Rangers need to improve on woeful face-off stats

NHL: New York Rangers at Montreal Canadiens
David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports

What do you remember most from the New York Rangers Game Seven overtime victory over the Washington Capitals in 2015? Is it the 3-1 series comeback? Or what about the feeling you had when Rangers forward Derek Stepan had the puck land on his stick off the pad of Caps goalie Braden Holtby?

For me it’s a quote by then NBC broadcaster Eddie Olczyk as he broke down the goal after it happened.

“We talk about how the Rangers are a team that runs more faceoff plays than anyone in the National Hockey League,” Olczyk explained. “Offensive zone, neutral zone, defensive zone, and this was one of those plays.”

For the better part of ten seasons now, the Rangers have been one of the worst faceoff teams in the NHL. Over the past six years, the Rangers have been the worst team in the league in the faceoff dot. Since David Quinn’s first season behind the bench the Rangers have won a putrid 47.6% of their faceoffs.

Rangers must be better at face-offs

new york rangers
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers being a bad faceoff team isn’t a new issue to the franchise either. Over the course of NHL history, the Rangers are 4th worst in faceoff percentage of teams that have played at least 1000 games.

Enter new Rangers head coach Peter Laviolette who has seen three of his five teams rank inside the top 10 in the league for faceoff percentage during his tenure. Only time will tell if Laviolette’s teachings can help the team in the dots but the onus has to go on the players.

Last season, Filip Chytil ranked 114th out of 116 centers who took at least 200 faceoffs in win percentage (39.8%) and three of their top four centers ranked in the bottom half of the league in win percentage. (Mika Zibanejad 49.5%, Vincent Trocheck 56.1, and Barclay Goodrow 45.9% per NHL stats). Newly signed fourth-line center Nick Bonino finished 2022-23 at 48.2% on draws.

If you remember back to the start of the 2021-22 season, Chris Drury and then head coach Gerard Gallant brought in retired NHL linesman Pierre Racicot to help the team out with faceoffs. That experiment didn’t really pan out as the team still finished the season in the bottom third in terms of faceoff percentage.

This now begs the question; How important are faceoffs to a team’s success? In a small sample size of just the last five seasons 56% of teams that finish in the top five for faceoffs also finish in the top 10 in league standings. In the 2022-23 season, all five teams that led the league in faceoffs finished in the top 10.

Adversely, just 24% of teams that finish in the bottom five in faceoffs finish in the top 10 of the league standings. Oddly enough, the 2021-22 Colorado Avalanche end up on this list of bad faceoff teams, and it is pretty clear how their season turned out.

Being a good or bad faceoff team does not determine how a team performs during a given season. But with the Rangers recent struggles with puck possession, especially at 5-on-5, being able to win some key defensive zone faceoffs could be a catalyst in doing so.

Steven Pappas is a North Jersey native who works as a news anchor and reporter at WHAM-13 in Rochester,... More about Steven Pappas

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