Blackhawks notes: Toews the lone bright spot in team’s faceoff struggles
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Jonathan Toews is cruising along as one of the NHL’s top face-off men again this season, as his 56.1 winning percentage ranks 11th in the league.
It’s a fortunate thing for the Hawks, considering no other regular centers have won more than 47.3 percent.
“It’s tough on Tazer,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “He’s gotta take a lot of responsibility, so you end up starting him in D-zone more than you would like to and playing him on the penalty kill more than we would like to. We’d like to save him for offensive situations, because he’s done a great job producing for us.”
Toews has won at least 53 percent of his faceoffs in each of his 12 seasons and boasts a career 56.9 percentage, making him one of the most efficient draw-takers in the league’s modern era.
The Hawks captain doesn’t personally monitor those numbers, but he does emphasize that part of his game nonetheless.
“When I’m mentally engaged . . . I’m doing all the little things right, but I’m winning faceoffs too. That just makes your life a lot easier,” Toews said. “If you’re losing every faceoff, starting the play without the puck every time, you’re not putting yourself in very good positions throughout the night.”
For years, though, Toews has been the only good Hawks player in the circle. Only once in the last four seasons — David Kampf’s 53-percent performance last year — has the team received a positive faceoff impact from any of their other regular centers.
The relevance of faceoff success has been thrust into question lately by advanced analytics. But Colliton said Thursday he still sees them as important in certain situations, such as the penalty kill. Perhaps it’s not much of a surprise that the Hawks, with the league’s worst PK, also rank 19th in short-handed faceoff percentage at 45.3 percent.
“Hopefully some other guys can step forward and win some key draws for us, and maybe take a few of those D-zone starts,” Colliton said.
Kampf activated from IR
Kampf, who had that solid rookie year at the dot (although he’s struggled at 45.3 percent this season), is someone who could potentially step forward.
The Czech center returned to the lineup after missing the last 12 games with a broken bone in his right foot.
Dylan Sikura was scratched to make room for Kampf.
Hayden moved up to top line
Although he’s recorded just five points in 49 games this season, John Hayden was promoted to the Hawks’ first line alongside Toews and Brandon Saad in a post-West Coast trip shuffle.
Colliton is hoping the trio will bring more physicality to the top six.
“Both Toews and Saad play more of a rugged game, and I think [Hayden] can fit in with that,” Colliton said. “We’re trying to spread it out a little bit and give it a different look, and I think he can get on the forecheck and get pucks back and go to the net, and that maybe fits with the other two.”