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Blackhawks need to save face on faceoffs

  • The Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins face off to start the second period during Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals. In Monday's Game 3, Chicago was ...

    Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press

    The Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins face off to start the second period during Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals. In Monday's Game 3, Chicago was horrible on faceoffs, losing 40 of 56.

  • Boston Bruins center Tyler Seguin (19) taps the puck away from Chicago Blackhawks center Patrick Sharp (10) in the second period during Game 2 of the ...

    Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press

    Boston Bruins center Tyler Seguin (19) taps the puck away from Chicago Blackhawks center Patrick Sharp (10) in the second period during Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals, Saturday, June 15, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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By Brian Hamilton
Chicago Tribune
Published:
  • The Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins face off to start the second period during Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals. In Monday's Game 3, Chicago was ...

    Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press

    The Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins face off to start the second period during Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals. In Monday's Game 3, Chicago was horrible on faceoffs, losing 40 of 56.

  • Boston Bruins center Tyler Seguin (19) taps the puck away from Chicago Blackhawks center Patrick Sharp (10) in the second period during Game 2 of the ...

    Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press

    Boston Bruins center Tyler Seguin (19) taps the puck away from Chicago Blackhawks center Patrick Sharp (10) in the second period during Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals, Saturday, June 15, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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 Bruins, the 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, Handzus 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. "We can see that."
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.
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-for-14 showing on power plays and penalty kill 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.
"That's a part of the game that he takes a lot of pride in and that we take a lot of pride in as a team," Bruins forward Milan Lucic said. "Every pregame skate, I know the guys are working on faceoffs. It's a lot easier starting with the puck than it is chasing it."
It is no help when, at TD Garden, the visiting Hawks are handicapped by putting the stick down first on the dot.
"You sort of look and see what they're doing, see where their feet are, where their stick is, where their hands are," Bolland said. "When you have that last chance, that's always an advantage."
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.
At this point, against a formidable faceoff foe, the Hawks wouldn't mind being just half bad.
"Across the board, we've been watching the group of centermen here, digesting it, dissecting it, knowing we have to be better," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We're looking at ways that we at least can get it closer to a 50-50 chance for us."
Story tags » NHL

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