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Another of the highly debated statistics is the faceoff.  Some say that faceoffs aren’t important at all, it’s not like they actually contribute to scoring.  Others say the exact opposite, they do contribute to scoring, plus they are important in your own defensive zone.  Personally, I’m inclined to agree with the latter here, how often does a player win the faceoff back to the point man who blasts it by the goalie?  (Keep in mind I’m writing this after watching the Habs fall to Carolina on this exact play…)  Or, how often is there a scenario where there are 5 seconds left, with a faceoff in your defensive zone, and your team is up by 1?  Quite often I’d say.  The truth is, faceoffs are quite important in this modern NHL, where puck possession is everything, especially if you’re a team playing the trap or a similar defensive system. 

So, how are the Montreal Canadiens in this particular area?  At first glance, one would think not too good, as just 7 players are winning half or more of their draws (and 2 of them are 2/4-see table below).  However, the Habs just happen to possess the league’s best player in that respect, in veteran Yanic Perreault.  Once again, he is leading the NHL in faceoff victory percentage, for the 4th season in a row.  Who are the other players the Canadiens can rely on in the faceoff circle?  The table below will answer that question, as well as who the Habs cannot rely on.

Player FW/FL Win percentage
Yanic Perreault (94) 272-149 64.61%
Benoit Gratton (46) 16-14 53.33%
Joe Juneau (90) 248-231 51.77%
Steve Begin (22) 125-120 51.02%
Saku Koivu (11) 221-216 50.57%
Donald Audette (82) 2-2 50%
Richard Zednik (20) 2-2 50%
Chad Kilger (25) 26-27 49.06%
Jan Bulis (38) 32-40 44.44%
Mike Ribeiro (71) 187-234 44.42%
Marcel Hossa (81) 2-3 40%
Pierre Dagenais (26) 6-10 37.5%
Jason Ward (17) 7-17 29.17%
Michael Ryder (73) 5-14 26.32%
Chris Higgins (88) 2-7 22.22%
Andreas Dackell (24) 1-4 20%
Niklas Sundstrom (37) 2-11 15.38%
Totals 1156-1101 51.22%

Faceoff numbers as of games played through December 26, 2003.

Something that is nice to see here is that besides Perreault, 3 other “regulars” (Juneau, Begin, Koivu) are winning faceoffs at a rate higher than 50%.  The lone concern is Mike Ribeiro, who is 10th on the team overall, and last out of those who have taken at least 1 draw per game.  Overall, the team’s faceoff victory percentage is 51.22%.  However, if you do the math for the team’s 5 regular centres (Koivu, Perreault, Begin, Juneau, Ribeiro), the percentage increases to 52.57% That is the most important number here, as it is to be expected that those who aren’t natural centres or take faceoffs on a regular basis to have a lower victory rate than the others.

Last season, the Canadiens won 2708 faceoffs, while losing 2433 (2708-2433) for a victory rate of 52.67%.  This season, the team is on pace to win 2633 faceoffs, and lose 2508, for the victory rate of 51.22%.  Last season, the Habs failed to make the playoffs, with the higher victory rate.  Hab fans must hope that a lower win percentage does not mean less regular season success.  However this past statement is flawed somewhat, as faceoffs aren’t the only key to success.  How big of a deal are they?  That is something that each person has their own opinion on, it’s time for you to draw your own conclusions regarding its’ importance.

Questions/comments?  E-mail me at [email protected].