It's no secret that the Devils have a pretty mediocre faceoff percentage through three games this season (and were less than stellar in that department during the pre-season as well). Thus far, New Jersey has a faceoff record of 69-84, for a win percentage of 45%. The only game in which we've won the faceoff battle was against Pittsburgh, when we emerged with a 26-25 record at the red dot. As we saw with Patrik Elias's goal off a Jason Arnott faceoff win on Monday, good things can happen as a result of a faceoff victory in the offensive zone. On the other hand, a faceoff loss at an inopportune moment can provide a boost to the opposition.
I'm concerned with the inability of the Devils to consistently win faceoffs at the outset of their powerplays. More often than not, the opposition seems to gain possession of the puck, and quickly clears it out of their defensive zone. Our PP unit is then forced to waste the first 15 seconds of the man advantage retrieving the puck from our zone, and setting up for a rush up the ice. Attention has been drawn to the need for the Devils (particularly the first PP unit) to improve their entry and establishment of puck possession in the offensive zone. It seems to me that faceoff wins on the PP are an integral part of this effort; not only do faceoff wins mean that we won't have to waste the first fifteen seconds of our PPs, but it is much easier to set up in the opposition's zone after a faceoff victory.
(Unfortunately, I'm not very skilled at finding NHL statistics online, and was unable to uncover the Devils record on faceoffs at the beginning of powerplays. I'd greatly appreciate it if someone else who is more adept at that sort of research could find that data, as well as information on faceoffs on special teams as a whole).
So, am I making too big a deal out of this very specific facet of the game? Or is it correct to claim that the Devils must improve their faceoff win percentage to open powerplays in order to improve performance on the powerplay as a whole? Alternatively, are there any other specific faceoff situations that you are more concerned about?
Regardless, I'll certainly be paying close attention to New Jersey's success in the faceoff circle during tonight's game.