Manners part of the game when it comes to faceoffs

When it comes to faceoffs, Jonathan Toews turns on the charm.

When Jonathan Toews puts his faceoff face on, he turns on the charm.

"Having an understanding of the linesman," the Blackhawks captain said, "making sure you're on the same page with them and just being respectful."

Twice during their 5-4, double-overtime victory in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals Saturday, the Blackhawks scored after Toews won a faceoff.

While winning faceoffs doesn't necessarily equate to winning the game, these abbreviated one-on-one sword fights for the puck are a significant part of any game. In the regular season, there were an average of 61.3 faceoffs per game, or about once per regulation minute of play.

"We all have to" take pride in it, the Ducks' Ryan Getzlaf said. "It's a big thing when you're talking about a team like that. They can execute a lot of plays off faceoffs. If we can battle, tie things up, delay things, it is going to help us."

The Ducks won 60 percent of the faceoffs in Game 5 on Monday, including 13 of 16 in the second period (81 percent), when they were outscored 2-0.

The etiquette

Working the linesman is part of the process when a player stands over the red dot. There are few better at it than Toews, who has participated in an NHL-high 368 faceoffs during the postseason, winning 195 (53 percent).

He was third during the season among the league's top 20 in faceoff winning percentage at 56.5, coming out on top in 947 of 1,675 tries. He was fourth in faceoffs won, and his plus-30 was eight better than anyone in the top 40 in faceoffs won.

"If you feel like a guy's getting too much of an edge, you can always talk to the ref and try to keep things balanced," Toews said.

The Ducks pulled off the faceoff-scoring trick Monday in the first period of Game 5 when Sami Vatanen beat Corey Crawford for a 3-0 lead after Getzlaf won a draw.

But those goals are an anomaly, according to a three-season study of faceoffs from 2008-2011 by St. Lawrence University. A team analyzed 211,372 faceoffs and concluded that "a player must win about 76 more faceoffs than they lose to obtain a goal differential for his team." Goals credited to scoring off faceoffs had to have been scored within 20 seconds of the faceoff.


Former Blackhawks center and current television analyst Eddie Olczyk agreed that manners can go a long way toward gaining an edge.

He was picked third overall by the Blackhawks in the 1984 draft and played 16 seasons. He said being Mr. Nice Guy to a linesman can lead to being Mr. Faceoff Winner.

"Just play those games a little bit," Olczyk said. " 'Excuse me, Mr. Linesman, can you make sure he has his stick down?' You do it in a respectful way. You don't tell the guy, 'Hey, tell him to put his (bleeping) stick down.' You're not going to get anywhere like that."

Olczyk also said he'd cheat a bit by moving his own skates while asking a linesman to tell his opponent to move his.

"You're working both sides," he said.

Not much has changed in that respect since Olczyk played. Toews said he tries to develop an understanding of linesmen, make sure he's on the same page.

Know your opponent

It also takes an understanding of your opponent, said Toews, who was 21-for-47 on faceoffs against Ryan Kesler in Games 1 and 2, but 24-for-32 in Games 3, 4 and 5. The two squared off just once in Monday's game, with Toews coming out on top of Kesler, whose 59.6 faceoff percentage is best among those still playing.

"Usually, if you get off to a good start in a game you can get in the other guy's head a little bit and things snowball in the wrong direction for the other guys," Toews said. "It's good for you when that happens."

The rules

NHL rules require the visiting player to put his stick down first, giving a slight advantage to home players, who get what amounts to a head start with stick momentum.

In an effort to increase puck possession, which could lead to more scoring, NHL general managers recently recommended that the player on the defensive side of the red line must put his stick down first.

"When you come in second, you have the running start," Olyczk said. "If we're doing a 40-yard run, you've got to start from a standstill, and I can start from behind the line. That's the mindset."

There are no draws when it comes to hockey draws — one either wins or loses.

Twitter @ChiTribSkrbina

By the numbers

Five of the top 10 teams in NHL faceoff percentage didn't make the playoffs

Faceoff percentage

1. Bruins 53.6

3. Hurricanes 53.0

6. Sharks 51.9

7. Coyotes 51.8

8. Stars 51.8

How the playoff teams fared during the regular season

Faceoff percentage

2. Blues 53.4

4. Canadiens 52.1

5. Blackhawks 52.0

9. Ducks 51.6

10. Red Wings 51.5

12. Capitals 51.2

15. Wild 49.9

16. Lightning 49.7

18. Islanders 49.2

19. Penguins 49.1

21. Predators 48.9

22. Jets 48.9

24. Senators 48.2

26. Flames 47.4

28. Rangers 46.7

29. Canucks 46.7

Playoff leaders, active teams

Through Monday

Faceoff percentage

1. Ducks 53.8

2. Lightning 51.5

3. Blackhawks 50.4

4. Rangers 45.0

Playoff individual leaders, active teams (with at least 100 faceoffs)

Through Monday

Faceoff percentage

1. Ryan Kesler, Ducks 59.6

2. Nate Thompson, Ducks 58.7

3. Antoine Vermette, Blackhawks 57.5

4. Valtteri Filppula, Lightning 55.6

5. Steve Stamkos, Lightning 54.4

6. Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks 53.0

6. Dominic Moore, Rangers 53.0

8. Ryan Getzlaf, Ducks 51.9

9. Brian Boyle, Lightning 51.5

10. Tyler Johnson, Lightning 51.2

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