Originally posted on Rock the Red  |  Last updated 4/28/12

Puck possession is a huge factor in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The team that has the puck more often is more likely to score and is less likely to be scored upon. With that in mind, here is a breakdown of the top-5 New York Rangers centers, the top-5 Capitals centers, and how they fared against each other in the regular season.

The top four Capitals centermen in these playoffs are Brooks Laich, Nicklas Backstrom, Jay Beagle, and Matt Hendricks.  Marcus Johansson was the Capitals' #2 center in total faceoffs in the regular season and took the third-most draws against the Rangers this season.  Jeff Halpern was the Capitals' #1 faceoff man by effectiveness in the regular season and took 27 faceoffs against the Rangers, but he has not played since March 23 and will not be included in this analysis.   The Capitals were the #5 team in the first round of the NHL playoffs with a 51.1% rate of effectiveness in the faceoff circle; this success came against the Boston Bruins, the top regular-season faceoff team. 

If healthy, the top-five Rangers centers the Capitals should expect to face in the playoffs are Brad Richards, Brian Boyle, Derek Stepan, Brandon Dubinsky, and Artem Anisimov. As a team, the Rangers have not fared well in the faceoff circle this season, and the Capitals have fared well against them in the four games.  The Rangers ranked 15th of 16 playoff teams in the first round with a 45.6% success rate. 

In the regular season series, the Rangers won the faceoff battle in 3 of 4 games, and won 54.6% of the 216 faceoffs overall.  In the regular season as a team, the Capitals and Rangers were dead even at 50.0% on faceoffs, ranking 17th and 18th in the NHL, respectively.  In the first round, Washington had success against Boston as the road team while the Rangers struggled against the 16th ranked team from the regular season (Ottawa, 50.2%) even with home ice advantage.  This, coupled with injuries to Brian Boyle and Brandon Dubinsky, means the Rangers could be at a huge disadvantage in puck possession in this series. 

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Backstrom faces off with Richards (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

The Capitals' and Rangers' top five faceoff men are listed below along with their faceoff totals from the regular season and playoffs:

Season PlayoffsSeason Playoffs CapitalsWonTotalWin%WonTotalWin%vs.RangersWonTotalWin%WonTotalWin% Brooks Laich 664 1394 47.6% 53 121 43.8%
Brad Richards 682 1316 51.8% 69 137 50.4% Marcus Johansson 307 710 43.2% 10 20 50.0%
Brian Boyle 629 1215 51.8% 47 110 42.7% Nicklas Backstrom 353 691 51.1% 63 121 52.1%
Derek Stepan 386 867 44.5% 21 58 36.2% Matt Hendricks 142 265 53.6% 19 46 41.3%
Brandon Dubinsky 205 395 51.9% 20 40 50.0% Jay Beagle 124 215 57.7% 60 96 62.5%
Artem Anisimov 161 345 46.7% 12 29 41.4%

Left-handed Brooks Laich (6'2, 200) took the most draws against the Rangers this season.  His season numbers against the Rangers' centers were weak with the exception of Derek Stepan.  Laich finished the regular season 14th in the league in total faceoffs taken and 72nd in effectiveness. 

Laich Total vs RichardsBoyleStepanDubinskyAnisimov Game Win Total Win% Win Total Win% Win Total Win% Win Total Win% Win Total Win% Win Total Win% 11/25 @DC 6 19 31.6% 2 7 29% 0 1 0% 3 6 50% 1 5 20% 12/28 @DC 7 13 53.8% 0 1 0% 0 1 0% 6 9 67% 0 1 0% 2/12 @NY 3 11 27.3% 2 4 50% 0 3 0% 0 1 0% 0 1 0% 4/5 @NY 5 13 38.5% 1 5 20% 3 6 50% 1 1 100% 0 1 0% Totals 21 56 37.5% 5 17 29% 3 11 27% 10 17 59% 1 5 20% 0 3 0%

Left-handed Nicklas Backstrom (6'1, 210) fared reasonably well in heavy duty against the Rangers this season.  He missed the February 12 game with injury but still won more draws than any other Caps center in the season series. 

Backstrom Total vs RichardsBoyleStepanDubinskyAnisimov Game Win Total Win% Win Total Win% Win Total Win% Win Total Win% Win Total Win% Win Total Win% 11/25 @DC 9 14 64.3% 2 5 40% 2 2 100% 4 6 67% 1 1 100% 12/28 @DC 8 19 42.1% 1 2 50% 4 10 40% 0 3 0% 1 2 50% 4/5 @NY 5 12 41.7% 1 2 50% 2 4 50% 1 3 33% Totals 22 45 48.9% 4 9 44% 8 16 50% 4 6 67% 1 4 20% 2 5 40%

Left-handed Marcus Johansson (5'11, 189) is currently playing on the wing, but as centers are thrown out of the faceoff circle, his contributions become more important.  He took the third-most faceoffs against the Rangers this season, but took no faceoffs in the final game.

Johansson Total vs RichardsBoyleStepanDubinskyAnisimov Game Win Total Win% Win Total Win% Win Total Win% Win Total Win% Win Total Win% Win Total Win% 11/25 @DC 6 20 30.0% 2 9 22% 1 5 20% 3 3 100% 0 1 0% 0 1 0% 12/28 @DC 2 3 66.7% 0 1 0% 1 1 100% 2/12 @NY 5 13 38.5% 0 1 0% 3 8 38% 0 1 0% 1 1 100% 1 2 50% Totals 13 36 36.1% 2 11 18% 4 13 31% 4 5 80% 1 2 50% 1 3 33%

Left-handed Matt Hendricks (6', 211) is a natural center who started taking more faceoffs toward the end of the season.  He took no faceoffs in the second game against the Rangers, but he was dead even in the other 3 games.

Hendricks Total vs RichardsBoyleStepanAnisimov Game Win Total Win% Win Total Win% Win Total Win% Win Total Win% Win Total Win% 11/25 @DC 1 2 50.0%

0 1 0% 1 1 100% 2/12 @NY 2 4 50.0% 2 4 50% 4/5 @NY 7 14 50.0% 2 7 29% 1 1 100% 2 3 67% 2 2 100% Totals 10 20 50.0% 2 7 29% 3 6 50% 3 4 75% 2 2 100%

Right-handed Jay Beagle (6'3, 215) took few faceoffs against the Rangers this season.  He missed the first game with an injury and played many games at right wing.  As the Capitals' current shut-down center, look for him to take many more draws and build on his 70% success rate against the Rangers in this series. 

Beagle Total vs RichardsBoyleStepanAnisimov Game Win Total Win% Win Total Win% Win Total Win% Win Total Win% Win Total Win% 12/28 @DC 3 4 75.0% 0 1 0% 2/12 @NY 2 2 100% 1 1 100% 4/5 @NY 2 4 50% 0 1 0% 1 2 50% Totals 7 10 70% 0 1 0% 1 1 100% 1 2 50% 0 1 0%

Here are the Rangers' centers and how they fared against the Capitals this season.

Veteran lefty Brad Richards (6', 195) is on the small side, but that didn't stop him from winning 66% of his faceoffs against the Caps this season.

Game Won Total Win% 11/25 @DC 15 23 65.2% 12/28 @DC 5 8 62.5% 2/12 @NY 7 11 63.6% 4/5 @NY 12 17 70.6% Totals 39 59 66.1%

If left-handed Brian Boyle (6'7, 244) is healthy, he will strike an imposing figure in the faceoff circle. He won nearly 60% of his draws against the Capitals this season.

Game Won Total Win% 11/25 @DC 7 11 63.6% 12/28 @DC 7 12 58.3% 2/12 @NY 13 20 65.0% 4/5 @NY 7 14 50.0% Totals 34 57 59.6%
Sophomore Derek Stepan (6', 190) is a right-handed centerman with the worst faceoff winning percentage against the Caps.  He ranked 83rd of 89 centers in the NHL during the regular season. 

Game Won Total Win% 11/25 @DC 5 16 31.3% 12/28 @DC 3 11 27.3% 2/12 @NY 5 7 71.4% 4/5 @NY 2 6 33.3% Totals 15 40 37.5%
Left-handed Brandon Dubinsky (6'1, 210) has had the most success against the Capitals this season, but he took no faceoffs in the final game.  If he is healthy, he could make up for the absence of Brian Boyle at the dot.

Game Won Total Win% 11/25 @DC 6 10 60.0% 12/28 @DC 3 3 100% 2/12 @NY 1 2 50.0% Totals 10 15 66.7%
Left-handed Artem Anisimov (6'4, 200) is a lanky centerman who had good success against the Caps in limited duty.

Game Won Total Win% 11/25 @DC 2 3 66.7% 12/28 @DC 5 9 55.6% 2/12 @NY 2 3 66.7% 4/5 @NY 3 7 42.9% Totals 12 22 54.5%
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