WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 28: The Washington Capitals celebrate the game tying goal against the New York Islanders at 19:34 of the third period at the Verizon Center on February 28, 2012 in Washington, DC. The Capitals defeated the Islanders 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The lost faceoff by Frans Nielsen on the tying goal last night, and Josh Bailey's move to the wing upon Casey Cizikas' recall, is a good time to check the temp on the Isles faceoff leaders this season.
Thanks to an injury (plus some scratches) that's limited him to 43 games, as well as some curious usage, Marty Reasoner -- who you might prefer to take the draw in that situation, (more on that later) -- only has 401 draws on the season. Still, his percentage is predictably tops on the team:
The data source is NHL.com. When considering faceoffs, it's important to remember that PK percentages will be lower, because you have (at least) one fewer teammate to help put the draw in the "win" column.
It's actually ridiculous to rank Cizikas or even Okposo by percentage in the above table -- their samples are quite small -- but they are there for context, and to show how many draws Cizikas has already taken in three NHL games. (His O-zone start percentage is 25% so far, too. Miniscule sample, but keep an eye out.) Pandolfo got a lot of time at the pivot during Reasoner's injury, so he's included as well, especially since he was one of the guys out for last night's critical faceoff.
Anyway, as you can see with the above raw numbers, the span still isn't that vast: If Nielsen is a better player overall, on the aggregate it's not a big risk putting him out for a draw considering you still have 30 seconds of play beyond that key faceoff. However, in specialized situations like last night where a draw may very well determine the game's outcome, I'm not sure why you don't increase your odds by putting Reasoner out to take it, and have Nielsen out as backup and post-draw possession horse or minder of the slot.
Instead, Jack Capuano had Pandolfo and Matt Martin out with Nielsen. I am not one to knee-jerk question individual moments in the game because there is often context we don't know about, but that one is a decision that deserves further query.
Brouwer's Tying Goal
One thing we know from the shift charts is that Nielsen and even Pandolfo were more rested -- Pandolfo came off almost 40 seconds before Reasoner did on their previous shift. And at a range of 44 to 54 percent, you're still in the vicinity of a coin flip -- a coin flip whose odds might be further affected by who's freshest and who's accustomed to this situation, or equipment, or handedness, etc.
(For reference, Jeff Halpern, Nielsen's opponent on that draw, is 58.8% on the year but won five and lost five last night.)
Furthermore, last night's pivotal draw wasn't solely on Nielsen, as it turned into one of those typical late-game grapples at the dot where the offensive center basically belly flops over the puck and counts on his extra winger to pick up the puck and feed the point while he and his opposing center are flat on the ice. That's what happened, and you can see in the video Pandolfo trying to get to the loose puck but being boxed out.
As a center in extra-man situations, if you have no interest in actually getting the puck with your blade, it's not hard to cancel out the opposing center in a race to the bottom and rely upon the kindness of extra wingers to pick up the scraps.
(There's a reason even "good" and "bad" faceoff rates only range from around 58 to 43 percent: It's still a one-on-one physical match with teammates ready to jump and change the result.)
Still, you wonder. Reasoner was brought in as a faceoff guy who could play the other two zones better than Zenon Konopka. He's not met expectations, but last night was an active game for him and he's still the team's best faceoff man. Yet with 45% O-zone starts this year, he's been used less in the Konopka role (30% O-zone starts last year) than Konopka was.
If Cizikas sticks around during the final quarter of the season, pay attention to how he's used, how Reasoner's used -- and of course, by proxy, whether Bailey's move to wing last night continues.