Much has been made of the institution of hybrid icing into NHL hockey.
It’s thought that the flow of the game is suffering, with faceoffs on the rise. Pittsburgh is a team which benefits heavily from flow. Even on a 5-on-3 power play Friday night, the Pens’ best chance might have come when Sidney Crosby hit an on-rushing Brandon Sutter right in front of the crease.
If, in face, faceoffs become an even more important aspect of hockey, how does that impact Pittsburgh, and in particular, Sidney Crosby?
Through a small four-game sample size, the Penguins have the second-highest faceoff win rate (59.3 percent) behind Minnesota (60.6). Of course, playing three times at Consol Energy Center hasn’t hurt those numbers. Friday night in Florida, Pittsburgh won 37 of 58 draws, good for a 64 percent win rate.
If anything, the Pens have benefited from hybrid icing — at least in the circle. That said, the domination is likely unsustainable.
The Boston Bruins led the NHL in 2012-13 with a 56.4 faceoff win rate, and that was significantly better than second place San Jose (53.4). The Penguins won 51.5 percent of draws, good for seventh in the league.
Breaking down the numbers from a team basis to a player-by-play basis, it’s apparent the Pens rely on Crosby in a big way.
The captain has won 58.6 percent of draws, compiling a 61-43 mark thus far. Moreover, Crosby’s taken 104 of the team’s total of 258 faceoffs (40.3 percent).
In 2013-14, the center is averaging 26 draws per game. Here are his numbers from the last four campaigns.
2013-14: 26.00 faceoffs/game, 58.6 percent win rate, 4 games played
2012-13: 23.16 faceoffs/game, 54.3 percent win rate, 36 games played
2011-12: 20.59 faceoffs/game, 50.1 percent win rate, 22 games played
2010-11: 23.93 faceoffs/game, 55.7 percent win rate, 41 games played
Several questions arise, centered mostly around Crosby.
First, will the increased number of faceoffs impact the rest of his game in any way? So far he’s taking about three additional draws every game. He took 41 faceoffs against Buffalo on Tuesday. Forty-one!
Second, what happens if and when Crosby suffers some sort of injury, be it major or minor? If that happens, the team will have more to worry about than just faceoffs. Still, when one player accounts for more than 40 percent of all faceoffs, then there’d be a gaping hole left in his absence.
Finally, how does hybrid icing play into the faceoff factor? As it stands, there will be more drops in the dot and less action. Folks might be hard-pressed to find anyone outside of the 2003 Stanley Cup-winning New Jersey Devils in favor of slowing the game down.
Sidney Crosby has come a long ways since averaging 45.5 percent in the circle as a rookie and 48 percent his first two seasons. Good thing, because it looks like the drops in the dot are becoming more important than ever.