BOSTON — It's one of the most common sights in hockey, happening dozens of times each game at various spots on the ice.
But its frequent occurrence doesn't lessen its importance, as the faceoff remains one of the most vital, if underappreciated, aspects of the game.
"It's a big part of the game," Bruins center Gregory Campbell said. "In the playoffs, you want to start with the puck and have that puck possession time, and that all starts with the faceoff."
That hasn't been good news for the Bruins, at least not since Patrice Bergeron went down with a concussion. Overall, Boston's faceoff numbers look pretty good, as they rank third in the league in the playoffs with a 52.7 winning percentage on draws.
But most of that is due to Bergeron, who is second in the league at 64.2 percent. Bergeron has won at least 10 faceoffs in each of the 11 games he's played this postseason, including a dominant 17-2 night in Game 3 against Philadelphia when the Bruins won 78 percent of the draws (43 of 55) overall that night. The rest of the Bruins' centers haven't been consistently effective, though. They all check in well under 50 percent, with David Krejci at 47.1 percent, Chris Kelly at 47.1 percent, Rich Peverley at 43.8 percent and Campbell at 43.1 percent.
The Lightning, meanwhile, have four centers who have taken over 100 draws this postseason and all have won more than 50 percent, plus Vincent Lecavalier at 49.8 percent. That difference played out as expected in Game 1, with Tampa winning 61 percent of the draws (41 of 67) as Bergeron missed his first game of the playoffs.
"We knew that they were a very good faceoff team," Campbell said of the Lightning. "The [Nate] Thompsons, the [Dominic] Moores, who I played with actually last year [in Florida], is a guy who prides himself on winning faceoffs."
The Bruins need to find a way to even that battle, even without Bergeron, whose status for Game 2 on Tuesday night remains in doubt.
"As centermen, we all put pressure on ourselves, it's part of our job," Campbell said. "You can try different things. If you're not winning it clean, you can try tying them up and get some help from your wingers or defensemen. But at the end of the day, it's another one of those battles that's so important in the course of a game."
Help from your teammates is vital to winning draws. Despite the fact that it's the center who gets charged with the wins and losses, gaining possession off the faceoff has to be a team effort.
"I think I say that all the time, it's a matter of everybody being better," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "Your centermen have to be better. You can't lose it clean. You have to make sure your other guys on the ice have to be ready to jump on those loose pucks. And obviously our centermen need to be better but I don't think we did a great job either with the rest of our guys jumping on the loose pucks. [The Lightning] were on them quicker than we were [in Game 1]. And we have to be better there if we plan on starting with the puck tonight instead of chasing it."
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