How the Blueshirts Are Capitalizing on Faceoff Opportunities

The Rangers have been one of the most successful NHL teams at creating offense through the first 57 games of the season. A very strong transition game has played an important role in their offensive success, but the Blueshirts have also been effective creating scoring chances from offensive zone faceoffs.

Speed and attacking the slot line has driven New York’s transition success, but creating offense from face-offs requires a different approach. A stoppage in play requires a forced restart, which allows both teams to manipulate the personnel on the ice, thus creating set plays and delegating specific responsibilities.

This is why we see definitive patterns of specific players being utilized in the offensive zone for faceoffs.

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Unfortunately, these types of plays can easily be disrupted and offensive chances become reliant on grinding out opportunities. An opponent’s defense immediately attempts to seal off passing lanes and limit the damage created by crossing the slot line. This situation requires offensive players to be creative on the ice.

With the ability to manipulate a compromised slot line, a major asset is a defenseman. He has the ability to slide to the middle to create time and space in order to manipulate passing lanes or can create a lane for a shot through traffic. This is why Keith Yandle leads the Rangers in offensive zone start percentage.

Yandle is the best at grabbing the middle of the ice and getting pucks through to the net, as well as having great vision should a passing lane arise. With Yandle creating a proper angle to create a shot, he can gain offensive opportunities when forwards layer in front of the goaltender. This not only provides a screen, but the possibility of a broken play that results in a rebound or a deflectio

A shot from a faceoff is defined by using any shot taken within three seconds of the puck drop. Using this definition, the Rangers have created 10 goals on 82 shots with eight as result of a screen. Layering defenders in front of the goaltender is extremely important because the defense, upon losing the faceoff, goes directly into survival mode by pressuring the points in order to prevent point shots, applying back door pressure and clearing sightlines for the goaltender.

Disrupting a goaltender’s sightlines compromises his information gathering process. Not only can he not see the shot, but the goaltender also cannot see other high-quality opportunities developing. When this occurs, we have seen that even great goaltenders descend below league average.

When the defense is able to clear sight lines for their goaltender, the reverse occurs, as a league average goaltender can ascend to Vezina trophy level. The Rangers lack of success above the faceoff circles is directly attributable to clear sight lines. This season, Rangers defensemen have registered 152 shots above the tops of the circles, yet only five have resulted in goals, with all being a result of screens or broken plays.

Creating offense directly from faceoffs has a very distinct power play feel to it as it relies on layering and broken plays. It is interesting to note that Viktor Stalberg, who I identified as the Ranger who excels the best off these types of opportunities, is one of the least used forwards in this aspect.

While faceoffs are only a small aspect of the Rangers offense, it does provide interesting insight into how the Rangers generate offensive opportunities. Using individual analytics could benefit New York to better deploy the best personnel in order to maximize the results.