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Quick Draw Artists

There's nothing like the pivotal moments late in an NHL game, where each rush up ice is met with hope and dread, depending on the rooting interest of the fans watching. Sometimes, the deciding strike comes swiftly after a faceoff win, and what I'd like to look at today is which players help produce or prevent such chances.

Buffalo's second goal in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals was a perfect example - a clean win in the offensive zone by Jason Pominville allowed Toni Lydman to pick up the puck and skate right in for a wrister that scored to tie the game. The winning goal in Game Two for the Senators also showed what can happen. Jason Spezza drew a puck right back to Joseph Corvo, whose quick shot put the Buffalo Sabres into an imposing 2-0 hole as the series heads to Ottawa. On average, a quick shot after the faceoff occured 10.2% of the time during the regular season (see criteria at bottom).

Check out Joe Corvo's double-OT winner from Game Two of the ECF

With goal-scoring on the decline during these playoffs, offensive opportunities come at a premium, and as the pressure mounts in the third period and overtime of these critical games, faceoffs take on even greater importance. So which players generated the most shots from offensive-zone draws, and which specialists allow the fewest when squaring off in their end of the ice? Let's take a look and the overall best and worst, with players still in the playoffs highlighted:

Top Shot Generators in the Offensive Zone:
Tomas Plekanec, Montreal - 18.4%
Brett McLean, Colorado - 18.2%
Kris Draper, Detroit - 18.2%
Ian Laperriere, Colorado - 17.9%
Jamaal Mayers, St. Louis - 17.7%
Mike Peca, Toronto - 17.5%
Dean McAmmond, Ottawa - 17.1%
Mark Mowers, Boston - 17.0%
Ryan Johnson, St. Louis 16.8%
Blair Betts, New York Rangers - 16.6%

Interestingly, Plekanec is a repeat winner in this category, which I would think a smart agent would bring up as he becomes a restricted free agent this summer. On the opposite end of this list we have those players generating the least such shots:

Bottom 10 Shot Generators in the Offensive Zone:
Joe Pavelski, San Jose - 3.5%

Slava Kozlov, Atlanta - 3.6%
Patrick Sharp, Chicago - 4.9%
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh - 4.9%
Brendan Shanahan, New York Rangers - 5.0%

Patrick Marleau, San Jose - 5.5%
Teemu Selanne, Anaheim - 5.5%
Todd Marchant, Anaheim - 5.7%
Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay - 6.0%
Jarome Iginla, Calgary - 6.2%

See how many big offensive names show up here? Perhaps they are thinking of different options when taking offensive-zone draws than simply winning it back to the D for a clean shot. On the defensive side of the ice, our best and worst performers in terms of preventing opposition shots are as follows:

Top 10 Shot Preventers in the Defensive Zone:
Michael Zigomanis, Phoenix - 3.6%
Patrick Sharp, Chicago - 5.4%
Brooks Laich, Washington - 5.4%
Patrick Marleau, San Jose - 5.6%
Tim Taylor, Tampa Bay - 5.6%
Marcel Goc, San Jose - 6.0%
Brian Sutherby, Washington - 6.2%
Jamie Lundmark, Los Angeles - 6.3%
Jim Slater, Atlanta - 6.5%
Scott Nichol, Nashville - 6.8%

Sharp and Marleau don't seem to either generate many shots, or give up many in their end. Apparently tying things up and not allowing a quick play to develop is part of their faceoff strategy.

Bottom 10 Shot Preventers in the Defensive Zone:
Michael Nylander, New York Rangers - 21.9%
John Pohl, Toronto - 18.3%
Travis Zajac, New Jersey - 17.3%
Petr Cajanek, St. Louis - 16.9%
Robert Lang, Detroit - 16.2%
Jason Arnott, Nashville - 15.9%
Viktor Kozlov, New York Islanders - 15.6%
Eric Staal, Carolina - 15.5%
Keith Tkachuk, Atlanta - 15.0%
Matt Stajan, Toronto - 15.0%

If it's late in the game, you sure don't want to see these guys lining up for a faceoff in your own end!

The criteria used are as follows: 43,852 non-neutral zone faceoffs from the 2006-7 Regular Season were broken down according to the participants, and analyzed as to whether a Shot, Goal, Blocked Shot or Missed Shot took place within 5 seconds, without any other intervening events. Eligible players had a minimum of 100 draws in the offensive or defensive zone, respectively.