The Washington Capitals have been using faceoff set plays in the offensive zone to generate scoring chances this season. The key to these plays is adding new wrinkles, making them harder to read for the opposition.
The Caps’ most common faceoff play is the direct win to Alex Ovechkin for a shot, but the Caps have many others, some of which we will be focusing on here.
Let’s take a look at a set play used in the first period of a game in Columbus earlier this year.
Nick Backstrom is on the dot with TJ Oshie on the net side and Marcus Johansson on the wall. The faceoff is to Sergei Bobrovsky’s left. Backstrom wins the faceoff to the Caps defenseman on the wall, Matt Niskanen. Marcus Johansson goes down the wall and goes to the net. Meanwhile, TJ Oshie slides back into shooting position in the center of the ice for the pass from Niskanen. Unfortunately for the Caps, Columbus defenseman David Savard does a good job at stopping Johansson from getting to the front of the net. The shot is easily stopped by Bobrovsky.
It is important to note how Columbus defends the play. Their wingers, by design, almost never pressure the point man except to get in the shooting lane. In this case, the Jackets winger goes for the shot block which makes the pass to Oshie quite easy. The box-out of Johansson is key to keeping the sightlines open for Bobrovsky.
Now, let’s take a look at a faceoff a little later in that game.
The Caps forwards are set up in the exact same fashion despite the faceoff now coming from Bobrovsky’s right. Backstrom is in the dot, Oshie is in the center of the ice, and Johansson is on the wall. The puck is won to the defenseman on the wall, in this case, Karl Alzner. The Capitals wingers move in the same way as the previous play. Johansson moves down the boards and Oshie slides back into the center of the ice.
The execution, however, is different. Instead of going to the net, Johansson circles behind the net. Instead of opening up for a shot, Oshie circles and cuts into the slot. Alzner passes the puck over to Niskanen who passes to Johansson coming out from the back side of the net. Oshie is in perfect position to receive the pass from Johansson for a one-timer.
The Capitals presented the same formation and movement as the play they used in the first period, but the slight change opened Oshie up for an even more dangerous opportunity. The Blue Jackets defend the play the same way as well. The winger pressuring Alzner goes for the shot block, and David Savard protects the net front from Johansson. Oshie’s shot sailed high and wide, but the scoring chance was there.
Take a look at how the plays look at the moment the defenseman for the Caps collects the faceoff win.
They look pretty identical, which makes it hard for the Jackets to read and creates opportunities for the Caps to have variations of the same play.
In the future, the Caps may try one last little: sliding that pass over to Backstrom.
If the pass can get there, Backstrom should have a wide open opportunity to score.
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