Penguins seek faceoff improvements in next round of Cup playoffs
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma has options.
He probably wouldn't mind results, too.
Though the Penguins have plenty of flexibility in the faceoff circle — with Marcel Goc's return, seven of the team's 12 forwards have played center — their numbers against Columbus didn't sparkle.
Entering Tuesday's games, the Penguins ranked 11th among 16 Stanley Cup playoff teams with a 48.4 percent success rate on faceoffs.
That represents a 2.6 percent decline from the Penguins' 51 percent mark during the regular season.
“The game's about puck possession, and faceoffs are big,” center Brandon Sutter said. “We need to do a better job of trying to snap a few more back.”
Game 6 injuries to Sutter and Joe Vitale, who was playing as a third-line winger when he knocked knees with Blue Jackets forward Blake Comeau on Monday, could portend problems in the faceoff circle.
Of the team's four regular centers, Sutter was the only one to see an uptick in his performance from the regular season: He won 46 of 92 draws (50 percent) in the series, a 2.3 percent improvement from the regular season.
“That's always been something we try to pride ourselves on: the details of the game,” said center Sidney Crosby, whose performance saw a 1.8 percent (52.5 to 50.7) dip from the regular season.
Part of the reason the Penguins struggled to win draws was the opponent. Columbus ranked ninth in the NHL during the regular season with a 51.6 percent success rate on draws. The Penguins were 12th.
The Penguins' special teams faceoffs were especially problematic against Columbus.
On the power play, the Penguins won 48.1 percent (28 of 54) of draws, but that number dipped to 39.1 percent (18 of 46) when they were short-handed.
The splits get better when the Penguins' backs are against the wall.
Despite a 42.5 percent (34 of 80) success rate among regulars — Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Sutter, Vitale, Goc and winger Jussi Jokinen — in the offensive zone, the Penguins won 54.5 percent (66 of 121) of draws in the defensive zone, with Sutter winning a team-best 25 draws there.
“In the defensive zone, you have to bear down and try to get it,” Sutter said. “Offensive zone, it's more of an offensive chance. So, again, it's about puck possession.
“When you're losing faceoffs, you're chasing it from the start of every shift. Kind of goes that way all night. We need to do a better job.”
The return of Goc has afforded Bylsma some flexibility.
Not only did it allow Malkin to play wing on Crosby's line and Sutter to move from the third line to the second, it allowed Bylsma to play matchups when Goc, a left-handed shot, was paired with the right-handed shooting Vitale.
“It is an advantage to be able to put them both out there,” Bylsma said. “They're both capable of taking a draw, and depending on what side it's at, that's kind of the instruction: If it's your strong side and that's a good opponent for you, you take the draw and Joe will play wing and vice versa.”
The problem with that has been that Vitale's success rate has dipped from 62.5 percent in the regular season to 47.6 in the playoffs, a 14.9 percent decline. Goc's has gone from 57.3 to 54.2 for a 3.1 percent drop.
The Penguins will want to improve their faceoff work in Round 2.
“Faceoffs are always tough,” Sutter said. “They might go your way or not your way any night.
“It would be nice to get a better percentage.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins’ Adams not returning to team
- Starkey: The Penguins’ perpetual question
- Penguins GM: Team not disciplined enough, buyouts possible, Bennett handled incorrectly
- Johnstown rink wins $150K for upgrades, will host Penguins preseason game
- Penguins notebook: Top power play still without a goal in series with Rangers