Winning face-offs may not have a strong correlation to winning hockey games but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s not important. What teams do after a won face-off is even more important and we saw a great example of that in Tampa Bay’s Game 3 win.
Tampa Bay’s second goal of the game came off a set face-off play in which the center wins it to the board side winger.
A lot of wingers will then throw it at the net with all the forwards crashing to the net hard looking for rebounds. In this instance, the winger, Nikita Kucherov, freezes Riley Nash with a quick fake towards the net then hits the weak side defenseman, Ryan McDonagh who is sliding in on the back side and is supposed to be covered by Nash.
While this is happening, Brayden Point spins off his centerman, Alexander Wennberg, and heads to the net. This causes a two on one in front with Zach Werenski trying to cover both Point and Ondrej Palat since Seth Jones chased Kucherov off the face-off.
McDonagh’s shot then causes a rebound in which Point is able to coral it and bang it home.
At first glance, it might seem like a shrewd play by Kucherov in recognizing that his shot might get blocked and looking for other options but this is a play the Lightning clearly game plan for. They aren’t afraid to activate their defensemen and this is one of the ways they like to get them involved.
The weak-side defenseman doesn’t always slide down right to the net but they like to look for a quick pass over there from the board-side winger in order to change the angle on the ice while giving their forwards time to crash the net.
If the Blue Jackets were surprised by it all they needed to do was look back on previous games from in season where the Lightning used this exact same play which resulted in a great chance.
Key To Success
Both Columbus and Tampa are right around 50% success rate on their face-offs so really bearing down on them and making sure each guy knows their assignments could be the difference that tips the scales in one team’s direction. Columbus especially since Tampa really likes to mix it up with their set plays and keeps the defenders guessing with multiple variations of the same play.
(Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)