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Winning Play: Pavelski powers Couture’s goal

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Nov 15, 2018; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski (8) celebrates after scoring a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first period at SAP Center at San Jose. John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Do faceoffs matter in the big picture?

Don’t ask Joe Pavelski that question.

After the San Jose Sharks netted three power play goals en route to a 4-0 shutout victory over the Vancouver Canucks, the captain noted, of San Jose’s success on the man advantage last night, “Our entries weren’t as clean as we like, but we won some faceoffs.”

The Sharks won five of six draws on the power play, none more critical than this Pavelski (8) win on Logan Couture’s game-opening strike:

While Arctic Ice Hockey has posited that it would take 164 extra power play faceoff wins to gain just two more points in the standings, this doesn’t take away from Pavelski’s good work. Let’s take a closer look:

According to faceoff data repository Puckbase, from 2007-18, teams on the power play won 54.0 percent of all possible power play faceoffs. This figure represents a healthy edge over the even strength win rate of 50.0 percent from the same time period. This difference is easily explained: Teams on the man advantage have an extra player (or two) to help win draws.

Pavelski exploited that advantage on this faceoff against Markus Granlund (60).

When the puck was dropped, Pavelski won it back, but off his own boot.

With the puck spinning in between he and Granlund, Pavelski gave up playing the puck, opting instead to tie up Granlund. He appeared to subtly hook Granlund’s left leg in the process.

This was a critical decision: Pavelski knew that tying up the Canuck closest to the puck (Granlund) would allow his unmarked teammate, Kevin Labanc (62), to swoop in and gain possession.

That’s what happened. Labanc found Erik Karlsson (65) at the point. Karlsson fed Couture (39) walking down the slot. Tomas Hertl (48) provided a key screen on the Couture shot.

Craig Tabata of Puckbase has stated that “the window of face-offs influencing shot flow has been shown to be strongest within 10 seconds” of an offensive zone faceoff win. This is an even strength data chart, but also roughly applies to the man advantage:

Chart via hockeyprospectus.com

Couture scored six seconds after the drop of the puck, in part because of this crafty Pavelski faceoff win.

In fact, Pavelski has won 60.3 percent of his power play faceoffs since 2013. He’s seventh in the NHL in this category in this period of time (out of 46 qualified centers, 300+ power play faceoff wins).

Regardless of how much faceoffs matter in the big picture, it’s a pleasure to watch a master like Pavelski at work.