Getting the drop on ’em
Good things follow from faceoff wins
WILMINGTON — The Bruins’ 5-4 overtime loss in Game 4 at the Wachovia Center Friday wasn’t a pretty affair for the Bruins regarding faceoffs, which was surprising since it is one facet of the game they consistently do well.
But when they needed to control the puck the most, they made it count.
With 30 seconds to go and the Bruins needing a goal to force overtime, a draw to the right of Flyers goalie Brian Boucher, Mike Richards won the puck from Marc Savard only to watch Patrice Bergeron charge up the left boards, battle it away from Kimmo Timonen, and kick it out to Dennis Wideman at the blue line. Bergeron got it back, then fed Mark Recchi at the far post for the short-side one-timer that created a 4-4 tie and OT.
The Bruins have been impressive on faceoffs since dominating Buffalo, 40-25, in their Game 6 first-round clincher last month. They weren’t their dominant selves Friday, but they held their own in the circle, winning 48.6 percent of the draws. It surely will be a focal point as the Flyers attempt to extend the teams’ Eastern Conference semifinal series tonight at the Garden.
“Faceoffs are just battling,’’ said Savard. “[The Flyers] battled hard. We tried, and I don’t know what the total outcome was, but we got the one that mattered. Bergy did a great job jumping off the wall there off the tie-up. But faceoffs are just part of the battle, and whoever’s hungrier’s going to do better.’’
Bergeron, who hovered in the top 10 for faceoff percentage during the regular season, has been one of the league’s best during the playoffs, ranking fifth at 58.1 percent. Against the Flyers he has won nearly 61 percent of his draws, and the Bruins are 3-0 when he’s won at least 50 percent.
“Faceoffs are an important part of the game, sometimes underestimated by many,’’ coach Claude Julien said. “But you win faceoffs, you control the play. You’ve got the puck on your stick, you don’t have to chase it down, and when it’s in the offensive zone, it gives you an automatic, or at least a good opportunity, to score right off the draw.’’
Paired on the second line with Milan Lucic and Miroslav Satan — two wingers who have performed exceptionally in the postseason, and whom he’d shown solid chemistry with in spurts during the regular season — Savard rattled off eight shots, including a wraparound attempt on Boucher in overtime. He admitted his passing was a little off, but he was credited with an assist on Lucic’s power-play tip-in in the third.
“We’re comfortable, the three of us,’’ Savard said. “We had the puck a lot.
“Hopefully I don’t have that many more shots [tonight] and those two guys are shooting, but we’ve got a good combination. We kept the puck low a lot, created some good cycles . . . just gotta get some results.’’