File this one away into the “something to keep an eye on” category for the future. Midway through the 3rd period against Colorado, while the game was still tied at one, there was a face-off in the Golden Knights zone following a TV timeout.
Because the Golden Knights were at home, they have “last change” meaning at every stoppage of play, the Avalanche pick the players they are going to put on the ice and then Vegas gets to choose theirs. So, the reigning Jack Adams award winner Gerard Gallant knew the Colorado top line was set to take the next shift for the Avs.
Most the of the night Gallant had used either the 1st line or the 3rd line against the Avs dominant top line and both were having success. However, with the draw in his own end, Gallant made a different choice, one he hasn’t made much over the course of his time as head coach of the Golden Knights.
He sent Paul Stastny out to take the draw with a line of William Karlsson and Reilly Smith. Stastny won the faceoff, helped get the puck clear, and immediately came off the ice for Jonathan Marchessault who played the rest of the shift with his regular teammates.
I kinda knew going into the game if I was feeling good on the faceoff dot that I would be taking a lot of draws. -Paul Stastny
Of course, because hockey is weird, the Golden Knights iced the puck on a missed stretch pass just moments later and Karlsson was forced to take the next draw from the exact same spot against the same line rendering the entire exercise somewhat useless. However, Stastny’s ability to win draws in key moments could come in handy for the Golden Knights at some point later in the season.
Yeah, he’s real good (at face-offs) and that’s a key part of it obviously with those key situations especially on the PK and late in the hockey game so Stastny does a great job and he’s always done a great job with that. -Gerard Gallant
Of guys that take the majority of draws for the Golden Knights (Stastny, Karlsson, Eakin, Bellemare), Stastny has had by far the most success winning 58.3%. Bellemare is next best at 54%, but he was unavailable in last night’s game. That left Karlsson (44.4%) and Eakin (49.7%) as the other options.
(Nosek has actually been great at draws at 67.5%, but he’s only taken 83 of them in 36 games. Karlsson, Eakin, and Bellemare have all taken more than 350 and Stastny has won 95 in just 10 games.)
As a whole, face-offs are not indicative of team success, especially when considered over the course of a full game or season, but every once in a while there are important ones. Gallant declared that one, with Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen on the ice, was a big one, and he sent out his specialist to win it.
Last year, Vegas was missing the dominant face-off guy, this year, they’ve got him, and it’ll be interesting to watch how Gallant deploys him the rest of the season and into the playoffs.