Lack of success in faceoff circle hampering Red Wings

Detroit News

Detroit — Different areas will become different points of concern during a typical hockey season.

No team is going to be perfect in everything, especially all the time during a seven-month hockey season.

Right now, for the Red Wings, the hot-button issue is winning faceoffs. Or, more accurately, the inability to win any faceoffs.

Heading into Sunday’s game against Anaheim, the Wings ranked 31st out of 32 teams with a less than sterling 40.1% faceoff win percentage.

It was a key reason behind Friday’s 4-3 overtime loss in Chicago, a faceoff directly resulting in Chicago’s game-tying, third-period goal.

“Faceoff detail is a huge part of the game,” coach Derek Lalonde said. “It sets up your whole five-on-five game. Obviously it hurt us on special teams (on Friday, with Chicago’s game-tying goal coming shorthanded).”

Dylan Larkin went into Sunday’s game as the Wings’ most successful faceoff player, at 48.8%, with Michael Rasmussen (44.7%), Andrew Copp (32.4%) and Joe Veleno (23.8%) all also under the 50% mark.

Interestingly, all four players are left-shot shooters, which can put those players in a difficult spot when taking a draw on their non-strong hand. But Lalonde emphasized the Wings aren’t looking to change that in any way.

“We like all of our lefty centers,” Lalonde said. “There’s no need to go chase a righty just to have a righty center. It’s who we are. It’s the way we’re built. We don’t have a right-shot center. There’s going to be nights like that. It’s on our lefties to be better in that dot and it’s on all five of us to be improved with our faceoff intensity.”

Lalonde was quick to point that fact out directly after Friday’s loss — the need for all five skaters on the ice to be active and ready on the draw.

Most often, it’s up to the wingers to be ready to jump in and corral the puck, something the Wings haven’t consistently been able to do yet this season.

“We emphasize it. When we’re having good faceoff games you’ll see a lot of it because of the jump of our wings,” Lalonde said. “That’s just being ready to play. I can usually tell early on in the game just watching our wings on the faceoff if we’re ready to play.

“We tried to be a detailed faceoff team, to incorporate some faceoff intensity, not just putting it all on our centers. That’s how you become a better faceoff team, when it’s a five-man faceoff unit. Obviously we don’t have a right-shot faceoff guy, so there’s going to be nights it looks like that. I wouldn’t say ugly, but you’re going to get beat in that circle a lot.

“People put it on the centers but it’s more about the team in the faceoffs and how important it is. It sets up your whole game.”

Left, right, left, right

It was likely done on purpose, set up perfectly in a lefty-righty sort of way, and it’s working out as well as the Wings could have hoped for.

A veteran left-handed shooter, all acquired this past summer in Ben Chiarot, Olli Maatta and Robert Hagg, paired with a young right-handed shot — correspondingly, Moritz Seider, Filip Hronek and Gustav Lindstrom.

All three veterans play and are known for a defensive-first type of game, which allows the younger defensemen to roam and be more offensive-minded if the opportunity presents itself.

“Those three vets, their purpose is to be simple,” Lalonde said. “Even in the recruiting process during free agency, we wanted simple, predictable, safer (defensemen) committed to keeping it out of our net more so than putting it in the net and they have fit that role.”

Ice chips

Larkin was expected to play Sunday after suffering some sort of injury during Friday’s first period that kept him off the ice until the beginning of the second period.

Lalonde was confident Larkin would be ready to play after going through the entirety of Saturday’s practice.

… The Wings’ minor league affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins faced a familiar player Saturday. Former Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser, 32, is attempting to hook on in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization and played his first AHL game for the Leafs’ farm club, the Toronto Marlies.

DeKeyser didn’t get on the scoresheet, but he had a plus-one rating in the Marlies’ 4-1 victory over Grand Rapids. It was DeKeyser’s first regular-season AHL game (he played six playoffs games with Grand Rapids), having joined the Wings as an undrafted college free agent.

DeKeyser was in Vancouver’s training camp on a pro tryout, but the Canucks chose to not keep him.

Twitter: @tkulfan

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