Aces of Face-offsPosted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
Two games into the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Boston-Washington series is as tight as it can be. Going forward, it’s likely we’ll see more of the same. With such a high level of tightness, every shift, every hit, every check, every face-off and every turnover becomes more magnified. Everything has been pretty much even through two games, as both clubs look to assert control in tonight’s pivotal Game 3. Each team has two goals and one win, and the score has been tied for 129:58 of the 144:14 played in the first two games. The Bruins have had a slight advantage in hits (76-70) while the Caps have enjoyed a slim lead in face-offs (51.2% to 48.8%). Ironically, the Caps won Game 2 in double-overtime just five seconds after Washington center Nicklas Backstrom lost an offensive zone draw to the Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron. Bergeron cleanly drew the puck back to his own goal line, but Caps forward Marcus Johansson plucked it from among the sticks and feet of three rather stationary Bruins, and fed it to Backstrom in front. The Caps’ center took care of the rest, firing the puck past Boston goaltender Tim Thomas and sending the series back to the District all even. During the 2011-12 regular season, Bergeron won 59.3% of his draws to finish second in the league in face-off prowess, just a shade behind Chicago’s Jonathan Toews. From the time that Boston’s Benoit Pouliot scored to pull the Bruins even at 12:13 of the third period, Bergeron took 10 of the game’s 25 face-offs. He won eight of them, including six of seven in his own end of the ice. With a gaudy 65.3% success rate, Bergeron ranks fourth among all pivots in face-off win pct. in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs. One of the three guys ahead of Bergeron on that short list sports the sweater of his first-round foe. That would be Washington’s Jay Beagle, who ranks second among all centers in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs with a 69% face-off success rate. Only Florida’s Marcel Goc (72.4%) is ahead of Beagle. Beagle, who won 57.7% of his draws during the regular season, won 11 of 17 draws he took in Saturday’s Game 2. He won nine of 12 draws after the start of the third period and most importantly, won 10 of 13 defensive zone draws on the day. From the time of Pouliot’s goal onward, Beagle took 10 of the game’s 25 draws for the Capitals, the same as Bergeron. And Beagle won eight of those 10, same as Bergeron. Beagle won each of the last six draws he took in Saturday’s game, and he won six of seven in his own end of the ice after Pouliot’s goal made it a 1-1 game. “I grew up playing center and taking a lot of draws,” says Beagle. “It’s something I take pride in. I’ve worked on it a lot this year, just trying to be a reliable guy in the face-off circle. I like it; I actually love being the go-to guy for those defensive zone draws. I’ve just got to continue getting the job done throughout the series.” Expect to see Bergeron and Beagle getting the lion’s share of the face-off assignments for their respective clubs the rest of the way, especially when the game is tight and the draw is in the defensive zone.
Caps center Nicklas Backstrom has been suspended for a game, per NHL director of player safety Brendan Shanahan. Backstrom, who supplied the game-winning goal in Washington's double-overtime win in Saturday's Game 2 of the team's Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with the Boston Bruins, will