The Detroit Red Wings are clear about what area of their game needs significant improvement heading into tonight’s game against the Anaheim Ducks at Little Caesars Arena (5 p.m., ESPN).
They rank 31st out of 32 NHL teams with a 40.1% faceoff percentage. The Red Wings were 38% on faceoffs in the overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks Friday. They were at 36% against the Los Angeles Kings last week.
“Face-off detail is a huge part of the game,” Detroit coach Derek Lalonde said. “It sets up your whole five-on-five game. Obviously, it hurt us on special teams (against Chicago) in the back of our net.”
With only four games played, the Red Wings know this isn’t necessarily who they are at the faceoff dot. But it is concerning because games in October are as important as games in April.
The Red Wings ranked 18th last season with a 49.4% faceoff percentage.
“We tried to be a detailed face-off team, we tried to incorporate some face-off intensity, not just putting it all on our centers,” Lalonde said. “That’s how you become a better face-off team, when it’s a five-man face-off unit. We don’t have a right-shot face-off guy, so there’s going to be nights it looks like that. I wouldn’t say ugly but you’re going to get beat in that circle a lot. People put it on the centers but it’s more about the team in the face-offs, how important it is, it sets up your whole game.”
Larkin leads Detroit left-shot centers with a 48.75% faceoff percentage. He’s a career 51.4% percent faceoff guy. There’s no reason to believe he won’t be around that number at season’s end.
“I haven’t been very good,” Copp said. “Part of it is timing, part of it is playing center again, part of it is bearing down. The injury is … I don’t want to make excuses. We’re going to get better in the face-off circle, there’s no doubt.”
Copp Says No Reason to Worry
His optimistic assessment is in rooted in both logic and hopeful thinking.
“We’ll understand a little bit more about where the puck is going to go and have a little bit more support from the wingers and centers will get that rhythm and flow again,” Copp said. “Last game as kind of a one-off. The L.A. game, (Anze) Kopitar and (Phillip) Danault are two of the best in the game. We’re going to be fine in the face-off circle. I’m not worried.”
When it comes to faceoffs, top teams generally are adept at cheating. Polite society might call it “keen anticipation.”
“I think it’s the reality of it,” Lalonde said. “We emphasize it. When we’re having good face-off games you’ll see a lot of it because of the jump of our wings. That’s just being ready to play. I can usually tell early on in the game just watching our wings on the face-off if they’re ready to play.”
Lalonde said when a team has no right-shot center, faceoffs are more challenging. But the Red Wings aren’t looking to change that.
“We like all of our lefty centers,” Lalonde said. “There’s no need to go chase a righty just to have a righty center.“It’s who we are. It’s the way we’re built. We don’t have a right-shot center. There’s going to be nights like that. It’s on our lefties to be better in the dot and it’s on all five of us to be improved with our face-off intensity.”