TORONTO – About this faceoff problem.
Rangers coach Gerard Gallant was generally positive about his team’s performance in Thursday’s 2-1 loss to the Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena, and insisted that the candy his team took in the faceoff circle – winning just nine out of 46 attempts – was not a big problem.
“Last month, I think if we go back to our stats before tonight, I think we’re 12th or 13th in the league, so that was not a big, big emphasis on that,” Gallant said. “I mean, when you hit a bad night like tonight, you get a little angry, but there’s no problem.”
But Ryan Strome, who had a terrible night on the dots and lost 12 of 13 faceoffs, thought that was it.
“It’s frustrating,” said Strome, a Toronto native who had about 100 family members and friends present at the match. “You have nights where your timing is out and your self-esteem is off and I think when we put it up. A lot of emphasis on it, sometimes it comes a little in your head. Maybe we should just clean the board and stay better on Sunday [against Buffalo at Madison Square Garden].
“I know all our guys are very proud of that,” he said. “It’s something we’ve been working extremely hard on, so it’s frustrating when you see those numbers. And I just think if you look at the game it’s 2-1 and they start with the puck 80% of the time. “75% of the time. It’s hard to play against such a team. They have some great players who want to play, so something we clean up, including myself.”
Rangers have been one of the weaker teams at faceoffs for the past many years. When they went into Friday’s matches, they were penultimate in the league in faceoffs, winning by a cut of 45.6%. Only Buffalo (44%) was worse. Toronto, on the other hand, was the draw first with Calgary at 55.2% in the faceoffs.
Mika Zibanejad, who had a much better night in the circle (4-to-6) than Strome, repeated some of the things Strome said, especially when it came to the mental part of taking draws.
“When there’s a lot of talk, since day one at training camp [about faceoffs], and I think it’s getting more focused now from everyone … I think it could get into your head, ” Zibanejad said. “We’ve gone through every little detail to face it, and I think that kind of hits you sometimes. Instead of just going in there and trying to just – simply and easily – win it, I think ‘there are a lot of things you think about when you do that. And then you might be half a second late, you might read your face wrong, and that’s enough, especially when you go against guys who are good.’ ‘
Gallant, however, preferred to focus on the positive and noted that the Rangers played well in the defeat. He was much less angry about the loss than he has been after some games that Rangers won.
“We played the right way,” he insisted. “If we play this way, we’ll win a lot of hockey games.”