New York Rangers centerman Filip Chytil against the San Jose Sharks,...

New York Rangers centerman Filip Chytil against the San Jose Sharks, Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022. Credit: AP/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez

Filip Chytil went 0-for-4 in the faceoff circle Thursday in the Rangers’ 3-2 overtime loss to David Quinn’s San Jose Sharks, but that’s OK. The Blueshirts’ third-line center did score a huge goal that helped the Rangers earn a point, so that was a bigger deal than losing a couple draws. And as far as faceoffs go, he was probably due an off night. 

Thursday’s game was the first this season in which Chytil finished under 50% on faceoffs. And for a guy whose career percentage at the dot entering the season was 40.7, that says something. Through five games, he has won 25-of-49 faceoffs, a 51% success rate that is second-best on the Rangers  behind Vincent Trocheck’s 51.2%.

Chytil, though, is the least impressed person at his dramatic improvement in faceoffs. He didn’t do anything special over the summer to improve, he said. He did what he always does, getting skills coach Mark Ciaccio to drop pucks for him so he could get repetitions at drawing the puck back, and working  after  practice against the other faceoff guys — Trocheck, Barclay Goodrow, Mika Zibanejad and Ryan Carpenter.

“Maybe I work a little bit on my vision, like where the puck goes on the ice and this stuff, but otherwise, it's just process,’’ he said.  “It's just that hard work, and practice all the time after [team] practices. And finally, it's paying off.’’

Chytil said the biggest change for him is that he’s in his fifth year in the league so he’s seen a lot of his draw opponents over the years and has a better idea of what they do well and what they don’t. He looks at a little video, but tries not to overdo it, because he said he doesn’t want to be thinking about too many things when he gets in the circle.

“I think Fil's done a great job so far this year,’’ Goodrow said. “I think he's really worked at it. He looks more confident in the circle. He looks like he thinks he  knows he's going to win the faceoff before the puck's dropped. And I think that's the biggest part.’’

Goodrow, the only Ranger to win more faceoffs than he lost against the Sharks (5-for-8) said winning draws is a bigger part of the game than a lot of people realize.

“If you're losing faceoffs, shift after shift, you're constantly chasing the puck,’’ he said. “So it's kind of an underrated stat. It kind of sets the tone for your shift. I think all of us have done a great job so far this year. I think that's definitely something we improved on last year and this year.’’

Adding Trocheck, a career 51.2% faceoff man, in the offseason has helped the Rangers improve their faceoff game as a team (although Ryan Strome, who he replaced, is winning at 52.9% with Anaheim this season. )

 But Chytil’s improvement has been a key factor. as well. His success has led the coaching staff to let him take more faceoffs, and as a team, the Rangers have won 50.9%  of their faceoffs this season, which is up from their 48.1%  last season. The numbers may come down when they get around to facing teams like Boston, Toronto and Carolina, who are always good at faceoffs. But they’re off to a good start.

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