Through 20 games in the 2013 season, Claude Giroux has been winning faceoffs at a clip of 55 percent. That places him at 18th in the league in faceoff percentage for anyone playing at least 10 games (as of Sunday 2/24). Last Wednesday against Pittsburgh, Giroux struggled winning only 12 of 31 for 38.7 percent, while Sidney Crosby–who many of those draws were against, who ranks 10th at 57 percent–was 21 of 28 for 75 percent. It got me thinking, is Giroux just not good enough to hang with the big boys? As our only good faceoff man, is Giroux just cleaning up against weak competition? He’s taken 74 more draws than anyone in the league, and 234 more than Couturier, who ranks second on the Flyers.
At one point last April, Giroux strung together a fairly dominant 10 games in the faceoff circle, winning just under 60 percent of his draws over that span. After posting seasons of 49.5 percent and 50 percent in his first two full seasons in the NHL, it got me wondering if he was on his way to a tangible, sustainable improvement. That led to me analyzing just how much he’s improved in the faceoff dot. After finishing last season at 53.7 percent, Giroux seems to have improved a bit further, currently sitting at 55 percent. But let’s take a closer look and see who exactly he is beating, and who is beating him.
Through 20 games, the Flyers have played 12 different teams. I took the faceoff leaders for each of those teams as provided by NHL.com, (Note: these numbers were as of Friday night, 2/22), and went back to see exactly how Giroux did against each of those individuals.
Below you can find the individual, their faceoffs taken and percentage through 2/22, Giroux’s wins and losses against that individual this season, Giroux’s percentage, and the handedness of the individual. I wanted to note the player’s handedness because I was curious if Giroux performed any better against lefties or righties. The players highlighted in green are those that are winning at a rate of 50 percent or higher.
From here I wanted to then take it a step further and see how Giroux fared against those that are at 50 percent or higher, and those that weren’t. I chose 50 percent as my minimum for what would make a “good” faceoff guy. If you’re winning half of your draws, or more, you’re not bad. Last season there were 55 players that were at or above 50 percent. That should essentially equate to just less than the top two faceoff men for each of the 30 teams (although it obviously doesn’t break down as such).
Against players winning at 50 percent or greater, Giroux manages a respectable 50.38 percent. Against players less than 50 percent, Giroux dominates at 64.63 percent. Out of curiousity, I wanted to see how Giroux did against the elite, those at 55 percent or greater. Only 19 players qualified during last season, and only 18 this season (Girioux being the last). He actually managed just slightly better than those at 50 percent, albeit with an obviously smaller sample size.
As for handedness, the results seem pretty negligible Giroux won at a rate of 55.47 percent against righties, versus 56.08% against lefties.
Truthfully, I would have loved to have been able to see how Giroux does on both offensive and defensive zone draws as well as right circle versus left circle. While covering the game on February 5 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Giroux had one of his more dominant nights, winning 72 percent of draws. Yet, it was Sean Couturier taking key faceoffs at the end of the game, while Giroux was on the ice. I began to wonder if he maybe prefers the right circle versus the left. Unfortunately, this information is not easy to garner.
All told, while Giroux does handily defeat weaker faceoff opponents, winning 64.63 percent, he also holds his own against the games best, winning just barely over half of them at 50.38 percent. While Sidney Crosby does dominate Giroux, with Giroux only winning 34.48 percent, Claude still performs well otherwise. The way I see it, against the game’s elite, if you are winning half of them, you’ve probably got comparable skill sets. While he may not yet be a top five or ten faceoff man, he’s pretty clearly one of the better ones in the league. If he keeps improving, as he has been for some time now, he could find himself among the best.