Chicago Blackhawks: Can Antoine Vermette Fix Faceoff Issue?


The Chicago Blackhawks got it done last night, but it wasn’t pretty.

It took a game-and-a-half of time to find a winner, and the Chicago Blackhawks came out on top, thanks to a goal by Duncan Keith, and some brilliant goaltending from Scott Darling.

What’s even more impressive about the win, was that the Blackhawks erased a 0-3 deficit after an abysmal first period, which ended in Corey Crawford getting yanked in favour of Darling.

Though two of the three goals the Predators scored on Crawford were definitely ones that #50 would like to have back, the five guys in front of him didn’t do much to help him out.

The ‘Hawks seemingly never had the energy to keep up with the Predators in that dreadful first period, and they were constantly chasing the puck around in their own end.

The poor possession numbers could account for a number of turnovers, but overall, the Blackhawks usually never started with the puck in the first place.

Indeed, Chicago’s numbers at the faceoff circle weren’t pretty on Wednesday night. The Predators’ depth at center really took it to the Blackhawks’ pivots, and only one forward finished with a winning faceoff percentage; Brad Richards (56%).

Jonathan Toews, usually one of the best in the league in that department, went for 33%; while the ‘Hawks depth wasn’t much better, with Marcus Kruger and Andrew Shaw recording a 37% and 39% rate, respectively.

Meanwhile, as the Blackhawks played one of their worst periods in a while, their trade-deadline acquisition Antoine Vermette sat in the press-box, helplessly watching.

Vermette was made a healthy scratch for Game One, and it was no secret why; just three points in his 19 games with the ‘Hawks, coupled with Patrick Kane’s return from injury, made him the odd-man out on Wednesday.

If the Blackhawks want to solve their possession problem, however, Vermette may be in the lineup sooner rather than later. In his 19 games with the Blackhawks, Vermette went an even 98-for-196, for a 50% clip.

Granted, Shaw, Richards, Toews, and Kruger (also, former ‘Hawk Ben Smith) all had a higher rate than that, but what Vermette can bring to the face-off circle, is his size.

The Predators’ centermen average a height of 6’2″ – and their tallest pivot, Paul Gaustad, is a whopping 6’5″. Though Mike Fisher (6’1″, 215 lb.), may not be in the lineup for Game Two after suffering an injury in Game One, Mike Santorelli isn’t exactly going to be a weak link on the ice for Nashville.

At 6’1″, 198 lb., Vermette doesn’t have to win those draws cleanly: he just has to muscle his counterpart out of the way, and let a quick-footed linemate such as Kane sweep in and get the Blackhawks the puck.

If the Blackhawks want to put some breathing room between them and the Preds, both in-game and in the series, it starts with getting the puck more often. And though Joel Quenneville said they would ice the same lineup for Game Two as they did for Game One, if the ‘Hawks continue to struggle with possession numbers, and it continues to cost them, expect to see #80 hitting the ice as early as Sunday in Chicago.

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