BOSTON -- The Bruins are the NHL’s best team on the face-off dot. No surprise there.
The Black and Gold led the league in face-off win percentage during the regular season (56.4 percent win rate), continue to lead the Stanley Cup playoff field in face-off win percentage (56.1 percent win rate) and have the league’s best draw man in Patrice Bergeron.
The Bruins center was the picture of perfection in Game 3 while winning 24-of-28 face-offs, essentially stealing the lunch money of Michael Handzus and Dave Bolland. That’s allowed the B’s to continue dictating pace and style of play while controlling the puck.
It was actually a big step up for the Bruins on home ice as they’d only won 97-of-186 draws in the first two games at the United Center, which was good for a solid 52.1 percent win rate. But the Bruins won 40-of-56 draws on the Garden ice, and completely decimated the Blackhawks group of centers in an impressive show of strength down the middle of their lineup.
As the leader of the Boston face-off crew that’s already been accused of “cheating” by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, what is Bergeron's face-off secret? Well, it starts with practicing it every day with a face-off guru in Bruins assistant coach Doug Jarvis, and that makes a series of good face-off men even better.
“I think it’s about bearing down every time you’re at the dot,” said Bergeron. “It’s also about talking to your wingers and your defenseman to win the battles for you also. It’s not just about the centermen, [but about] the five guys.
“They have some really good centermen over there [on the Blackhawks]. They do take a lot of pride in their draws as well. We’ll need to make sure we bear down. It’s about finding ways, and knowing their tendencies and trying to adjust to that. You don’t just show them one look, but a couple of different looks on the draws. It’s about help from the wingers.”
So what does that mean?
It means Bergeron communicates to his other teammates where he’s going to direct the draw, so the Bruins can win possession quickly after the puck is dropped and keep it away from the speedy Blackhawks. It’s areas like this where familiarity and chemistry with longtime teammates becomes something that another team simply can’t combat.
But it’s also about a modest player in Bergeron, who has won 62.7 percent of his playoff face-offs after capturing 62.1 percent of his draws during a dominant regular season. He leads the way while 2013 Selke Trophy winner Jonathan Toews has been a much more ordinary 52.1 percent face-off winner during the playoffs.
For Bergeron, that’s called making the difference and maintaining performance when it matters the most. He's leading the way for the rest of his teammates in a key category that is helping the Bruins impose their will during the Stanley Cup Final.