Nashville & Detroit, deep inside the faceoff circle

This Predators/Red Wings series is shaping up to be a real struggle no matter which team ends up winning; Nashville can claim momentum heading into Game 5, but Detroit has two games at home in what has now become a best-of-three affair, so I don't think there's a significant advantage to either side right now. One area in which the Red Wings are dominating, however, is the faceoff circle, and that's where I'd like to provide more detail than what fans usually see.

Overall, Detroit boasts a 130-112 advantage in Faceoff Wins in this series, gaining possession after 53.7% of draws. While that might not seem like a significant advantage, the difference is to be found almost entirely in Detroit's defensive zone:


When face-offs take place in the neutral zone or the Predators' defensive zone, it has basically been a 50-50 proposition, but on draws in Detroit's end of the ice, the Red Wings are winning at a 68.4% rate. Establishing possession of the puck after a defensive-zone faceoff goes a long way towards keeping your opponents' shot totals down, and particularly for a team like Detroit that is loaded with talented defensemen, it provides a breakout opportunity for the offense. Winning a faceoff in the neutral zone has a much smaller effect on whether a goal is scored shortly thereafter than at either end of the ice, for obvious positional reasons; but if you're interested in the details, Behind The Net provides detailed analysis. Interestingly, one of the key goals in this series, Shea Weber's blast from the blue line that put Nashville up 2-0 in Game Four, came immediately after a faceoff win by Rich Peverley in the Detroit end.

We can also break this down by whether teams are on the power play, at even strength, or shorthanded. The following are team-level breakdowns across situation and zone:

First Detroit...


Then Nashville...
Both teams are doing a solid job while shorthanded, as usually shorthanded teams usually win less than half of all faceoffs, but Detroit is doing an exceptional job so far. Nashville's power play is getting shorted out not just by players taking penalties which wipe out the man advantage, but also by the fact that they're winning barely a quarter of the faceoffs. If Detroit gets the puck off the draw, they can rag the puck for a moment and blast it down the ice, easily killing off 15-20 seconds of precious PP time for the Predators.

Individual breakdowns are also available for the main players in this series (10 or more faceoff attempts so far). For Detroit, you can view Dan Cleary, Pavel Datsyuk, Kris Draper, Valteri Filppula, Johan Franzen, Mark Hartigan, and Henrik Zetterberg. For Nashville, see Jason Arnott, Radek Bonk, Vern Fiddler, David Legwand, Rich Peverley, and Jerred Smithson.

Some of the highlights to be found when individual players are examined is that Arnott is having a rough time on the dot, while Datsyuk and Draper are dominating for Detroit. As they prepare for Game Five in Detroit on Friday, Barry Trotz may want to consider having Arnott line up on the wing during power plays, since he typically sets up for a one-timer near the boards anyway. Someone like Peverley or Smithson could take the draw and, if necessary, head to the bench to get one of the snipers on the ice once possession is gained. These may seem like minor details, but in the Stanley Cup playoffs, even the most minor adjustments can make the difference between defeat and victory.

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