The Capitals have placed a big emphasis on winning faceoffs in order to gain possession, but as it turns out, it’s come down to more than just a center winning or losing that faceoff.
After last year’s playoff series against the Rangers, the Capitals felt New York was still able to gain possession even though Washington won faceoffs a majority of the time in six of their seven games. Washington assistant coach Blaine Forsythe told me that even when the Caps were winning draws clean, guys like Chris Kreider and Carl Hagelin “were real good at getting in there, being first to the puck, and that’s the kind of mentality you need."
Faceoffs are more than just the drop of the puck, Forsythe explained.
"You have to have five guys on the same page, it’s not just the centers taking the faceoffs, it’s everyone else with their responsibilities.”
So the Caps took a page out of the Rangers playbook and have asked their team to be “faceoff ready.”
Essentially, Forsythe said it comes down to timing. Being faceoff ready means the other four guys on the ice are timing their movement to when the referee drops the puck so they can be a half step ahead of the opposing team in getting a loose puck, regardless of whether it’s a faceoff won or lost.
This mentality of every player trying to be first to the puck really plays into the entire “teamwork” philosophy that Barry Trotz brought to Washington beginning last season. Every player on the ice has a responsibility, regardless of the situation.
So when you watch Friday night's game vs Calgary (6:30 pm, CSN) watch who wins the faceoff, but pay close attention to which team takes control on 50-50 pucks. The Capitals hope that winning those 50-50 pucks will mean possession and perhaps a scoring chance.
I’ll have more on this topic on CSN during tonight’s broadcast of the Capitals game against the Flames. See you then.