Penguins having issues with winning faceoffs
Brandon Sutter was seven times a loser Saturday.
He went 3 of 10 on faceoffs in the Penguins' home loss to Boston in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final.
“It's tough. It's a mind game,” said Sutter, who is at 50.3 percent on faceoffs though his first 12 Stanley Cup playoff games. “It factors into a lot of what you do.”
Only eight players have taken more draws this postseason, but Sutter's two points are the fewest among that group.
Forward Jussi Jokinen said the true measure of postseason comes in the form of looking the other way when consistently losing faceoffs.
“Counting playoffs, I've played over 600 games, so I'm used to it,” Jokinen said. “But that's hard, because sometimes you face a great faceoff opponent, and he is beating you every other day for a couple of weeks. That wears on you.”
The Penguins must prepare to play through the wear, starting with Game 2 on Monday at Consol Energy Center.
They lost 67 percent of faceoffs in Game 1.
The Bruins are claiming 58 percent of draws in the postseason led by center Patrice Bergeron, who has a 63.4-percent winning rate despite taking the third-most faceoffs (268). Bergeron and centers Chris Kelly and David Krejci and are a combined 333 of 565 (58.9 percent) on faceoffs in the playoffs, and they went 26 of 34 (76.5 percent) in Game 1.
From left winger Brenden Morrow to coach Dan Bylsma, the Penguins said the Bruins won a lot of “50-50 battles” — code for faceoff wins that are not clean — and players from both conference finalists concede that official stats do not match with those kept by the clubs.
Still, nobody associated with the Penguins has denied the Bruins are as crushing in the circle as they can be along the boards. There is a reason for that, Boston coach Claude Julien said.
“We practice it all the time,” Julien said, citing drills run by assistant coach and former faceoff stud Doug Jarvis, a former Selke Trophy (top defensive forward) and penalty-killing ace with Montreal, Washington and Hartford.
“I said it, and 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.”
The Penguins — and this was evident in Round 2 against Ottawa — are most dangerous when they are being chased. However, they are 6-3 in the playoffs when losing the faceoff battle, which they did in all but the fifth and final game of a second-round series against the Senators.
The Bruins, with physically imposing forwards such as Krejci and Milan Lucic, can be much more difficult to turn over than were Ottawa center Jason Spezza (coming off back surgery) and Jakob Silfverberg.
Keeping the puck away from Boston is Part 1 of the Penguins' attack plan. Part 2 is chipping it deep and pounding the Bruins' big-but-less-mobile defensemen.
Ideally, the Penguins would play at a pace — and with a collective patience — that would not call for a high number faceoffs. Game 1 featured only 48, compared to 65.6 in the Penguins' previous 11 postseason contests.
Fewer faceoffs would not be the worst thing, especially considering the Penguins' best options — Sutter, Jokinen and captain Sidney Crosby — went a combined 15 of 37 (40.5 percent) in Game 1.
Bylsma could play center Joe Vitale (career 56.8 percent on faceoffs), but that might mean removing Morrow, winger Tyler Kennedy or Jokinen from the lineup.
More likely, whoever is taking the draws must follow Vitale's advice.
“After a game or two, (opponents) figure out your tricks, so you're just constantly trying to find different ways to win — or not lose them clean,” Vitale said.
“(Losses) take a lot out of you. You have to be desperate for each one, treat every one of them as the most important of the game. But it can't be something you dwell on, even if I can always tell what kind of game I'm having depending on how I'm doing on faceoffs.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates pound Padres for 7th consecutive victory
- Steelers’ defense unfazed by noise, believes in potential
- Penguins notebook: After reinterpreting rule, draft pick sought for Bylsma’s hiring
- Overhaul possible for West Mifflin’s Century III Mall
- Dormont man missing since Wednesday found dead at Station Square
- Police: Man riding bike in New Kensington strikes truck, dies
- Starkey: NHL playoffs suddenly sublime
- Burglars strike 3 businesses in Hempfield plaza
- 24 teachers put on New Kensington-Arnold School District furlough list
- Former Ford City superintendent charged with killing family member in Texas
- LaBar: Future of Rusev in WWE critical