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Offseason departures leave Capitals short on steady right-handers for faceoffs

(Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

T.J. Oshie cringed a little when the subject of faceoffs was brought up. The right winger has been handed the responsibility of taking draws this season, especially on the power play, because the Capitals lost three right-handed faceoff regulars in the offseason.

But Oshie, who was in the faceoff dot just 13 times last season, according to, lost all three faceoffs he took in Saturday’s season opener.

“It’s a tough spot, but a spot that I’m willing to work at,” Oshie said. “Hopefully, I can improve and get better. Typically, I’m not terrible on draws and not 0-for-3, but it’s something I’ve got to improve on and something they’re asking me to do. I’m excited to take on the challenge.”

Eric Fehr took 863 faceoffs last season, winning 52 percent of them. Troy Brouwer won 56.9 percent of his 441 faceoffs. Joel Ward had fewer faceoffs than Fehr and Brouwer, but he still won 47.2 percent of 127. All three shot right-handed, and all three play for different teams this year.

That leaves Jay Beagle and Michael Latta as the Capitals’ only two right-handers who took at least 100 draws last season. Neither are on the power play unit, meaning Oshie and right winger Justin Williams have to take on more faceoff responsibility when the team needs a right-hander in the faceoff circle.

Williams has never taken more than 25 faceoffs in a season, but he won the two he took on Saturday. The last time Oshie tallied more than 100 draws was the 2010-11 season, when he won 44.1 percent of 227.

“It’s not anything that’s that tough,” Oshie said. “Sometimes it helps when you take more because then you kind of get in a groove.”

For faceoffs, if the linesman is to the player’s right as he’s about to drop the puck, it’s better to have right-hander on the draw because he can pull the puck back more naturally than he would on the opposite side of the ice.

“For me as a left-hander, if you’re on my left side as a linesman dropping the puck, I’m tougher to beat pulling,” Brooks Laich explained. “It’s easier to pull on your backhand than it is to twist and try and push on your forehand. If you can have righties and lefties and put guys on the ice on their strong side, you’re playing the percentages and hoping that through the course of a game, you play those percentages enough that you’re going to win more draws than you’re going to lose.”

The shortage of reliable right-handers on draws isn’t bad news for everyone. Beagle is one of the team’s best players in the faceoff circle, winning 10 of 14 draws on Saturday. In the playoffs, he won 63.8 percent of the 188 faceoffs he took.

“I think it’ll lead to more opportunity to play a little bit more and get a little bit more ice time, and I’m looking forward to that opportunity,” Beagle said. “We’ve got some great guys who can take draws on either side. It’s just a matter of doing your best and making sure you’re winning those big draws for your team in those crucial moments.”