Puck possession is a huge factor in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The team that has the puck more often is more likely to score and is less likely to be scored upon. With that in mind, here is a breakdown of the five New York Rangers centers the Capitals faced most often in the regular season, the top-5 Capitals centermen, and how they fared against each other.
The top four Capitals centermen against the Rangers this season were Nicklas Backstrom, Boyd Gordon, Marcus Johansson, and Brooks Laich. Jason Arnott played five games against the Rangers while he was in New Jersey and will be included in this analysis.
The top-four Rangers centers the Capitals should expect to face in the playoffs are Brian Boyle, Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, and Chris Drury, but Drury has missed most of the season with injury. Erik Christensen and Derek Stepan have also taken a significant number of faceoffs this season. As a team, the Rangers have not fared well in the faceoff circle this season, and the Capitals have fared well against them in the four games.
In brief, the Capitals have a distinct territorial advantage over the Rangers, not only in terms of their overall win percentage, but also in the head-to-head matchup. The return of Chris Drury will be the X-factor, as Drury won 56.4% of his draws in the regular season, but only took 225 draws in 29 games and only won 3 of 8 draws against the Caps on January 24. Drury has been hampered by age and injury, but his return could turn the tide at the dot if he is healthy.
Backstrom faces off with Christensen
The Capitals' and Rangers' top five faceoff men are listed below along with their faceoff totals from the regular season:
|Nicklas Backstrom||690||1315||52.8%||Brian Boyle||534||1101||48.5%|
|Jason Arnott||449||894||50.2%||Brandon Dubinsky||459||875||52.5%|
|Boyd Gordon||417||719||58.0%||Derek Stepan||277||719||38.5%|
|Marcus Johansson||271||669||40.5%||Artem Anisimov||306||688||44.5%|
|Brooks Laich||269||524||51.3%||Erik Christensen||316||639||49.4%|
Right-handed Boyd Gordon (6'1, 200) has the best faceoff winning percentage on the Capitals and is 4th in the NHL. Here are his head-to-head numbers against the Rangers' top faceoff men. The only Ranger he seems to have trouble with is Brandon Dubinsky.
Nicklas Backstrom's (6'1, 210) numbers against the Rangers are also very solid. Like Gordon, he also seems to have issues against Brandon Dubinsky.
Rookie Marcus Johansson (5'11, 189) only seemed to do well against Artem Anisimov. Johansson missed the first game against the Rangers and lost all 7 faceoffs in the second game.
Brooks Laich (6'2, 200) did especially well against the Rangers this season. The only Ranger he didn't win a draw against was Anisimov.
Right-handed Jason Arnott (6'5, 220) had 5 solid showings against the Rangers this season and had success against all of the Rangers centers.
Here are the Rangers' centers and how they fared against the Capitals this season.
Brian Boyle (6'7, 244) strikes an imposing figure in the faceoff circle. He went slightly over 50% against the Capitals this season.
Brandon Dubinsky (6'1, 210) has had the most success against the Capitals this season, but he missed one of the games.
Artem Anisimov (6'4, 200) is a lanky centerman who did not fare very well against the Caps.
Rookie Derek Stepan (6', 182) is a right-handed centerman with the worst faceoff winning percentage, not only in the NHL, but also against the Caps.
Erik Christensen is not a regular center in the NHL, but he filled in with all of the Rangers' injuries. He did not fare well at the faceoff circle in the 3 games he played, either.
Don't expect Stepan or Christensen to take too many draws against the Caps in these playoffs.