The San Jose Sharks success rate in the faceoff circles has been deservedly well praised all year. They lead the NHL with a 55.8 winning percentage. The next closest club isn’t even at 54 percent and only three other clubs are above 52 percent.
San Jose has several skaters among the league leaders with Manny Malhotra (62.6%), Scott Nichol (61.5%), Joe Pavelski
(59.1 %) and Joe Thornton
(54.2%) the driving forces.
However, two of the individuals have had exceptional contests inside the red circle recently.
On Saturday night against Edmonton, Malhotra pulled off the perfect evening, taking all 12 of his draws and turning them into victories. A lot of external factors play into a centerman earning a faceoff win, but in the end, it starts with the man at the puck drop.
Sharks winger Patrick Marleau
was taken plenty of faceoffs in his hockey life as a natural centerman and he came away impressed.
“It’s pretty amazing,” said Marleau of Malhotra’s perfect night. “It’s a key area of the game and he competes every game.”
Malhotra did not knew he was on his way to the 100 percent night, but he knew things were going his way.
“I knew I was running hot,” said Malhotra. “I felt really confident in the circle. I didn’t know the exact numbers.”
The perfect evening on the draws is something that doesn’t happen often considering most of the NHL is battling around a 50 percent clip with a few people sitting higher and lower.
“That’s a rare occasion when everything comes together when the puck drops,” said Thornton. “It takes the wingers and lucky bounces with the puck. You might have a draw hit the ref’s skate.”
Thornton himself had an impressive evening a few games ago on the faceoff dots against Boston. He managed to win 20 of 26 one-on-one battles against the Bruins. Considering that he took 14 more faceoffs, Thornton’s 76.9 percent success rate was just as impressive.
“That is ridiculous,” said Torrey Mitchell
of winning 20 times in a game.
Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan is adamant his teams have faceoff success and everyone in teal seems to have bought in.
“It’s the first battle of every game and of every play,” said Marleau.
“It means we had the puck a lot more on those nights,” said Sharks Assistant Coach Matt Shaw who works closely on faceoffs. “When you have the puck you can put it in the places you want it to be.”
Nights like what Malhotra and Thornton had will not occur often which makes them all the more impressive when you see them. They may not show up like a goal in the stat sheet, but there is a very good chance the faceoff was the start of a play the goal occurred on.
Scott Nichol broke into the NHL with Calgary and has a fond memory of how he got the word.
“I had a good training camp and signed a two-way deal,” said Nichol. “We went a few days and they kept delaying the cuts. In Calgary they would put your jersey in the stall if you made the team. I walked in and saw it there and went to the back room to call my parents and say I made it.”
Nichol is a regular player in the NHL now, but it took a bit of a break to make that first game happen.
“It was pretty much me and Chuck Kobasew,” said Nichol. “They were looking for goals and he was doing well. They couldn’t come to terms on a contract and he went to junior and I ended up in the NHL.
The Sharks will host Calgary at 7 p.m. Monday and tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. The game will be on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.