They’re proving to be quick on the draws
Bruins tough to beat in the faceoff circle
The play, scripted during a Detroit timeout with 12 seconds remaining in Friday’s overtime, was almost perfect.
The Bruins’ Gregory Campbell, lined up against Pavel Datsyuk for an offensive-zone draw at the left dot, won the faceoff. Campbell shoveled the puck to Zdeno Chara at the blue line. Chara hammered a one-timer toward the net. The puck sailed just left.
“If we hit the net on that shot,’’ said coach Claude Julien, “I think we’ve got ourselves a win there.’’
The Bruins wound up losing a shootout, 3-2, which halted their 10-game winning streak, but the play highlighted how effective they have been on faceoffs.
In last night’s 4-2 victory over the Jets, the Bruins won 30 of 49 faceoffs (61 percent). They have won 54.7 percent of their draws, the top mark in the league. Patrice Bergeron has posted a 57.4 percent winning rate, fourth-best among regular faceoff men. All four of Boston’s go-to draw guys - Campbell (55.2 percent), David Krejci (53.5 percent), and Chris Kelly (51.9 percent) - have won more faceoffs than they have lost:
“It’s always been an important part of my philosophy as far as coaching,’’ Julien said. “We always talk about little details making a big difference in the game. Those are little details that go a long way.’’
For the overtime play, Julien wanted a left shot - either Campbell or Kelly - to pull the puck back to the point, then dash toward the net for a deflection, screen, or rebound. Kelly had gone 4 for 7. Campbell was 4 for 6, which led Julien to give him the nod for the draw. Also, the Bruins like Campbell’s net-front presence for tips.
“I think I could have done a little better job,’’ Campbell said of driving to the net. “I was kind of mesmerized by the draw and watching Z walk in there alone.
“At the time, the puck was lying there and I was a split-second too late. As I got there, [Niklas] Kronwall got there at the same time. Maybe if I’d pushed the puck back to Z and gone immediately to the net, I would have had a better shot of getting in there.’’
Because the Bruins have been so efficient on faceoffs, they’ve enjoyed the benefits of coming out with the puck more often than not. On defensive-zone draws, they have exercised set plays where they’ve iced the puck or banked it off the boards for a wing flying out of the zone. In the offensive zone, they’ve devised shooting plays to take advantage of defenses scrambling to get into proper positions.
They can also send out different looks based on where the puck is dropped. They have two righthanders in Bergeron and Krejci and a pair of lefthanders in Kelly and Campbell. They also have a third right-shot draw man in Rich Peverley (60.2 percent). Last night, Peverley claimed 7 of 10 faceoffs for the team’s highest winning percentage.
“We have pretty good guys on this team that have a lot of experience taking draws - Bergy, Pevs, Kells,’’ Campbell said. “These guys have been good in this league for a while. If you’re going against somebody that’s good at them, you’re going to get better, naturally.
“It’s an important part of the game that the coaching staff really stresses. When we’re on our game, we start with the puck. Starting with the puck often comes off a clean win.
“And faceoffs aren’t wholly on the centerman’s shoulders. A lot of times, your wingers come in and help. As a team and as a group of centermen, we take a lot of pride in faceoffs.’’
As a player drafted and developed by the Bruins, Mark Stuart was pleased to see his former team win the Stanley Cup. But as a player swapped to Atlanta four months before his teammates lifted the Cup, Stuart found it difficult to watch the Final.
“It was a weird feeling,’’ Stuart said. “You’re happy for those guys and happy when they won. It’s also tough. It’s really tough to watch. You want to be with them. You want to be part of it.’’
Stuart is one of three alternate captains for the Winnipeg Jets, the former Atlanta Thrashers. He has two goals and four assists and was plus-1 last night.
“He’s a guy who plays with his heart more than on his sleeve - he plays with his heart, period,’’ said Winnipeg coach Claude Noel. “It shows with our team.
“He’s part of our leadership group, a big part of it. He exemplifies a lot of what our team needs to be - that’s just a hard-working group that plays hard and plays for the team. He’s been really good for us.’’
Blake Wheeler assisted on Winnipeg’s first goal last night. Wheeler has one goal and 12 helpers while skating mostly with Bryan Little and Evander Kane. Like Stuart, Wheeler was pleased for his teammates - Krejci is one of his closest friends - but disappointed he didn’t win a ring.
“That was the hardest part of being traded,’’ Wheeler said. “Stuey and I both knew that it was a very real possibility that it was going to happen. Seeing it come true was mixed emotions. A mixed bag of emotions, for sure.
“Definitely happy for all the guys. They work harder than anyone. They deserved it.’’
Many of his ex-teammates were happy to see Shane Hnidy in the dressing room yesterday. Hnidy was back as a rookie media member: He is the color analyst for TSN Radio 1290 in Winnipeg. Hnidy was among the most well-liked players because of his honest approach and veteran voice in the room. “We kept him around the room and he did all the warm-ups because we wanted his presence there,’’ said Julien, who also delivered the requisite jab. “He’s moved on,’’ Julien said with a smile. “As a rookie media guy, he should stay quiet and listen.’’ . . . Steven Kampfer and Jordan Caron were the healthy scratches.