Sports

Faceoffs gain importance in NHL playoffs with possessions at a premium

  • FILE- In this April 25, 2015, file photo, Chicago Blackhawks center Brad Richards, left, and Nashville Predators center Paul Gaustad battle for the puck during the second period in Game 6 of an NHL Western Conference hockey playoff series in Chicago. Richards was 13 for 19 on faceoffs in Game 6 against Nashville, helping Chicago advance to the conference semifinals for the third straight year. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

    FILE- In this April 25, 2015, file photo, Chicago Blackhawks center Brad Richards, left, and Nashville Predators center Paul Gaustad battle for the puck during the second period in Game 6 of an NHL Western Conference hockey playoff series in Chicago. Richards was 13 for 19 on faceoffs in Game 6 against Nashville, helping Chicago advance to the conference semifinals for the third straight year. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE- In this March 21, 2015, file photo, Pittsburgh Penguins' Nick Spaling (13) looks to take a faceoff against the Arizona Coyotes during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Glendale, Ariz. NHL coaches say there is a direct correlation between winning faceoffs and winning games. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso, File)

    FILE- In this March 21, 2015, file photo, Pittsburgh Penguins' Nick Spaling (13) looks to take a faceoff against the Arizona Coyotes during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Glendale, Ariz. NHL coaches say there is a direct correlation between winning faceoffs and winning games. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso, File)  (The Associated Press)

Faceoffs can provide a big lift in the NHL playoffs.

Three of the top four teams in faceoff percentage in the first round of this year's playoffs won their series.

Washington coach Barry Trotz says faceoffs are overlooked, given how important it is to control the puck. The Capitals won an NHL-best 56 percent of their draws in the first round against the New York Islanders.

Besides the value of possession, which NHL teams appreciate more than ever in the league's golden age of statistical analysis, Capitals center Brooks Laich said there is a cumulative effect. He says owning the puck wears out opponents and keeps them from getting rolling on offense.

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Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap