Rangers hurt by faceoff issues against Hurricanes

Maybe it’s time for Chris Drury to speed dial Pierre Racicot.

Remember at training camp when the Blueshirts’ newly appointed president-general manager invited the newly retired NHL linesman to work with the team on his persistent faceoff problems?

Racicot’s solicitor paid some dividends throughout the season, perhaps meagerly, but the Blueshirts improved from 44.5 per cent a year ago – a performance that was not only their last in the league but the second-worst record of any club in nine seasons 48.1 percent this year, 24th in the league.

Even more encouragingly, the blueshirts have been just over 50 percent in the last 22 games of the season, dating back to March 17.

But Rangers have regressed since the playoffs’ first puck drop, falling to 42.8 percent, bottom of the 16 tournament qualifiers. If there’s good news to glean from all of those stats, it’s that mighty two-time Stanley Cup champion Lightning – next on the list if the blueshirts progress – is 15th.

If there’s bad news to glean from the stats, it’s that the Blueshirts are down this round against Carolina, winning just 41.9 percent of their draws against the ‘Canes in Tuesday’s Game 4 at the Garden. They were 20-to-49 in Game 1, 27-to-62 in Game 2, and 26-to-63 in Game 3.

Mika Zibanejad (93) and the Rangers struggled to win faceoffs in the NHL playoffs.
Mika Zibanejad (93) and Rangers struggled to win faceoffs in the playoffs.
Getty Images

Of course, not all faceoffs are created equal. But by losing those fights on the points so consistently, Rangers find themselves in an almost constant pursuit of the puck. This is certainly a factor in the club’s inability to generate any significant amount of quality scoring chances against Antti Raanta.

Sometimes, by the way, that doesn’t make the slightest sense. After Kevin Rooney won 11 of his 18 opening set draws on the road, the club’s fourth-line center and penalty-killer lost all 10 faceoffs he played in Sunday’s Game 3 at the Garden. Rooney, who lost all three to Vincent Trocheck and Jesperi Kotkaniemi and the two to Jordan Staal and Seth Jarvis, is now at 39.3 percent.

It goes on and on (or not) for Rangers, who incredibly haven’t won at least half of their draws since the 2008/09 season. They had Brad Richards and Derek Stepan; Brian Boyle and Dom Moore; Derick Brassard and Kevin Hayes; Brandon Dubinsky and Erik Christensen; John Mitchell and Drury himself, among others. There must be something in the water.

Gerard Gallant generally downplays the problem, but when asked why he juggled the club’s line combinations for Game 3, the head coach’s explanation was straight to the point.

Rangers forward Andrew Copp (18) was moved to the center for Game 3 against the Hurricanes to cover partial faceoffs.
Rangers forward Andrew Copp (18) was moved to the center for Game 3 against the Hurricanes to cover partial faceoffs.
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“I just wanted to get Copper in the middle — a stronger faceoff guy,” Gallant said, referring to Andrew Copp moving from the right side of the Ryan Strome line to the middle of a redesigned third unit. “He did pretty well but we still had big problems at the face-off point. That was my reasoning.”

Copp, who had won just 8 of 19 in the first two games, won 9 of 16 in Game 3. He now leads Rangers with 47.2 percent in that series. Ryan Strome follows with 45.2 percent.

Mika Zibanejad, whose 52.3 percent efficiency this season ranks as the third-best mark in the last 13 seasons among Rangers with at least 1,000 draws, is behind only Dom Moore’s 54.5 in 2014-15 and Drury’s 52.9 in 2009- 10 at 44.4 percent against Carolina.

Meanwhile, Staal (39 to 58) and Trocheck (27 to 40) celebrate 67.2 percent and 67.5 percent, respectively. However, Sebastian Aho sits at a Rangers-like 44.1 percent.

Again, some faceoffs are more important than others from both an offensive zone and defensive zone perspective. But none is really insignificant.

Offense suffers when a team wins 21 of 54 offensive zone ties (38.8 percent), as Rangers did.

Puck possession falters when a team wins 24 of 53 ties on defense (45.3 percent), as Rangers did.

The power play is at a disadvantage when a team wins 2 of 9 draws in the offensive zone (22.2 percent), as Rangers did.

The Rangers are in. You’ve gone toe-to-toe with the ‘canes so far. But face-to-face was a significant problem.

Where’s Racicot when the Blueshirts need him?

https://nypost.com/2022/05/24/nhl-playoffs-rangers-hurt-by-faceoff-woes-vs-hurricanes/ Rangers hurt by faceoff issues against Hurricanes

JOE HERNANDEZ

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