VOORHEES, N.J. – Adam Hall has always been a go-to guy in the faceoff circle. But what he’s been doing lately has been epic.
His last 35 draws, he’s won 30 of them. Think about that a sec. He’s won 85.7 percent of his draws in the last five games.
“Sometimes you get a little streaky and you feel like you have good timing,” said Hall, not wanting to bring attention to the run. “If you find something that’s working you just try to ride it as long as you can.”
Hall has pulled up his faceoff numbers to 60 percent this season, and in the process, helped the Flyers improve their overall team numbers.
Now, at first glance, winning faceoffs at 49.1 percent, which ranks 21st in the NHL, might not seem to be something exciting worth talking about, but the fact is, since the Flyers started to turn their season around 11 games ago there has been marked improvement on the faceoff front.
And considering what’s on the roster right now as far as centers go, there’s reason to believe the Flyers will get above 50 percent for the first time in four seasons.
“We talk about it a lot,” coach Craig Berube said. “It’s all about competitiveness and they practice it a lot. But we think now that [Sean Couturier] is older and Hall is so consistent, we think we can be on the good side of it as much as we can be because it’s so important to start with the puck.”
The Flyers had a history of being a very good faceoff team, but after making an organizational shift and trading Mike Richards and Jeff Carter on the same day, the Flyers haven’t been able to reach that 50 percent plateau for a season.
The year after the trade, the Flyers won 48.3 percent of their draws, and finished 24th in the NHL. Last season they had a similar result, winning 48.5 percent, good enough for only 23rd in the league.
But it’s trending upward.
Claude Giroux, who struggled early in the season coming off of finger surgery after that freak golf injury in August, has been better, winniing more than 50 percent of his draws in seven of the last 12 games, three times being over 60 percent.
Historically, Giroux has gotten better and better in the circle each season. He was 47.2 percent as a rookie in 2008-09, reached 50 percent by 2010-11 and was a career-best 54.5 percent last season.
Currently he is just a tick below 50 percent at 49.8, but with his recent performance being more in line with his career track, it’s a good bet that Giroux will be a go-to guy again for the rest of the season.
Hall has won 50 percent or more of all of his faceoffs for six straight seasons and is well-ahead of pace now, as pointed out above.
Couturier is the biggest reason for the improved numbers though.
After struggling as a rookie (47 percent) and even more in his sophomore slump season (43.9) Couturier has now improved to 50.8 percent so far this season.
“I think in the summer getting stronger has helped me,” Couturier said. “Because of that I feel more confident to beat the other centers.”
Beating other centers is one thing, but making faceoffs a team concept is what has made the Flyers see an uptick in their productivity.
“One of the most underrated things in hockey,” Hall said. “People think it’s just two centers in there. Our wingers have done a great job of getting in there and getting position and in the defensive zone it’s our defensemen who are getting in there to get the puck. It’s not won clean back all the time and most times the puck is just 6-to-12 inches to either side of the center and so you need your center, your forward and your defenseman in there to win possession.”
Berube recognizes the importance of the draws, which is why he’s been trying to get Hall on the ice more often. He took 11 faceoffs against Winnipeg and won nine of them. And now, Berube said he’d like to call on him even more – or at least in more crucial spots.
“I thought he was good on the faceoffs last year,” Berube said. “He’s strong. He’s competitive. I love it. He really sets a tone. I’ve been using him a bit and I want to get him out there on that side more that’s for sure.”
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers