Winning The Dot: Blackhawks Advantage Up The Middle

Heading into the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, the Blackhawks and Lightning have taken two different paths to the final round. But both teams have received strong play from their centers, leading to their places in the season’s ultimate series.

In these playoffs, the Blackhawks have faced three teams that bring a lot of size to the faceoff circle, certainly more than the Lightning will present in the upcoming series.

Here are the Blackhawks three previous playoff opponents’ centers listed with their heights and weights (listed in order of most faceoffs taken during the 2015 playoffs):

  • Nashville
    Paul Gaustad – 6-5, 223
    Mike Ribeiro – 6-0, 177
    Matt Cullen – 6-1, 200
    Calle Jarnkrok – 5-11, 156

After sitting through the first two games, Antoine Vermette returned to the lineup and dominated, winning 58.2 percent of his faceoffs against a Nashville team that ranked 21st in the NHL during the regular season. Brad Richards was also very good, winning 53.7 percent of his faceoffs in the series. Jonathan Toews was held to only 47.6 percent in the opening round.

  • Minnesota
    Mikko Koivu – 6-3, 215
    Mikael Granlund – 5-10, 185
    Kyle Brodziak – 6-2, 212
    Charlie Coyle – 6-3, 221

The Wild finished the regular season ranked 15th in the NHL at the dot, but the Blackhawks completely dominated them in the series. Vermette again led the way, winning 71.4 percent of his faceoffs, but he wasn’t alone. Andrew Shaw won 66.7 percent of his limited faceoffs and Toews won 56.1 percent of his heavy workload. Marcus Kruger also came in above 51 percent for the series, with Richards (36.7 percent) being the lone center to struggle in the Hawks second round victory.

  • Anaheim
    Ryan Kesler – 6-2, 208
    Ryan Getzlaf – 6-4, 218
    Nate Thompson – 6-0, 210
    Rickard Rackell – 6-0, 201

There aren’t many teams that are bigger at the dot than the Ducks, and Anaheim was the better team when the puck was dropped in the last round; only Toews (58.5) was above 48 percent against the Ducks in seven games. Anaheim finished the regular season ranked ninth in the NHL and did a great job of winning faceoffs throughout the series, which was a key contributor to their success offensively.

As Chicago looks ahead to the Stanley Cup Final, Tampa Bay presents a different challenge. There isn’t as much size at the dot, but the Bolts have been successful in the playoffs.

Tampa comes in having faced stronger competition at the dot in the first two rounds, as the Detroit Red Wings finished the regular season ranked tenth in the league and the Montreal Canadiens ranked fourth overall at the dot. However, the New York Rangers were one of the worst in the league (28th overall in the regular season).

  • Tyler Johnson (5-8, 183) – 50.3%
  • Valtteri Filppula (6-0, 193) – 54.1%
  • Brian Boyle (6-7, 244) – 50.7%
  • Steven Stamkos (6-1, 194) – 53.6%

Both teams have been offensively led by their centers as well. Johnson leads all postseason skaters with 12 goals and 21 points, and Stamkos has added 17 points in 20 games. Toews has, predictably, been Chicago’s biggest weapon at center; he has nine goals and 19 points in 17 games.

The team that wins at the dot will likely win the Stanley Cup. And, after their path through Nashville, Minnesota and Anaheim, the Hawks will have a distinct advantage heading into the coming series.


24 thoughts on “Winning The Dot: Blackhawks Advantage Up The Middle

  1. I like the article for the sake of knowing things I didn’t previously know, so thanks. But, nothing that I read supports your conclusion: that the Hawks will have an advantage. If TB did well at the dot versus two of the better teams in the league at face offs in Det and Mon then why can’t we expect the trend to continue? Also, they have home ice, if the series goes 7 they’ll have last change and get to come into the draw second, both advantageous to TB – not Chicago.

  2. Yea, I don’t get it either. I do not see where TB rank at the dot is listed in this article.

    Also, the article says that the Hawks will have the advantage but it is not clear as to why. Something about size but Brian Boyle from TB is listed at 6-7 and 244 lbs. That must be the biggest guy out there from all teams listed.

    I would love to believe that the Hawks get an advantage at the dot but I do not understand why and I read the article 3 times.

  3. …..I think there is a confusion here between size and scoring prowess but Im sure the Blackhawks will adjust to the task at hand….lol….

  4. Here’s a look at the FO% won by each key Hawks C in the Ducks series as a “Home vs. Away” analysis:

    Toews FO%:
    H (gms 3/4/6); 77.8/64.5/83.3
    A (gms 1/2/5/7): 48.1/44.7/50.0/56.5
    H: 25.0/33.3/55.6
    A: 58.8/56.7/42.9/50.0
    H: na/70.0/66.7
    A: 50.0/40.0/34.8/22.2
    H: na/50.0/70.0
    A: 41.7/28.6/50.0/40.0
    H: 35.7/33.3/50.0
    A: 44.4/55.6/16.7/66.7

    It’s about both skill and matchups. I did not look deeper (such a d-zone vs o-zone, period, score, etc.) Basically:
    * Toews was dominant at home but held his own on the road.
    * Richards was stronger on the road but came up big in game-6 at home.
    * Vermette was dominant at the dot in the 2 home games he played, got worse on the road as series progressed.
    * Kruger was strong at home, not on the road.
    * Shaw was up and down and all over the place home and away.

    The one clear statistical trend is stating the obvious, much stronger as a team at the dote when at home.

    In view of match-up issues, not sure how to translate vs. TB…

  5. Faceoffs are important, no question. However, the Tampa Bay “D” is where the Hawks may have an even greater advantage. After Hedman & Stralman (they are solid, but they’re breaking new ground here), the next pairing (Coburn & Carle) are both -8 in playoffs — and they’ve danced this dance before v. Hawks in Finals, and it didn’t go well (see ’10 Finals, Flyers second “D” pairing). Garrison is a powerplay specialist — from a defensive standpoint, he is slightly better than Rundblad. I can’t even name their 6th D-man. Absent their goalie standing on his head the entire series, the Hawks will not lose this series. Parade, take III. Thank you.

  6. The physical size difference between Anaheim & Tampa will favor the Hawks at the dot as well. Boyle’s enormous but Toews is suddenly the big man on campus at 6-2 and 205.

  7. I think the point is the hawks have played vs some “big” as well as talented teams at the dot. and this has “prepared them” and they should be hitting all cylinders vs a smaller TB team by comparison.

    And IMO just from a experience perspective, Richards/Vermette/Toews should dominate. as whole line matchups go, i think it will be hard for TB to compete. Im sure they will try to keep the triplets away from Toews/Kruger lines when at home, but im not sure it will matter.

  8. Thanks for those numbers, Tab, Negzz. Wow, is there anything Toews doesn’t do well? Those home faceoffs numbers are outstanding.

    No doubt our centers are playing great. Q dominated Bruce late in the series thanks to a great effort at the dot.

  9. Neggz and Iceman, excellent posts. Sustr is the other d-man for the Lightning. The ex-Flyers pairing numbers are pretty ugly and could have been worse had the Rangers not completely forgotten how to score. Enjoy the summer off Kevin!

    One other comment on this topic – the Ducks had a significant size advantage on the Hawks at the dot and yet, here we are. Is this the factor that sways the series? Likely not but good to have on our side.

    It’s hard to really hate the Lightning, aside from the newest “keep the red out” nonsense. Should be a high-flying, attacking series with lots of chance for chance rushes. Should be a fun one with neither team wanting to sit back and grind it out. Although the Hawks do a beautify job of that when they have a lead going into the 3rd.

  10. Great post, Tab. I’m a big believer in the importance of winning the face-off battle. And winning can mean losing the overall percentage, but still winning enough to keep the balance in our favor. Many variables, of course, chief among them is match-ups, I think. The big plus for us this year is we have four centers that can win that battle. Can’t overstate how important that is. If we had that last year, I firmly believe we would have defeated the Kings and gone on to win the Cup.

  11. I think Andrew Cogliano of Ducks grabbed Jarret Stoll’s leftover candy. In relevant portion this morning: “Where we are today [cleaning out lockers] is a product of bringing in Kesler, Thompson & STONER.” Stoner? Ha ha ha. I hope Stoner stays on the Ducks “D” for many years to follow.

  12. Speaking of faceoffs – let’s get on with the first one already. These multiple days of waiting is taking FOREVER.

    The thing that scares me more than anything is that I’m not as nervous as I was against Preds/Wild/Ducks. Going into those three series I didn’t I really think the Hawks would lose but each of those teams scared my for one reason or another. This time, it’s not like I don’t think TB is a very good team, but I’m more confident the Hawks will win this series than the previous three … and that makes me nervous :)

  13. This is way off topic but…

    I’m wondering if anyone remembers what the sro price was for hawk games at the stadium in the late 60’s. I remember running up the stairs to grab the rail behind the goal the Hawks shot at for two periods and waiting an hour and a half for the game to start. Yes it was necessary to have some buddies to trade off with since you did not want to release your rail grip.

    I recall that 75 cents got me into the bleachers at Wrigley. Sox general admission was not too much more than that. But I can’t remember what we paid to stand at the Stadium.

    If anyone recalls that sro price – thanks

    GO Hawks!!

  14. I don’t remember the prices in the 60’s, but I do remember going to the old stadium with my dad and watching Phil Esposito play when he still wore the Indian Head. Don’t get me started…glad those are the old days! The HEM Line. Remember that one??

  15. I’m the same way, Mr. Ebony. Just think of the triplets, Stamkos… Bishop shutout the Rangers twice in Madison Square Garden. Some people see the Bolts like the 2010 Hawks. I hope that helps. :)

  16. Perry, Kesler, Fred the Red, Boudreau…woe to the vanquished..Vae Victus….I’m still celebrating!

  17. ……there is no doubt about it the Blackhawks are the team to beat……Lightning have the element of surprise which has worked well so far against their previous opponents. ……..but I say Hawks in 5 or 6……..

  18. ER, I am just the opposite. TB scares me a lot. While the physical element may be less intense, TB has more speed and skill than our other 3 opponents. I actually worry that fatigue will affect us more than them. If TB is as fast and skilled in their top 2 lines and top 2 defensive pairs as the Hawks, fatigue will be a factor. Experience is on our side while youth and exuberance on theirs.

    Our 3d and 4th will be hugely important as this series. They are important and may well be the key to a Hawks victory.

  19. Game day boys, here we go. There are A LOT of indian-head sweaters in the loop this morning. The buzz is getting louder. Can’t wait for puck-drop at (around) 7 tonight.

    This list of who needs to see a cup is getting a little thin, but how about we win #3 for my 7 month old who has yet to see a cup win!

    The Lightning may look like the 2010 Hawks, but the 2015 Hawks are not the 2010 Flyers. The triplets have not seen a defensive corps of the like of 2-4-7-27. I think those guys have proven enough to say they are the best top 4 in the league. That’s one more you can put on Bowman – many were calling for him resign Niemi and let 4 go to San Jose when they signed him to the offer sheet. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sticking with the Hammer.


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