FanPost

Face-Off Percentage Analysis

While I watch games, one of the stats I always glance at is the face-off percentage. A percentage doesn't tell you much about the game itself, but winning face-offs allows your team to have control of the puck. I have read some articles that tried to find a correlation between face-off percentages and various different elements, such as game outcomes, win-loss records, etc. Although, the answer always seems to be "no, there is no correlation", I wondered if a higher face-off percentage helped you advance throughout each playoff round and eventually win the Stanley Cup.

I retrieved the face-off percentage stats from NHL.com for each season beginning with the 2005-2006 season. The below charts show the teams face-off percentages and whether they advanced in each round of the playoffs.

All sets of data contain outliers, however, the same team seems to be the exception each time - the Pittsburgh Penguins. Does this mean that face-off percentages do not matter when it comes to playoff games or are the Penguins an exception to the rule? Let's go round by round and determine what face-off percentage is needed to advance:

For the quarterfinals of the playoffs, the lowest face-off percentage for all 6 seasons is 46.1% for the Penguins in the 2007-08 season. The second-to-last lowest percentage is 48.1% from both the 2005-09 Colorado Avalanche and 2008-09 Chicago Blackhawks. Since this is the first round of the playoffs, the face-off percentage differential between all of the teams will be much larger due to the number of teams that make the playoffs. So it is safe to say that your face-off percentage doesn't necessarily help you get into the playoffs and probably won't help you advance to the semifinals.

Quarterfinals

2005-06

2006-07

2007-08

2008-09

2009-10

2010-11

Team

FO%

Team

FO%

Team

FO%

Team

FO%

Team

FO%

Team

FO%

EDMONTON

53.4

DETROIT

53.6

DETROIT

53.3

DETROIT

55.1

SAN JOSE

55.6

VANCOUVER

54.9

CAROLINA

51.7

ANAHEIM

51.8

NY RANGERS

52.3

VANCOUVER

51.9

BOSTON

52.6

SAN JOSE

53.7

ANAHEIM

50.8

BUFFALO

51.4

SAN JOSE

51.2

WASHINGTON

51.7

CHICAGO

52.4

BOSTON

51.9

OTTAWA

50.3

SAN JOSE

51.1

DALLAS

50.4

CAROLINA

51.3

VANCOUVER

51.4

DETROIT

51.9

BUFFALO

49.7

OTTAWA

50.3

PHILADELPHIA

49.3

BOSTON

51

DETROIT

51.1

WASHINGTON

51.6

NEW JERSEY

49.5

NY RANGERS

49.9

MONTREAL

49

ANAHEIM

49.8

PHILADELPHIA

50.1

TAMPA BAY

50.4

SAN JOSE

48.4

VANCOUVER

49.2

COLORADO

47.8

PITTSBURGH

49.1

MONTREAL

49.7

PHILADELPHIA

50.3

COLORADO

48.1

NEW JERSEY

49

PITTSBURGH

46.1

CHICAGO

48.1

PITTSBURGH

49.3

NASHVILLE

50.2

When we get to the semifinals of the playoffs, the lowest face-off percentage is the same as the previous round with the 2007-08 Penguins at 46.1% and the 2005-09 Colorado Avalanche and 2008-09 Chicago Blackhawks with 48.1%. What we do notice is that the teams with the lowest face-off percentages start to get eliminated from the playoffs. Teams with a face-off percentage under 50% only advanced to the next round 6 times. Although we are beginning to see a trend, I would say it is safe to say you have a slight advantage in the semifinals round of the playoffs with a higher face-off percentage.

Semifinals

2005-06

2006-07

2007-08

2008-09

2009-10

2010-11

Team

FO%

Team

FO%

Team

FO%

Team

FO%

Team

FO%

Team

FO%

EDMONTON

53.4

DETROIT

53.6

DETROIT

53.3

DETROIT

55.1

SAN JOSE

55.6

VANCOUVER

54.9

CAROLINA

51.7

ANAHEIM

51.8

DALLAS

50.4

CAROLINA

51.3

CHICAGO

52.4

SAN JOSE

53.7

ANAHEIM

50.8

BUFFALO

51.4

PHILADELPHIA

49.3

PITTSBURGH

49.1

PHILADELPHIA

50.1

BOSTON

51.9

BUFFALO

49.7

OTTAWA

50.3

PITTSBURGH

46.1

CHICAGO

48.1

MONTREAL

49.7

TAMPA BAY

50.4

The conference finals begin to paint a different picture. Out of the 6 seasons, there have only been 2 times that teams have advanced with a face-off percentage under 50%. Both of those low percentages were from the same team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, with 46.1% and 49.1% from the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons, respectively.

Conference Finals

2005-06

2006-07

2007-08

2008-09

2009-10

2010-11

Team

FO%

Team

FO%

Team

FO%

Team

FO%

Team

FO%

Team

FO%

EDMONTON

53.4

ANAHEIM

51.8

DETROIT

53.3

DETROIT

55.1

CHICAGO

52.4

VANCOUVER

54.9

CAROLINA

51.7

OTTAWA

50.3

PITTSBURGH

46.1

PITTSBURGH

49.1

PHILADELPHIA

50.1

BOSTON

51.9

The Stanley Cup finals chart shows that a higher face-off percentage does not mean you will win the Stanley Cup, but a percentage above 50% helps you make a deep playoff run. Other than the Pittsburgh Penguins, all teams that won the Stanley Cup were within the top 3 face-off percentages for that season.

Stanley Cup Finals

2005-06

2006-07

2007-08

2008-09

2009-10

2010-11

Team

FO%

Team

FO%

Team

FO%

Team

FO%

Team

FO%

Team

FO%

CAROLINA

51.7

ANAHEIM

51.8

DETROIT

53.3

PITTSBURGH

49.1

CHICAGO

52.4

BOSTON

51.9

Obviously, there are a lot of other components that go into a Stanley Cup winning team, as proven by the Pittsburgh Penguins where they had more strengths in other areas and it helped make up for the low face-off percentage. In the end, the face-off percentage doesn't determine how a team will perform in the playoffs as there are several teams with a high face-off percentages that do not make it past the semifinals round but it does indicate that the team can have more control over the puck whether its offensive face-offs to help score goals or defensive face-offs to clear the puck out of the zone.

What are your thoughts on face-off percentages? Do you think a higher percentage will help make a deep playoff run?

All FanPosts and FanShots are the respective work of the author and not representative of the writers or other users of In Lou We Trust.

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