The difference hardly sounds like much.
One team won 45 faceoffs. The other won 30.
And the club on the wrong end of that 60/40 split outshot the other 47-38 and obviously had the puck a fair potion of the game.
But on Tuesday morning after their 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins, the Toronto Maple Leafs centres were going over video of what happened on the draws and continued to complain that they were wronged by the linesman.
Tyler Bozak, in particular, had a tough night, being thrown from the circle at least a half dozen times and winning just seven of the 23 draws (30 per cent) that he took in the offensive or defensive zone.
That left wingers taking the draw eight or nine times overall, and they ultimately went just one for six in the offensive zone, contributing to having only 10 wins on 34 o-zone draws for the Leafs as a whole.
“They’re pretty good at cheating,” Bozak said after the game, a statement that raised a few eyebrows even though it was in typical faceoff parlance. “They’re the best team in the league at them… I mean, I cheat, too, we all cheat – they just were cheating a little better than we were tonight, I think.”
The debate comes down to a fickle point of faceoff etiquette, where the road team’s centre is supposed to have his stick blade down on the ice and motionless before the home team’s centre prior to the puck being dropped.
That’s not what the Leafs saw happening on the video, especially in the instances where Bozak was being thrown out.
“A lot of them we watched, it looked like both guys were jumping at the same time,” Leafs veteran Jay McClement said. “It seemed like just from watching, when Bozie was coming down [with his stick], they were starting to come up and he was trying to counteract that and he was getting tossed.
“It’s tough when you’re getting tossed all the time. It’s tough to cheat the way you normally do and time it because then you just get tossed more and more.”
Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, meanwhile, revealed that the team will talk to the series official and ask for a review of what happened on the draws.
He doesn’t expect that the particular linesman who gave his team most of its problems will be back.
“In our review, there were some things going on out there that we don’t agree with,” Carlyle said. “So we’ll visit with them and talk about it. The difference is the officials that we had last night as far as linesman will not be the same ones we’ll have tomorrow night.
“The NHL does a real thorough job of listening and having some form explanation and what the tape shows you. We’ll go that avenue. It’s nothing dramatic, but it’s a small part of the game that can be a large part.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien credited Carlyle with some gamesmanship on the issue but didn’t feel it was a big deal.
“I’ve heard a lot about the faceoff issue,” Julien said. “I’ve looked at the video too and it is what it is; guys getting kicked out, not getting kicked out. When you lobby for something it’s because you’re looking for a bit of a break next game and that’s what Randy’s doing right now, he’s lobbying for some breaks on the faceoffs."
From a statistical standpoint, faceoffs often get overemphasized at the NHL level when the difference between two teams or players can in fact be quite small.
The vast majority of the league hovers between the 48 and 52 per cent mark, meaning that over a seven game series, the difference between a player at the high end and low end would only be four or five extra wins out of 120 draws.
Where that difference can become more pronounced, however, is against a team like Boston, which led the NHL with a 56.4 per cent win rate and is at a dominant 58 per cent in this series.
That’s meant they’ve won 33 more draws in just three games, with the quartet of Patrice Bergeron, Chris Kelly, Greg Campbell and Rich Peverley going 92-49 for a better than 65 per cent win rate.
But it’s not just the fact that the Leafs are losing draws. What is really killing Toronto offensively is where they are losing them.
Boston’s weakest faceoff man in this series has been David Krejci (44 per cent) but Julien has increasingly kept him out of the defensive zone entirely, giving him just two faceoffs there in Game 1, four in Game 2 and one in Game 3.
By comparison, Bergeron has taken more than three times as many (23) defensive zone draws in the series and won more than 65 per cent of them.
“He’s a tough guy to beat,” McClement said.
And that’s just one more reason the Leafs have only three even strength goals in the series.
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