Every year the NHL makes a few tweaks to its rulebook in an attempt to make the game better. Well, really, they are pretty much only focused on creating more offense, but in the eyes of most, that’s making the game better. This offseason they added in a few new rules about the location of faceoffs and through six games, the Golden Knights are learning a lot about how they are going to handle it, both with personnel and about the linesmen.
We start with the new rules. They are fairly simple. There are now four situations in which the attacking team gets to decide which offensive zone circle they would like to take the faceoff from.
- Following an icing
- On the first draw to start a power play
- When the puck is frozen by a goalie on a shot from behind the center red line
- When a defensive skater accidentally dislodges the goal
Previously the linesmen would select which side the draw would be taken on based on where the puck was when the play was blown dead. Now the attacking team chooses.
Before we go any further, it seems pertinent to explain why this is important. The reason is that most centers have a side they prefer to take a draw on, usually based on the handedness of their stick. They win more on their preferred side, thus the offensive team will have more opportunities to score.
Which brings us back to the Golden Knights. In the game against Los Angeles, there were six icing calls on the Kings and LA took five penalties. That means 11 times in which the Golden Knights were able to choose where they took the draw. Here were their results.
Smith WIN on left
Marchessault LOSS on right
Nosek WIN on left
Eakin WIN on left
Marchessault WIN on right
Stastny WIN on left
Stastny LOSS on right*
Eakin LOSS on left
Stastny WIN on left
Marchessault LOSS on right
Marchessault LOSS on left*
*Opposite side of expected choice
Vegas won five of the 11 with every player taking the draw electing to take it on the same side as he shoots with the exception of two. One from Marchessault and another from Stastny, both of which were lost, but we’ll get back to that in a moment.
Let’s leave the results alone though and take a look at the names that were among those who took the draws, or more so, the key name missing. William Karlsson took just one faceoff the entire night against Los Angeles, and did not take any of the ones in which Vegas had the choice of which side it would be taken on.
Us coaches thought with all these new faceoff rules that we try Marchessault a lot tonight and Reilly Smith on a few so that’s what we were trying to do. Like I said we’re switching sides all the time, and we know what Karlsson can do in the face-off circle and Marchy’s pretty good at it. Just ask him. -Gerard Gallant
Overall, Marchessault went 5 for 11 while Smith was 1 for 3. It’s an interesting idea for the Golden Knights as they look to improve on Karlsson’s poor 47.8% faceoff percentage since coming to Vegas. He was even worse in the playoffs when he won just 52 of 112 for 46.4%.
Smith and Marchessault went a combined 2 of 5 on the ones in which they got to choose their side. Horribly small sample size, but definitely something to keep an eye on as the Golden Knights head into the regular season to see if it continues.
On to the other issue, who is deciding where the draws are taken.
On the very first penalty of the game, the Golden Knights wanted the draw on the left. Stastny skated to the left circle, Stone asked for it on the left, basically everyone on the ice was lining up on the left. But, the linesman and the referee demanded they take the draw on the right.
The first five exhibition games we had no issue. I told the linesmen and referees that I was going to have my centerman pick the spot. Now tonight all of a sudden something changed and they want the coach picking it. I didn’t get that memo, they got the memo, so I was upset. And it happened a few times. We’re going to have to get it straight sooner or later. I don’t mind the rule but they’ve got to get it straight. -Gallant
On the final penalty, Marchessault took the draw on the left, when he’s been taking the others on the right. The confusion was not as evident on this one, but it’s likely the other one Gallant was referencing.
Both Stastny and Marchessault lost those draws and the Golden Knights did not score on either power play.
This is partially why preseason games are played, to work out the kinks. But this one seems simple and the NHL is still having trouble figuring it out.
They must by October 2nd, or this story is going to become a much bigger deal than it is today.