in the playoffs is because everyone, EVERYONE, is looking for any advantage they can get. Watching the games in person during the first round I was seeing more infractions than I did all year.
The cries for, “Let the players do their jobs,” is a fair one, but not as fair as my point of, “Let the linesmen do their jobs”. I have met NHL and international referees and trust me they don’t want any attention. They are much happier if they can go for a one-hour skate and let the game sort itself out. They only intervene to keep things fair.
So on the topic of face-offs, I believe it will have massive impact on the two teams battling to represent the Western Conference for the Stanley Cup. Phoenix needs to increase their puck possession if they are going to slow down the juggernaut Kings team as we saw in Game 1.
The good news is the Coyotes are the better faceoff team through two rounds of the playoffs. After engaging in 690 face-offs in the first two rounds they have won 354 of them. The Kings on the other hand played less games and had 540 face-offs winning, 263. In terms of percent that is Phoenix 51.3% and Los Angeles 47.9% in the first two rounds.
This bodes well for Phoenix’s hopes of extending the series despite losing the first game on home ice. However, I wanted to see if there was data that went deeper than that. So I took each player’s face-off win percentage and multiplied it by the number of points scored so far in the playoffs and neutralized it by dividing it by 10. For the lack of an official name I’ll call it “Face-off Threat Rating” or FTR.
My reasoning is that the more face-offs you win the better chance you have at creating a scoring chance. The better you are at finishing a scoring chance, combined with winning the face-off, should result in an edge for your team when you are on the ice. This is what I got.
Interestingly, I expected the Kings to destroy the Coyotes on this, but collectively Phoenix destroys Los Angeles in both cumulative team total and the number of players ranking over 20 on the FTR.
The totals come to 210 for the Coyotes and 175 for the Kings. Also, for some reason defenseman Slava Voynov took and won a face-off. This gives the Kings 10 FTR points that they wouldn’t normally have.
Also the Kings only have three players with ratings over 20. Albeit way, way over 20, but still it limits their opportunities late in games. The Coyotes on the other hand have seven players over 20. I believe this will give them an edge in road games when David Tippett doesn’t have last change. I believe combined with Mike Smith’s ability to take a crowd out of a game that it is enough of an advantage for me to predict that the Coyotes will win at least one game in California in this series.
I still don’t think they can stop the Kings, but remember they only need to win one game at the Staples Center to mathematically win the series. That said, I don’t think the Coyotes are looking that far ahead, as they need to be sure to win the next game in the desert.