December 11, 2010
Leafs back to draw-ing boardCentremen hit faceoff circles at practice
By LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Shaky-handed TV deputy Barney Fife could have outdrawn a few stone-handed Maple Leafs in the faceoff circle on Thursday night.
So one of the first things spotted at the end of the formal part of Leafs' practice on Friday was assistant coach Keith Acton collecting a pile of pucks and motioning some Leaf centremen to the dots. The Flyers won almost 70% off the faceoffs in a 4-1 victory at the Air Canada Centre and scored their first two goals on virtually uncontested draws back to their point men.
"That's the No. 1 battle in a game because there are always faceoffs somewhere," said John Mitchell, the lone Leaf with a winning mark on draws in the loss (3-for-5).
"You have to dig in, but a lot of times it's not just about winning the faceoff clean. It's getting a tie and hopefully getting your wingers in there to get some pucks and chip them back to the defencemen.
"I've been a centre my whole life, but when I play wing, I'm trying to help Nazem (Kadri) in every aspect. If the puck gets in behind their centremen a bit, I want to make sure I'm the first guy there. As long as Naz doesn't lose the faceoff clean and gets a little fumble (from the other centreman), there's a good chance I can get in there and get it back."
But Mitchell was skeptical about the post-game stats that listed the Flyers with 43 wins in 63 draws, which according to the Elias Sports Bureau was a five-year high for their team. Mike Richards won 13 of 14 faceoff decisions, according to the NHL staffers at the ACC.
"I don't think they won as many faceoffs as they were credited for, to be quite honest," Mitchell maintained. "It seemed a little ridiculous. It's subjective (in all 30 NHL rinks). I know how many faceoffs I took and they didn't count them all."
Mitchell echoed coach Ron Wilson's sentiments that there can be a wide definition in each building of things such as giveaways, takeaways and another of Mitchell's biggest gripes, hits.
"Hits in our building are hard to come by," Mitchell opined. "You have to put somebody through the glass (to get one)."
Still, it's hard to argue with the fact that the Leafs have struggled in the faceoff circle, not just against Philadelphia but over the past several games.