The NHL is trying a new rule this year in an effort to increase scoring. When a faceoff takes place in a defensive zone, the faceoff person of the team who is defending that zone must put his stick down first. This is an advantage for the offensive team. This rule had an effect on the first goal scored by the Red Wings against the Caps on Tuesday night.
In the first period, the tired fourth line was trying to get the puck out of their zone, and in doing so sent the puck all the way down and iced the puck. Normally, Jay Beagle or Nick Backstrom take most of the faceoffs in the defensive zone. However, the icing call means that the fourth line, and Michael Latta must stay on the ice for the defensive face off and put his stick down first. Predictably, they lost the faceoff and the Red Wings scored.
Why is this important? The Caps are a pretty complete team. If they do have an obvious chink in their armor, it is their depth of good faceoff players. While Jay Beagle is one of the very best in the league, and Nick Backstrom good, the second and fourth are not as good in the faceoff circle.
The second line is centered by the player that many Caps fans think is now the best player on the team, Evgeny Kuznetsov. He has never won more faceoffs than he has lost in his career. While he may be electrifying, until he can be consistently good in the circle, his game will not be complete.
Michael Latta centers the fourth line. He is young and strong, but hasn’t yet earned the confidence of Barry Trotz in important defensive situations. Still, his limited numbers are good, but he hasn’t faced the top people yet. It is curious that Brooks Laich does not take faceoffs. Traditionally he has taken a lot of them for the Caps, perhaps his injury has not healed in such a way where he can be as effective in the circle. It could also be that the management think that Latta can develop into a much better center.
The Caps traded away one of their best faceoff people in Troy Brouwer in the off season. The question is now, do the Caps need to find someone to win faceoffs in the playoffs?
By Lincoln Cajulis