Blackhawks' problems start in the faceoff circle

Chicago Blackhawks' Nick Leddy, left, and Marian Hossa, line up for a faceoff against the Los...

Chicago Blackhawks' Nick Leddy, left, and Marian Hossa, line up for a faceoff against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 5 of the Western Conference final earlier this month. (REUTERS/Jeff Haynes)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:20 PM ET

BOSTON - Scotty Bowman knows all about coaching in the Stanley Cup final.

The Hall of Famer, now a Chicago Blackhawks senior advisor, won nine Cups as a coach and three more in a front office capacity.

But you don’t need Bowman’s accumulated wisdom to know what the Hawks have to do better heading into Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final, a series they trail 2-1 to the Boston Bruins.

“They’ve got a lot on their plate,” Bowman said of Chicago’s coaching staff. “They’ve got to figure out the faceoffs. They’ve got to figure out the power play. They’ve been trying all year. The faceoffs, especially. Seventy percent is a big advantage.”

The Bruins, led by centre Patrice Bergeron -- who won 24 of the 28 draws -- were 40-16 in the faceoff circle in Game 3 for an astounding 71% success rate.

Therefore, the Hawks were starting almost three-quarters of the game’s shifts chasing the puck.

Bowman, who’s just about seen it all, said the Bruins are up to a little chicanery in the faceoff circle.

“They’re doing some tricks. They’re putting a phoney in at the beginning. They get thrown out. They are not going to call the second guy (for cheating),” Bowman said.

In the insular world of the NHL, one of coaches guiding the Bruins to faceoff success is Doug Jarvis, a former player of Bowman’s when he walked the Montreal Canadiens’ bench.

“One of the best centremen I ever had was Doug Jarvis. He’s on their side. Doug never got thrown out very much. He always wanted to get down and get ready. He just had quick reflexes. That’s a big factor. “You’ve got to look at video. You’ve got to show your guys. Some guys were like 10-0, 9-1. Bergeron was 24-4. Whatever he’s doing...he’s does get down and set, then he moves after. I think you have to look at that and bring it to your players’ attention.”

When asked what the Hawks had to do to get competitive in the circle, Chicago forward Dave Bolland, 1-7 on the night, said, “I don’t know. Maybe crowd the circle a little more. They’re a good faceoff team.”

He added the Bruins centremen are making the most out of home-ice advantage since the visitor has to put his stick down and be set for the faceoff first.

“You get a look to see what they’re doing, where their feet are, where their hands are, always looking to see what they’re doing,” he said. “When you have the last chance to look, it’s an advantage.”

The faceoff situation has an impact on special teams, too. When a short-handed team wins the draw, the puck is down the ice and that can burn up to 30 seconds of a power play.

The Bruins won the faceoff in their zone after each of the first four penalties they took in Game 3.

Bergeron beat Hawks centre Jonathan Toews -- who beat out Bergeron for the Selke Trophy as the league’s top defensive forward -- on the first two. Rich Peverley beat Toews on the third and Chris Kelly defeated Patrick Sharp on the fourth.

“Bergeron had one of those nights that you like to have in a career,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “I think across the board, we’ve been watching the group of centremen here, digesting it, dissecting it, knowing we have to be better as well.”

Quenneville agreed one of the issues with the power play -- the Hawks were 0-for-5 in Game 3 and are 0-for-11 in the final – was a lack of success in the faceoff circle.

“It starts with losing the draw initially. That’s the area we have to get better,” he said.

The Hawks will also have to look at how they are entering the Boston zone. Once they lose the draw and the Bruins get the puck out, the B’s have been able to set up their neutral zone forecheck.

“We’re still going to have to find a way to get through it and find ways to have possession off it. Might have to go indirectly to get it and have puck battles to get more retrievals,” Quenneville added.

His squad knows what they have to do to have a chance to win Game 4 and tie this series.

Problem is doing it against a Bruins team that looks a little faster, a lot sharper in its execution, and miles ahead of them in the faceoff circle.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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