Sports

Winning faceoffs is critical to playoff success in NHL

Bruins ace Patrice Bergeron (here getting the better of Pittsburgh’s Brandon Sutter in the Eastern Conference finals) led the NHL this season by winning 62.1 percent of his faceoffs.
Bruins ace Patrice Bergeron (here getting the better of Pittsburgh’s Brandon Sutter in the Eastern Conference finals) led the NHL this season by winning 62.1 percent of his faceoffs.JIM DAVIS/globe staff

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Hockey is not scripted like football. Most of the game is free-flowing, creative, and intuitive.

But faceoffs allow coaches to dust off their playbooks. After a faceoff win, players skate predetermined routes. A win leads to a chance. A chance can result in a goal.

The faceoff is the distillation of conflict, hockey’s primary and primal characteristic. Two centers brawl over a 50-50 puck the way two Dobermans would fight for a ribeye. Their teammates shove, punch, and slash opponents in pursuit of the puck following the draw. Cowards do not succeed.

And winning the faceoffs can go a long way toward winning the game. Just ask the Bruins, who are pretty much the best in the league at it.

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