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Breaking down faceoff winning percentage by NHL teams

A typical hockey game features more than 50 faceoffs, but only a few teams can turn that skill into a significant competitive advantage.
A typical hockey game features more than 50 faceoffs, but only a few teams can turn that skill into a significant competitive advantage.

Over the long course of the NHL season, faceoff winning percentages naturally gravitate towards 50% (this season's range went from #1 San Jose at 55.6% to Edmonton's 46.4%).

A wrinkle can be added to this analysis, however, by looking at the performance of teams when split by various situations. For instance, teams on the Power Play win roughly 55% of faceoffs, and thus Shorthanded teams win 45%. And as we know, when a team gets a power play chance, the clock is ticking - losing a faceoff and having to chase down the puck for 10-15 seconds can burn away precious time.

Follow after the jump for a look at how teams across the league fared on the faceoff dot, with an extra level of detail you usually don't see...

The table below reflects all faceoffs from the 2009-10 NHL season, broken down by teams on the Power Play, at Even Strength, and Shorthanded. The "Weighted Performance" column reflects the variation in that workload, and shows the percentage of faceoffs that each team won, as compared to what they should have won based on the balance of PP/EV/SH opportunities (i.e., Atlanta's performance of 101.9% means they won, in total, 1.9% more faceoffs than expected).

 Team PP % EV % SH % Weighted
 Anaheim Ducks 50.9% 48.6% 42.3% 96.2%
 Atlanta Thrashers 50.5% 51.7% 46.1% 101.9%
 Boston Bruins 52.3% 53.7% 45.1% 105.3%
 Buffalo Sabres 56.8% 47.0% 50.9% 97.1%
 Carolina Hurricanes 49.7% 48.3% 45.4% 96.2%
 Columbus Blue Jackets 57.0% 50.6% 48.1% 102.1%
 Calgary Flames 50.9% 49.0% 38.7% 96.1%
 Chicago Blackhawks 61.2% 51.8% 47.1% 104.7%
 Colorado Avalanche 55.4% 47.1% 43.6% 95.4%
 Dallas Stars 52.0% 48.5% 41.0% 96.0%
 Detroit Red Wings 55.1% 50.9% 47.6% 101.9%
 Edmonton Oilers 51.3% 47.0% 37.2% 92.7%
 Florida Panthers 60.8% 49.7% 38.9% 99.6%
 Los Angeles Kings 54.8% 50.1% 50.1% 101.3%
 Minnesota Wild 56.5% 52.1% 49.0% 104.5%
 Montreal Canadiens 57.0% 49.4% 45.4% 99.6%
 New Jersey Devils 56.8% 48.6% 47.7% 98.7%
 Nashville Predators 48.6% 49.5% 47.3% 98.2%
 New York Islanders 52.7% 48.5% 42.1% 96.4%
 New York Rangers 53.1% 49.2% 44.9% 98.3%
 Ottawa Senators 57.2% 49.1% 43.7% 98.8%
 Philadelphia Flyers 54.1% 50.5% 43.3% 100.2%
 Phoenix Coyotes 53.6% 50.0% 46.7% 100.1%
 Pittsburgh Penguins 58.7% 48.5% 44.8% 98.5%
 San Jose Sharks 60.8% 54.9% 55.0% 111.3%
 St. Louis Blues 53.6% 49.2% 42.7% 97.8%
 Tampa Bay Lightning 53.6% 52.8% 42.5% 103.1%
 Toronto Maple Leafs 53.5% 51.0% 46.1% 101.5%
 Vancouver Canucks 59.1% 51.3% 44.0% 102.7%
 Washington Capitals 52.6% 51.2% 52.7% 103.0%

Note: I'm trying a sexy new feature where you can click the headings, and sort by the column of your choice. Give it a whirl...

What jumps out first and foremost is the outstanding performance of the San Jose Sharks, noted over at Behind the Net as one of the top faceoff teams in recent years. The fact that they won a greater percentage of their faceoffs while shorthanded as opposed to even strength is particularly stunning. Yes, I'm sure they put their best guys out in those situations, but they did well across all categories, so it's not like their skill players were poor on the dot, and the best faceoff men were all on the PK.

Boston, Chicago and Minnesota all did pretty well on the dot as well, particularly the league-leading 61.2% on the power play by the Blackhawks.

On the opposite end of that scale, part of the disappointing performance of the Nashville Predators' power play can be ascribed to their league-worst faceoff winning percentage on the PP. Is there an opportunity for Marcel Goc, the team's best faceoff man last season, to start getting some time on that unit?

As for the Edmonton Oilers? Yikes, 25th on the PP, 30th at even strength, and 30th shorthanded. They were, far and away, the worst faceoff team in the league.

The difference in faceoff performance from the best teams in the league to the worst has been estimated to be worth roughly 3 wins within a given season - not a huge amount, but certainly significant. Turning around a team's fortunes usually involves making a series of incremental improvements, rather than a few blockbusters, so paying further attention to winning faceoffs (particularly on special teams) could be of benefit to a few teams on the list above.

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