BOSTON – Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron won 24 of the 28 faceoffs he took against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. NBC Sports analyst Eddie Olczyk, who took his share of draws in a 16-year NHL career, likened it to watching a pitching machine in batting practice – that’s how automatic Bergeron was all night.
He’s considered the best faceoff man in the NHL, leading the League in playoff faceoff percentage at 62.7 percent, an improvement on the 62.1 percent mark he had in leading all faceoff men in the regular season.
So why is Patrice Bergeron so damn good at faceoffs?
“You should ask him. I’m not going to give anything away,” said center David Krejci.
But why is Patrice Bergeron so damn good at faceoffs?
“He wins’em,” quipped Chris Kelly of the Bruins.
No, seriously: Why is Patrice Bergeron so damn good at faceoffs?
“He does everything. It’s not just one thing,” said Kelly, who faces Bergeron in practice with the other Bruins centers.
“A lot of guys have a go-to move and he can read it your tendencies. Bergy switches it up. Very creative in the circle. He finds ways to win draws. It’s not just one thing.”
Like Pavel Datsyuk stickhandling, Bergeron has a bag of tricks in the faceoff circle and can beat you in several different ways.
“He’s not very predictable,” said Olczyk. “Sometimes he’ll knife in there and get it, sometimes he’ll hit and pull, sometimes he’ll just go for a tie-up and get some help. It keeps the guy on the other side on his toes. He can really win it any way – forehand, backhand, with his feet. There aren’t many guys that can do that.”
Bergeron’s not all technique. It takes physical assertion and exertion to win 24 faceoffs against Jonathan Toews, Dave Bolland and Michal Handzus. One of Bergeron’s strengths is his strength.
“He’s really strong. Even when I go against him in draws. Not only on the backhand like a normal guy, but on his forehand,” said center Tyler Seguin.
“Some guys like to use their own power and go off them. Other guys, especially when they’re home, like to use their angles.”
Bergeron dominated the Blackhawks at TD Garden, and that’s to be expected. Home players had the advantage in the dot as the “last stick down,” although Bergeron is known for foregoing that honor to keep his opponents off-guard.
“He said a lot of times he likes to get his stick in there first,” said Olczyk.
“You watch really good faceoff guys, their sticks aren’t on the ice. They’re up in the air.”
The good faceoff guys watch the linesman’s hand, not the puck. They know it has to go up before it goes down. They also know that it has to go down rather quickly after a stoppage, because the NHL’s hockey operations demand a quickly paced game.
Bergeron is one of the best in the game at that anticipation, like a “Jeopardy!” contestant whose hand hits the buzzer slightly faster than the other two contestants.
But he doesn’t always do it alone. Bergeron is in constant communication with his wingers on draws, directing them on how to help win possession after the puck’s dropped.
“It’s not just about centermen,” said Bergeron.
The 27-year-old Bruins center expects the Blackhawks won’t allow another night of domination in the dot for Game 4.
“They’re great centermen. They’re going to try and bounce back, be strong on draws,” he said. “We have to known their tendencies. Not show them one look, but show them multiple looks.”
Bergeron’s faceoff prowess has made him an annual candidate for the Selke Trophy. He’s mentioned among the reasons why the Bruins are a dominant defensive team. He’s celebrated by the hockey world – but he’s not a star on the level of, say, a Jonathan Toews.
Bergeron was asked if he’s ever wanted to score more, be more offensive, be a player that’s in the mix for the Hart rather than the Selke.
But that’s not who he is. He’s simply the most dominant faceoff man in the League, and a dominant defensive force at center.
“It’s my game. It’s something I take a lot of pride in. The defensive part is a big part of it. I do whatever I can to help us win.”
The Bruins usually do, partly because Patrice Bergeron is so damn good on faceoffs.