It might not have been the most important area the Dallas Stars were hoping to improve upon this season, but the uptick in the team's ability to win face offs has been quite impressive.
The Stars have moved up to tied for seventh in the NHL in face off percentage at 51.8, an improvement of several spots from last year's 15th (50.1 percent). Face off prowess doesn't necessarily correlate with winning percentage - the top teams are St. Louis, Boston, Carolina, Montreal, Chicago, Arizona and San Jose - but starting off the play with possession is definitely a positive thing.
Two of the biggest individual improvers on the Stars are Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin, who was the focus of a Mike Heika article. Seguin has brought his face off percentage from 41.2 to 53.7 (in more limited attempts) while Eakin has gone from 47.8 percent to 51.2.
"I think a lot of it is maturity and experience; it takes time to learn the tricks," Eakin said. "Then, I think strength, speed, timing — you work hard to improve those things in all parts of your game. It’s a hard thing to do, and it takes time."
While Seguin's percentage would place him top 20 in the league if he'd had enough attempts (he is just outside of the top 100 face off takers in the NHL). Jason Spezza is No. 18 with his 54.2 percent and Eakin is 43rd. Vernon Fiddler, at 51.8 percent, is also not ranked because of attempts, nor is Jamie Benn at 50.9 percent.
In short, every single regular center on the Stars this year (including Shawn Horcoff at 50.3 percent) wins his face offs more than half the time. It's not the be-all of possession, but it's certainly a good start.
- This is a very good read on Evander Kane, who gets quite a bad rap in hockey culture for being too full of himself and not willing to play by the typical "hockey player personality" rules. But he's not the caricature often painted - like another high-personality player that was eventually moved from his original team, Kane is a lot more than meets the eye. [SportsNet Magazine]
- If there are things we've learned as Dallas Stars fans over the years, it's that a player blocking a shot with his head or face is awful. The Washington Capitals had that happen to them Sunday as Tom Wilson took a shot off the helmet in their 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. [Washington Post]
- That win, combined with an Ottawa Senators shootout 3-2 loss, was enough to clinch the Capitals a playoff berth. And that Senators result, which came at the hand of the Toronto Maple Leafs, means the Sens are back out of control of their own playoff hopes. [CBC.ca]
- The Colorado Avalanche became the first Central Division team eliminated from the playoffs after their Saturday loss to the Los Angeles Kings and the Winnipeg Jets win over the Vancouver Canucks put the top eight out of reach. This will mark the first time since the Nordiques franchise came south that neither the Avs nor the Denver Nuggets will be in the playoffs. [Denver Post]
- The Pittsburgh Penguins are still in the playoff picture but they continue to try and not help themselves. They dominated the Philadelphia Flyers for most of Sunday afternoon but walked away with a 4-1 loss. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
- The Penguins are apparently not taking that very well, trying to scoreboard the Flyers during the game since the Flyers are already out of the playoffs in the East. I'm not sure that's the best strategy when you're busy trying to shoot yourself in the foot... [NJ.com]
- Dmitry Kulikov and the Florida Panthers are up to their NHL star killing tricks again, this time as Kulikov boarded (and borderline interfered with, though that's harder to nail him on) Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens. Boarding, as always, is a penalty of result, and it looks like Pacioretty may have been concussed on the play. For such a recent repeat offender, it's questionable. Ignore the blurb in the NHL.com article about his feet getting tangled with the other Florida defenseman - they very clearly didn't in the video. Even so, it's probably not suspendable since it's a penalty of result more than a malicious hit, but Kulikov and his team have been involved in quite a number of these this season. [NHL.com]
- Also not surprising on the "questionable hit" is Andrew Shaw of the Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks team pest tried to go full Superman on Barret Jackman of the St. Louis Blues. Jackman's last-second move actually saved him here, but this is exactly the type of idiocy the league is trying to get out of the game. [Puck Daddy]