NHL 14 Faceoffs Guide
We all know the old adage that the game starts on the puck drop, and that’s why winning faceoffs is so key. Giving your team the puck right away asserts control, allowing your team to dictate tempo, to increase puck possession time, to run set plays off the draws, and to regain the puck safely on defensive faceoffs.
Historically, faceoffs in the NHL series were heavily weighted on a timing battle. Simply pressing down at that key moment was all it took to win a draw. It stayed this way until NHL 11 when EA added both sticks to the equation, opening up a wide realms of animations based on timing, type of draw, and attributes. The system is complex and has been mostly unexplained. This guide will lay out the intricacies of the revamped NHL faceoff engine.
In this section we are going to go over the basics of the faceoff system for someone just starting to take the draws. We will go over the types, timing, and strategy.involved in faceoffs
The classic faceoff system of pressing down is still there in the modern faceoff system, but even this has been updated. While pressing down on the RS you can aim the direction of the win with the LS, opening up different animations defending on the direction. If you don’t use the LS it will do the default forehand win. However aiming towards the LD for a lefty with the LS will send it to him with a backhand win (reverse for righty).
Pressing down is not your only option, you can also press up on the RS to shoot the puck down the ice. Anticipating the puck drop will help in successfully executing this type of draw win. However, understand that the success rate of this win is low.
You can also hold the LB button while pressing up to “dangle win” the puck through the opponents legs. This win was so successful and somewhat exploitative that EA dialed back its success rate. Out of the box NHL 11, day 1 I like many others, discovered how effective doing this win and quickly passing cross crease for a tap in can be against both AI and human goalies. Currently, the success rate is extremely low, and mostly when it is won it is usually because you are facing an opponent with very poor timing.
By pressing the LS in any direction it initiates the “tie up”, holding the opposing center in the circle and giving your teammates an opening to come in and grab the puck. You can use the RS as a modifier to this win, altering the tie up animation, and holding it longer. The success rate is determined by your player attributes (strength + faceoff), timing, and opponent’s choice of faceoff type.
Lets start off by saying that all faceoff wins require a precise timing. I recommend watching the refs movement to determine the timing needed for success. The ref typically looks at both centerman, pauses a moment, his hand moves, and then the puck is dropped. I start my faceoff motion just after his hand moves, and adjust to earlier, later, or maintain depending on my success rate. Even in a severely laggy game a center can adjust their timing and still win draws.
The most interesting aspect of the faceoff system in nhl is that it is not completely determined by what you are doing, the element of what your opponent is doing is also at play. Every faceoff type has a counter, somewhat like rock, paper, scissors. The most important factor when starting out is recognizing this, and making adjustments. If you are getting beat several draws in a row to the same type of faceoff you should try alternating your faceoff type, and timing. No faceoff is unbeatable. I have definitely shut some people out on faceoffs, but it was only due to their inability to adjust.
If your opponent is doing the same thing every draw and you are winning there may not be a need to make changes, but you are probably winning it to the same area, and will become predictable. Your opponent can jump on that predictability and take advantage. Just like every other aspect of NHL, when you keep your opponent guessing you increase your chance for success.
If you have a clear understanding of the basic controls and have found some success with them then it’s time to take it to the next level. This next section will go into detail about the modern faceoff system and using the different grip types to your advantage. Starting from either the forehand or the backhand grip opens up many more faceoff animation that will help you get those big draw wins in clutch situations.
Every game I play the first type of grip i always use is the backhand grip. Lefties hold the RS at 3’o’clock, (9’o’clock for righties) and use the same timing to press down as discussed in the previous section. However, when using a grip don’t just press down from the 3’o clock position, move in a clockwise (counter clockwise for a righty) direction to 6’o’clock. It’s similar to doing a spin move, except you stop in the middle. Or for a classic gaming comparison much like doing a “huroken” in classic street fighter games. You want a smooth, quick motion for maximum effectiveness. This is the bread and butter win of any faceoff man, and is probably the most effective, hardest to counter when done precisely. The only real vulnerability to it is that it is very susceptible to the tie up.
The forehand grip is another stock win that you will want in your arsenal of faceoffs. It’s essentially the same as the backhand win, except (for a lefty) you would hold the RS to 9’o’clock as the leading up to the faceoff. And use the same “huroken” motion except moving counter-clockwise to 6 o’clock (clockwise for a righty). The forehand win is highly effective draw when done at the right time, but it can be countered with stick lift wins fairly easily.
When you have either the backhand or forehand grip held pre-faceoff you can still initiate a tie-up win. Hold either grip before the puck drops and as it falls press up on LS. Use the forehand grip-tie up when your opponent is trying forehand or no grip, and the backhand grip tie up when your opponent is gripping backhand. My success rate is pretty high when I follow these guidelines. Doing the tie-up from the forehand grip is more effective, or versatile. It works against the forehand, backhand, and no grip opponents.
My favourite addition to the modern faceoff system is the ability to do stick lift wins. From the backhand grip (3 o’clock for a lefty) as the puck is dropping roll your stick in a counterclockwise motionI to 12 o’clock (reverse for a righty) and you will lift your opponents stick quickly and win the draw back. Approximately 25% of my faceoff wins in NHL 11 came from the fact that anytime someone went with a forehand grip, i would use the backhand grip stick lift win. This draw was almost 100% effective for that game, but got dialed back for NHL 12. It is still very successful, but not a given.
The same motion can be used from the forehand grip, but of course in reverse. Holding the forehand grip, 9 o’clock for a right move in a clockwise direction to 12 o’clock. The forehand stick lift win has an attached animation that is a bit slow, you turn around so your skaters back is facing the opposing center, and then do a win to your d-man. I consider this one pretty ineffective, but can be helpful if your opponent is doing a lot of backhand wins, and you have no other counter. If you are successful with it though, the puck moves so slowly that an opposing team’s winger could cut in and claim the puck before your d-man. Be selective when using it.
The way you aim your faceoff wins can create different faceoff wins. For instance by doing a forehand grip, and doing the sticklift win, while aiming the LS to 5 o’clock (with a lefty) while also holding the LT will be a kickpuck win. This is a very successful faceoff win that is little seen in versus and OTP. Get out there and see if you can discover your very own faceoff wins.
Strategy and FaceOff Types
One of my favourite faceoffs to use on the blue line is the agressive setup. I then try and shoot the puck off the draw to the far side of the ice. Doing this can provide the winger a break and create a scoring chance very quickly.
The important thing in OTP and club as a center is to communicate with your teammates so they know where the win is going. Having the split-second advantage makes all the difference in clean breakouts, and offensive plays. Good luck in the circle!