Bruins continue to put on face-off clinic

Bruins continue to put on face-off clinic
June 5, 2013, 1:45 am
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It’s something that isn’t really a shock given that the Boston Bruins were the NHL’s best face-off team during the regular season, but once again the Black and Gold centers are getting it done on the draw.

The Bruins have won 58 percent (61-of-105) of the draws in the two games against the Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals, and lead the NHL while winning 57.6 percent of their face-offs during the first three rounds of the postseason. The Bruins pivots have done a good job of getting the best of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Brandon Sutter through the first two conference finals games.

Clearly having the league’s best face-off man in Patrice Bergeron is important, and he’s winning 63.6 percent of his draws after leading the NHL in face-off winning percentage this season. Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley are both way over 60 percent win rate on Boston’s third line, and give Claude Julien right and left options from their strong sides whenever they’re on the ice.

There was plenty of chatter about the Bruins “cheating” in the face-off circle during the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but that tactic didn’t really work against a team that’s just blessed with skilled centers, and one of the best face-off coaches in former Selke Trophy winner Doug Jarvis.

“I get asked this at every series about our team because we've been a good face-off team, and we practice it all the time," Claude Julien said. "[Bruins assistant coach] Doug Jarvis was a really good face-off guy in his day and centerman. Before this year I used to do that work with our centerman. But he was the guy that I felt this year would help us a lot in that area.

“There are certain players that were maybe average, that are better than average now because [Jarvis] has gone in there and worked with those guys. But we work on face-offs a lot with our centermen, and take a lot of pride in that. I feel like I'm repeating myself here, but start with the puck, you're a better puck possession team than if you have to chase it.”

It’s common sense that superior face-off ability would translate into greater puck possession, but that obviously becomes a much bigger deal when you’re attempting to keep the puck away from a high-powered Pittsburgh Penguins outfit.

David Krejci is actually the only Boston center under a 50 percent win rate on face-offs while struggling a bit at 45.8 percent, but he was more than happy to air his opinions about his team’s strong suit on face-offs.

“I think we have pretty good centermen, and as long as we’re winning the faceoff that means we’re going to start with puck possession," Krejci said. "That always helps. We’re just going on the faceoff, and trying to win.

“It doesn’t matter who you go against. Obviously, you know who you’re going against, but your mindset is to win and do whatever it takes to win the faceoff.”

It doesn’t matter who is taking the face-off for the Bruins either, as Shawn Thornton won a clean draw against Crosby in the offensive zone during their Game 1 win in Pittsburgh. Clearly it looks like Jarvis can work miracles with Thornton winning 80 percent of his few-and-far-between face-off chances during the playoffs.