Gaustad Dominating Lower Line Detroit Centers

Nashville's Paul Gaustad has won nearly 75 percent of his faceoffs in the Western Conference Quarterfinals against Red Wings who are not Pavel Datsyuk.

W hen Nashville acquired Paul Gaustad from Buffalo at the trade deadline, they acquired him for one major reason – his faceoff success.

During the regular season, “Goose” ranked 7th in the NHL in faceoff percentage with 57.3%. In addition, Gaustad finished 5 positions and a full percentage point above the player he was brought in to replace – Jerred Smithson. More importantly, Gaustad took almost twice as many faceoffs in the season – 1150 – as Smithson did – 615.

As the playoffs have started, Gaustad has seen his numbers stay mostly in-line with his regular season numbers, averaging 54.05% in the faceoff circle, including 55.00% in the all-important defensive zone.

Time and again, Gaustad has thwarted the Detroit Red Wings by winning crucial faceoffs with his back to Pekka Rinne. Detroit has scored 3 times in the Western Conference Quarterfinals while Gaustad has been on the ice. Twice, Gaustad has taken the faceoff prior to the Detroit goal. In both of those instances, Gaustad had won the faceoff.

Game Offensive Zone Defensive Zone Neutral Zone Total
1 100.00% (1-1) 62.50% (10-16) 33.33% (1-3) 60.00% (12-20)
2 0.00% (0-1) 57.14% (4-7) - 50.00% (4-8)
3 50.00% (1-2) 64.29% (9-14) 66.67% (2-3) 63.16% (12-19)
4 66.67% (2-3) 43.48% (10-23) 0.00% (0-1) 44.44% (12-27)
Total 57.14% (4-7) 55.00% (33-60) 42.86% (3-7) 54.05% (40-74)

Gaustad’s 54.05% ranks him 17th in the NHL among playoff leaders (former Predator Marcel Goc is first with an astounding 68.18%), second on the Predators behind David Legwand (55.56%) and third in the Red Wings series behind Legwand and Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk (59.00%).

Of Gaustad’s 74 playoff faceoffs so far, 35 have been against Datsyuk. The Detroit center has dominated Gaustad, winning 24 of the 35 battles in the circle for a 68.57% win percentage. In fact, Datsyuk was so dominant against Gaustad on Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena that he actually won all 12 faceoffs against Gaustad.

Game Offensive Zone Defensive Zone Neutral Zone Total
1 - 54.55% (6-11) 0.00% (0-1) 50.00% (6-12)
2 0.00% (0-1) 33.33% (1-3) - 25.00% (1-4)
3 - 50.00% (3-6) 100.00% (1-1) 57.14% (4-7)
4 - 0.00% (0-11) 0.00% (0-1) 0.00% (0-12)
Total 0.00% (0-1) 32.26% (10-31) 33.33% (1-3) 31.43% (11-35)

However, Datsyuk’s dominance of Gaustad means that Gaustad has been completely dominant against Detroit’s other centers. For the series, Gaustad is a remarkable 74.36% against Detroit players who are not Datsyuk, including 79.31% in the defensive zone.

Game Offensive Zone Defensive Zone Neutral Zone Total
1 100.00% (1-1) 80.00% (4-5) 50.00% (1-2) 75.00% (6-8)
2 - 75.00% (3-4) - 75.00% (3-4)
3 50.00% (1-2) 75.00% (6-8) 50.00% (1-2) 66.67% (8-12)
4 66.67% (2-3) 83.33% (10-12) - 80.00% (12-15)
Total 66.67% (4-6) 79.31% (23-29) 50.00% (2-4) 74.36% (29-39)

In the series, there have been a total of 253 faceoffs – Gaustad has taken a quarter of Nashville’s, while Datsyuk has taken an even 100. This means that there have been 153 times that Detroit has sent out a center to take a faceoff other than Pavel Datsyuk when Gaustad has not been on the ice.

With home ice in two of the potentially last 3 games of the series and after the very obvious difference in Gaustad’s performance against Datsyuk and the other Red Wing centers on Tuesday night, Barry Trotz could conceivably try to match Gaustad up in those 153 other situations where neither Gaustad nor Datsyuk had been on the ice.

74.36% speaks volumes.

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A native of Franklin, Tennessee, Patten Fuqua is the managing editor of PuckScene.com. He earned a Bachelor’s of Science from Belmont University in Journalism and Broadcasting.