TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs are already making excuses.
Leafs center Tyler Bozak lost 17-of-29 face-offs in Toronto’s 5-2 loss in Game 3 at the Air Canada Centre, and was bounced from the face-off circle on multiple occasions, much to the chagrin of the sold out crowd in the Toronto barn. Overall the Bruins won 60 percent of the draws in Game 3 (45 of 75), which isn't much of a surprise given that Boston was the league’s best face-off team all season.
But rather than tip his hat, Bozak accused the Bruins of cheating on the face-offs, dropping Selke Trophy winner Patrice Bergeron's name to Toronto Star reporter Kevin McGran. In essence the Leafs are saying that the Bruins centers are taking too long putting their sticks down for the draws when the road team is supposed to begin the face-off process.
“They’re the best team in the league at [face-offs],” said Bozak. “They’ve got the best guy in the league, Bergeron. It’s going to be hard to beat guys like that.
“Thought maybe they were cheating a little bit. So I tried to cheat."
Bozak continued, "Your timing can be off by half a second. You’re going to have an off night. You’re not going to get away with mistakes in the circle with off-timing with the guys they have. I cheat, too. We all cheat. They were just cheating better.”
Bergeron won 12-of-20 face-offs in the victory, and the combination of Chris Kelly/Rich Peverley won a whopping 22-of-26 face-offs in an amazing show of third-line domination that shouldn’t be underrated. Mikhail Grabovski was the only Toronto player that won more face-off draws than he lost.
Toronto coach Randy Carlyle wasn’t using language quite as strong as Bozak's in defeat.
“From our guys’ perspective, there were some things going on out there in the faceoff circle they deemed, I hate to say 'fair,' because if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying, that’s my theory on face-offs,” Carlyle said. “But we were not taking up the position we would normally get being the home team. Usually, it’s visitor down, home team down, puck down.
“Our guys felt there were things going on in the faceoff circle with our guys getting bounced unfairly. I asked the linesman what was going on, his explanation was he felt our guys were impeding on the circle.”
Apparently Toronto’s loss to the Bruins in Game 3 had nothing to do with the massive amount of turnovers from the Leafs defensemen corps, the dominant performance from David Krejci’s line, or Tuukka Rask making 17 saves in a stellar third-period showing in a big game.
Instead it was about the Bruins not putting their stick down in a timely fashion during the face-off process. It’s a pretty clear example of gamesmanship from Toronto, but it also shows that they’re reaching for things after getting blown off the ice in their first home playoff game in nine years.