Stanley Cup finals: Chicago faces it: Faceoff failures put team in hole

2013-06-19T00:00:00Z Stanley Cup finals: Chicago faces it: Faceoff failures put team in holeBrian Hamilton Chicago Tribune Arizona Daily Star
June 19, 2013 12:00 am  • 

BOSTON - In the thimble-wide hallway to the dressing room at TD Garden on Tuesday, Michal Handzus rode a stationary bicycle. Though his presence was requested to discuss the state of the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins, the Chicago Blackhawks veteran center did not appear after his workout. One could argue this was his second consecutive no-show.

Acquired at the trade deadline in large part for his faceoff proficiency, Hand-zus took 10 draws in Game 3 against the Bruins and won none. But this was only the most gruesome failure in a circle of strife for the Hawks as the Bruins fleeced them with a 71 percent success rate on the dot.

"It was a bad game for faceoffs for us," deadpanned center Dave Bolland, who won just one of eight draws.

It is never a big deal until it is a strikingly big deal. For a team fundamentally predicated on puck possession, not possessing it is a very big deal, especially against a brutishly stingy Bruins team that makes it hard enough when things go well.

The Bruins won 2-0 Monday to go up 2-1 in the Stanley Cup finals. Game 4 is tonight, again in Boston.

So on Tuesday, the coaching staff and the centers examined what went wrong - aside from the obvious answer of "everything."

"It's an area of the game that often gets overlooked, but it's a big part of it," forward Patrick Sharp said. "We're a team that thrives when we have the puck, and we want the puck all the time. Losing a lot of faceoffs hurts that. But it's not just on the center men, it's on everybody to win that puck back."

The Hawks lost 40 of 56 faceoffs in Game 3, including a preposterous 2-of-14 showing on power plays and penalty kills combined. It might not get worse, but the issue is it might not get substantially better.

The Bruins won an NHL-best 56.4 percent of draws during the season and are at 56.1 percent for the playoffs. Patrice Bergeron led the league during the season with a 62.1 percent success rate, and the Bruins center put up almost comic numbers Monday, winning a ridiculous 24 of 28 draws.

As bad as the Hawks power play has been, losing a draw can cost a team 10 to 20 seconds of regrouping. As stellar as the penalty kill has been, losing a draw amplifies the pressure and the risk. And scoring in general is impossible when you don't have a puck to shoot.

Today

• Who: Blackhawks at Bruins; Bruins lead series 2-1

• When: 5 p.m. tonight

• TV: Ch 4

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