Analysis

Chicago Blackhawks Jonathan Toews Can’t Be Only Faceoff Savior

By Randy Holndoner
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If there was a statistic that goes unnoticed that Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews excels at, it is faceoffs.  Dating back to the 2014-15 season, Toews has accounted for one-third of the 17,256 faceoffs taken for the Blackhawks.  Over that time, he has won 56.8 percent of those draws.

Jonathan Toews has, by far, outperformed the rest of the Chicago Blackhawks by a wide margin on faceoffs in recent seasons, as displayed below:

2017-18     Toews – 57.4%     Rest of team – 45.6%

2016-17     Toews – 55.0%     Rest of team – 43.8%

2015-16     Toews – 58.6%     Rest of team – 44.8%

2014-15     Toews – 56.5%     Rest of team – 49.7%

The Blackhawks have struggled greatly this year in winning faceoffs.  Other than David Kampf, no one has a faceoff win percentage over 47 while taking more than 70 faceoffs this year.  Nick Schmaltz, although his win percentage has gone up 10 percent this year, is still at a bleak 40 percent.

It’s hard to jump on Schmaltz’s case for his weakness at the dot.  He’s played just over a year’s worth of NHL games in his career and he is 21 years old.  He has 32 points (12G 20A) in 41 games.

But, he is also the center for the second scoring line.  He’s on a line with Patrick Kane.  You win a faceoff, you can put the puck on Kane’s stick, and who knows what could happen.

Importance of faceoffs

Why is faceoff percentage so important?  Let’s go through an example.  Faceoff in the offensive zone.  Toews wins it. Brandon Saad passes back to the point.  Jordan Oesterle walks in, slaps a shot that’s tipped by Vinnie Hinostroza in front of the net.  Blackhawks score.

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  • How many times have we seen this happen the opposite way when the Blackhawks lose a draw in the defensive zone and the puck ends up in the back of their net 15 seconds into a penalty kill?  If you win the puck, the other team can’t score.

    Their winning percentage breakdown is as follows:

    Offensive zone – 48.8     Defensive zone – 48.9    Neutral zone – 50.8

    What is hard to comprehend about the Blackhawks’ powerplay and lack of goal scoring is the fact they win 56.4 percent of faceoffs when on the powerplay.  Maybe it’s the lack of net presence and puck movement.  But that’s a different story.

    In the Stanley Cup-winning season of 2014-15, the four centers for the Blackhawks were Toews, Brad Richards, Antoine Vermette and Marcus Kruger.  In those 2015 playoffs, as a team, they won 53.1 percent of all faceoffs.  It’s not a coincidence they won the Cup that year. They were very strong at the center position.

    The Blackhawks could really use Phillip Danault, who was traded to the Montreal Canadiens along with a 2018 second-round draft pick, for forwards Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise in February 2016.

    Not all of the blame can be put on the centers, though.  Faceoffs are fought and won in the circle, but the wingers have to do their part as well to control the puck.

    The Blackhawks are weak at center and they need help.  They also need help at defense, too, but again, that’s another story.

    Toews has been criticized for his lack of scoring, and arguably so.  But one thing that goes unnoticed more times than not is the battles at the faceoff dot he has more than 40 times a game.

    Next: 5 Chicago Blackhawks Questions For Second Half

    He’s on a pace for nearly 3,300 faceoffs this year.  He is also creeping up to the age of 30.  He still has plenty in the tank, but he can’t be the sole faceoff savior for this team.

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