The NHL put teams on notice in the preseason. The league's emphasis on faceoff violations was on full display as player after player was kicked out of the circle and some even were sent to the penalty box. Though linesmen have not been as strict in the regular season, those violations are still having impacts on the game. On Monday, another faceoff violation put John Carlson in a tricky situation that could have cost Washington the game.
With the game tied at 2 in overtime, Braden Holtby froze the puck creating a defensive zone draw. Barry Trotz sent Jay Beagle, the team’s best faceoff man, out to take the draw on his strong side along with Carlson and Christian Djoos.
“From a defending standpoint,” Trotz said after the game, “I thought if we get Beags out there, we win the draw and we get possession and then we get a change and we'll get a forward back on, but didn’t work out that way.”
Instead, Beagle was promptly dismissed from the faceoff circle and that put the Caps in a bind. With the only forward already kicked out and the other defenseman a rookie, that meant Carlson would have to take the draw.
It went about as well as you would expect.
“Carly didn't look very comfortable taking the draw,” Trotz said. “It was good that he got the winning goal, guys were joking about it.”
Despite being a defenseman, Carlson was actually annoyed he lost the draw.
“I was pissed,” Carlson said. “I was happy to take the draw, I was just pissed that I lost it. I used to practice all the time, but the centers don't let me practice all the time so I blame it on Beags.”
Fortunately, Arizona was not able to score after gaining possession on the faceoff. The Caps ultimately won the game so the moment is something the team can laugh at now, but the incident may actually cause a shift in how Trotz approaches overtime defensive zone draws in the future.
“We've talked in the past about should we go two D in the 3-on-3 or should we go two forwards?” he said. “We've been bouncing back and forth a little bit on that based on how many minutes our D are playing and that. We might have to rethink that a little bit because that's happening a lot.”
In overtime, every possession is critical. Given the amount of space on the ice and with an extra point hanging in the balance, teams cannot simply yield possession every time a player gets kicked out of the circle, especially when the faceoff is being taken in the defensive zone.
A funny moment? Yes, but it also could spark a shift in the Caps’ overtime strategy.