Chicago Blackhawks’ Nick Schmaltz Has To Win More Faceoffs

By Sean Fitzgerald
Mar 19, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) and center Nick Schmaltz (8)) celebrate after a goal during the third period of the game against the Colorado Avalanche at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 19, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) and center Nick Schmaltz (8)) celebrate after a goal during the third period of the game against the Colorado Avalanche at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports /
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Nick Schmaltz has been a strong offensive presence for the Chicago Blackhawks, but that doesn’t include his efforts at the faceoff circle

Since Artem Anisimov‘s injury, the Chicago Blackhawks are 3-0-0 with Nick Schmaltz filling it at second-line center. The kid has done almost everything right since filling at the second-line center position, except one key element: winning faceoffs.

Entering Sunday night’s game against the Colorado Avalanche, Schamltz was 5-30 at the dot since taking over for Anisimov. Faceoffs are an area in which he desperately needs to improve.

Coach Joel Quenneville had this to say about Schmaltz in the faceoff dot. It came courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Times: 

"“He’s got to get better at it,” coach Joel Quenneville said when asked about Schmaltz’s faceoff woes. “Obviously, starting in your own end, sometimes against dangerous faceoff guys, the matchup could be a little heavier. So it’s something he’s got to get better at. But we still like him in the middle with those guys.”"

Schmaltz would follow up his early showings at 2C with a faceoff percentage of 30 against the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday. While above his season average of 28.9%, it was still not good enough.

Chicago Blackhawks

Late in the game, I thought I saw Tanner Kero centering the duo of Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin. This happened after the Blackhawks’ three-goal barrage that helped them go from down 3-1 to up 4-3 in 34 seconds.

Despite coming from a strong faceoff team in college, he continues to struggle at the dot. According to the puckbase.com, Schmaltz has the worst faceoff percentage of anyone with 200 faceoffs in the NHL this season. He also is third to last on the Blackhawks in overall faceoff percentage, ahead of Panarin and Kane.

Reasons for Schmaltz’s faceoff struggles

It could be that Schmaltz is out of practice at the dot. Before the Anisimov injury, he spent the majority of his time on the wing.

He should get plenty of reps with Anisimov scheduled to miss the rest of the regular season. With 10 more games left in the regular season, he should get plenty of time to develop his faceoff game.

While fellow teammates and centers Kero and Marcus Kruger are not very big players, they do have a size advantage and are better at the faceoff dot. Kero is the same height of as Schmaltz at 6-foot, but Kero has 15 more pounds in weight. Kero has also been called by Ed Olczyk as “solid on his skates,” while Schmaltz doesn’t as look that way.

Kruger also weighs more at 186 pounds, but is the same height. Kruger is a defensive forward and has a faceoff percentage of 50 for the season.

Next: Chicago's Playoffs Streak Important To Appreciate

There is much work to be done for Schmaltz to be a more effective centerman, especially if he’s going to line up between the Blackhawks’ two most potent offensive players. Any improvement he can see during the last 10 regular-season games will be critical to his future development in the league as well.

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