Blackhawks Center Depth Making The Difference

When the 2013-14 playoffs ended 13 months ago, the Blackhawks’ glaring issue against the Los Angeles Kings was their depth at the center position. In the wake of that crushing defeat, Chicago GM Stan Bowman made a point of addressing the weakness when he added veteran center Brad Richards early in free agency. And the deadline deal to bring Antoine Vermette on board further bolstered the Hawks at the position.

Before the Stanley Cup Final began, we wrote about the impact Chicago’s excellent centers could make in the faceoff circle. As the Final has played out, it has been the Blackhawks’ depth at center that has been the difference, and has the Hawks one win away from glory.

Toews media

Jonathan Toews
Stanley Cup Final: 5 games, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, 20:15 ATOI
There isn’t a better leader in the National Hockey League than Toews, and he has once again shown himself to be the best clutch player of this generation during these playoffs. Toews has taken 101 of the 298 faceoffs in the series through five games, and has won 61 of those draws; by comparison, no Tampa center has been involved with more than 79 faceoffs.

Brad Richards Final

Brad Richards
Stanley Cup Final: 5 games, 1 goal, 0 assists, 14:31 ATOI
We wrote about Richards excellent performance in the Western Conference Final and his return to Tampa, where he won the Conn Smythe in 2004, before the series. Skating on the evolving second line for the Blackhawks, Richards has won 53.4 percent of his faceoffs in the series.

Antoine Vermette Final

Antoine Vermette
Stanley Cup Final: 5 games, 2 game-winning goals, 0 assists, 10:42 ATOI
Vermette has been outstanding throughout these playoffs (when he’s not a healthy scratch). In the Cup Final, he has been Chicago’s best faceoff man, winning 42 of 64 draws (65.6 percent), and has become the first player in franchise history to register two game-winning goals in a Cup Final series.

Marcus Kruger Final

Marcus Kruger
Stanley Cup Final: 5 games, o goals, 1 assist, 13:25 ATOI
The Kruger-led fourth line for Chicago has been a difference maker throughout the series, and Kruger has been a key to the Hawks exceptional penalty killing as well. Kruger has won 57.4 percent of his faceoffs in the series.

Andrew Shaw has also been consistently impactful as an occasional center for the Hawks in the Final series. He has won 16 of 29 faceoffs in the series.

Tyler Johnson

In these playoffs, Tampa two best faceoff men had been Valtteri Filppula and Tyler Johnson. Johnson was just above 50 percent at the dot coming into the Final, while Filppula had won 54 percent of his faceoffs in these playoffs. During the Cup Final, however, Filppula has been dominated and Johnson has been almost fully removed from faceoff duty by Tampa coach Jon Cooper.

Through five games, Johnson has won six of only 16 faceoffs (37.5 percent) while Filppula, who has remained Tampa’s best in the circle, has won only 45 percent of his opportunities.

Chicago has won 58.7 percent of the faceoffs in the series as a team, and have carried the offense. The Hawks four centers have accounted for four goals and three assists thus far in the series, while Tampa’s top four centers (based on number of faceoffs taken in the series) have scored four goals with two assists.

Tampa forward Nikita Kucherov traveled to Chicago with the Lightning on Sunday, but he is questionable for Monday night. If he isn’t able to go, the Blackhawks depth up front will hold an even stronger advantage.

As the Blackhawks look to close out the series on Monday night, their strength at center figures to once again drive their success.

26 thoughts on “Blackhawks Center Depth Making The Difference

  • June 14, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    Tab – thanks for another great piece.
    How great would it be to be able to somehow get Vermy signed to stay on with the club. With Marcus being RFA I believe we need him as well though. I don’t think Richards could be had on the cheap again, so we may need to fill that spot via trade or having patience with Nordstrom. YIKES!
    The more I get to know Vermy – via his play and interviews conducted – the more I really like this guy. He has a ton of class and I believe he is really a “team first” kind of guy. He also reaks maturity. Is there any chance he can be had?
    Marcus Kruger…. I’d go to war with him any day. He’s a feisty bastard that just don’t quit!

  • June 14, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    Scumbag Cooper says scumbag Kucherov close to returning. LIES. He’s out. Don’t belive the smarmy lawyer. And if he does pkay, PLASTER HIM TO THE BOARDS.

    No more dicking around. We gotta step on their throats and snuff them out.

  • June 14, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    I second Flatliners statement…put them away.

  • June 14, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    Flatliner – tell us how you REALLY FEEL. Don’t hold back.
    “Smarmy” you hit the nail right on the head! Lol
    We need to do this tomorrow!!!!!!

  • June 14, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    Regarding Kucherov possibly playing…..hogwash.

  • June 14, 2015 at 11:03 pm

    W for Q in 6!

  • June 15, 2015 at 1:14 am

    While I’m aware there is subterfuge aplenty in the NHL playoffs, the fact that Kucherov traveled with the team to Chicago leads me to believe he has at least a chance of playing and more hockey players play when there’s a chance. Now, he may not be 100% even if he does play, but I’m not buying the “he’s not playing” line.

    But, really, so what? I’m all for having the Hawks get some good fortune, but there’s also something to be said for beating the other team when they don’t have the excuse of so-n-so wasn’t in the lineup. Bring on the opponent and may the best team win.

    This is fun.

    Go Hawks ! ! ! !

  • June 15, 2015 at 4:13 am

    Let’s bring the cup home guys!

  • June 15, 2015 at 5:02 am

    I have every bit of confidence that the Blackhawks will be totally focused tonight on playing their best game of the series, and aren’t thinking this will be a cinch to clinch. A raucous crowd will be a great help. While victory at the U.C. will be unbelievably euphoric, there is a little bit of melancholy when one considers that thanks to the salary cap, there are a number of players who will be wearing that beautiful Indian Head sweater for the last time tonight. One more reason to savour the moment and appreciate this amazing team, as the summer is going to be similar to 2010 all over again.

  • June 15, 2015 at 6:15 am

    Amen Espo, Amen brother!!

  • June 15, 2015 at 6:24 am

    Captain Serious full of skate
    Our lord Stanley is with thee
    Blessed art Crow among goalies
    and blessed is the endurance of Keith and Seabrook.
    Kane and Teuvo, Hossa and Vermette
    Pray for our winners
    Now and in the final seconds of the third

  • June 15, 2015 at 8:46 am

    1st thing I did today was check to see updates on Kucherov, there is been ALOT of talk about the triplets but anyone who has watched the finals can see Kucherov is the stud on that line. He is a dynamic player.

    I’m not sure who I am more impressed with Hedman or him, both players are MUCH better then I could have imagined.

  • June 15, 2015 at 8:57 am

    ER- Kucherov- does make a difference… great forecheck, fast, and great at getting to traffic/deflections…

    wts- you couldn’t get me out of a game like that… unless I physically- couldn’t go…like punctured lung, or Torn Miniscus… oh- wait- guys with those injuries -played… I really hope- 86 is out…

  • June 15, 2015 at 8:58 am

    Read an article with a Cooper quote that made me laugh. I wasn’t able to copy/paste it, but it was something like: “It’s been a pleasure and an honor to coach these guys, to the point where I basically almost stand there. They almost kind of run themselves.”
    Thank you for verifying, coop.

  • June 15, 2015 at 9:37 am

    Thanks for the link Tab, Edzo had mentioned Stan wasn’t doing well a few weeks back. Let’s hope the Hawks can raise the cup at home for Stan and give him a new memory!

  • June 15, 2015 at 11:25 am

    Our Center ice play is very good! Hockey is about winning Face offs (possession) and staying out of the penalty box! (not playing short handed) The Hawks have done both well! Bolts are getting beat at the dot thank GOD or Hawks would never see the puck

    Marcus for his size is amazing at the dot! Toews and Marcus are really about even in “winning percentage” Toews ahead but it is not unusual to Marcus at the dot when the game is on the line, in fact a lot! Vermette to me is the best pure “master” of winning and control and directing the puck to ignite a set play, no one else is capable of that skill on the Hawks and that is a big difference. Scrum battles to me are effective but that skill set is barely a skill? Richards is respectable and Shaw as mentioned also steps in well and at least has quick hands to “interfere” or tie up the other guy so Hawks have a chance to retrieve, scrum style!

  • June 15, 2015 at 11:41 am

    Coach Q looks wayyyy to relaxed in his press conferences, he seems to know something we don’t know or I don’t know, Damn he looks confident! I hope so! All Hawks suddenly look and sound very confident.

    I wonder if Bishop has one great game in him left, a shutout? Good news if the Hawks score first the pressure will be unbearable on Bishop and Bolts and they will press and Hawks will get odd man breaks!

    I wonder if Crow can just maintain solid, body position, strong down low and compact on top. Less movement, post to post. His Glove hand seems to be “tuned”
    I see him playing as he has and i do not see Crow eating Crow if we do lose, it won’t be CROW!

    I wonder if the home crowd can actually sustain some “noise” beyond the national anthem and beyond the pre-programmed chants! Hawks might need it!

    I wonder how hard and low our D-men will be GO? How engaged in the offensive and to the NET? First period last game they pinched down low but still have a lot more “Offense” they can add if “allowed”

    Again Hawks so “paranoid” about getting back it makes our d-men slow to jump and since they don’t jump in low OFTEN if we watch our forwards and centers are unaware and out of position. Meaning it is not a Bolts System, a machine it is sort of “if you got a chance to take it to the net or enter the zone do so.”

    I love how the Bolts Strategy and System is reinventing the game, they really play with 5 forwards (mindset) they just rotate up to the empty area of the ice, and they all skate and all can defend well so it’s sweet to see it. It is the future, 5 guys all skaters and sound defensively and rotate up over and back. No guessing as Hawks do at times, a system, commitment!

    Go hawks . . . Shaw Tonight! And that Third line are key, Look for Versteeg to have another solid game, Vermette and Versteeg is well balanced and add in some TNT and you got some open ice!

    Go hawks again

    And thanks TAB for a great website and fun and valuable content

  • June 15, 2015 at 11:47 am

    Heard about Stan, and it’s coming to a lot more players! Those head shots are killer and the size of these guys is so much bigger and faster! Marcus is one guy who I know is going to have issues, I’m no doctor but my grandmother was a gypsy so i just sort of know stuff. 80% of these dementia don’t share it or think it’s normal and research is “vague and limited” Also Bick has a concussion (IMO) and not upper body, giving a hit and taking a hit are almost “Equally” Destructive .” NHL like NFL talks a good game but law suits will come in the net 10 years.

    Stan was and is one of the Greats in the entire NHL not just Hawks! Love to him!

  • June 15, 2015 at 1:07 pm

    We Kane!

    We Shaw!

    We Crawford!

  • June 15, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    Faceoffs have very little to do with overall possession. While it helps a little bit to win a faceoff, in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t mean much.

  • June 15, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    Q is a mastermind and will reveal his final phase of his master plan for the Cup to be hoisted in Chicago. John Cooper, attorney at law, and also a Breck girl will be trying to figure out what to say to the media for over half the game. Kimmo scores a goal and Darling gets a little playing time. The most lopsided clincher in NHL history. I just know it. :-)

  • June 15, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    SOUTHSIDEHAWKMAN – loved it!

    JS – the importance of winning the draw consistently should not be overlooked. It’s the battle before the battle so to speak. If you lose that fight too many times you will forever be at a disadvantage.
    Try telling the Toews that winning the draw isn’t all that important. I’d love to see the look on his face.

    GO HAWKS – one more baby!

  • June 15, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    Js you for reals? Face offs is a lot of the game, in an odd way like rebounding in basketball. Got have the puck to possess it, so many icing calls in this series especially, means you got to win those draws, you don’t believe it BUT Hawks winning at the Dot is pretty much the only reason they won so far.

    But I respect your opinion that Winning Faces have little to do with possession. I see it as critical.

    Anyway we agree Go Hawks about time for them to actually WIN like by 3 goals!

  • June 15, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    Just repeating the math I’ve seen, MtM. It certainly helps, but as far as possession numbers in this series go, Hawks have DOMINATED at the dot and they only have 8 more ES attempts than the Lightning.

    I will say, winning the draw on the PP/PK is pretty damn important in determining success.

  • June 15, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    #1 – win the draw
    #2 – don’t turn the puck over

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