November 13, 2011

B's dominant at the dot in win over Sabres

By Andrew Merritt

BOSTON – One of the things the Buffalo Sabres have done well in this young season is take faceoffs.

Saturday night at TD Garden, the Bruins did it much, much better.Patrice Bergeron sets up shop in front of Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth. (Getty)

The Bruins outdrew the Sabres 44-25 in their 6-2 victory, which extended their winning streak to five and pushed them over the .500 mark for the first time all season. And it’s only because of a third-period surge that Buffalo even made it that close. Boston owned the dots throughout, outdueling the visitors 17-5 in the first period and 19-6 in the second.

It wasn’t the only reason the Bruins ran roughshod over the Sabres Saturday – hello, Tyler Seguin and your two-goal night – but it was a big one. Entering the game as the best faceoff team in the league, the B’s made the gap between them and the fourth-best Sabres look quite large.

“It was a huge advantage,” said Buffalo captain Jason Pominville, who lost all four of his draws, and whose center, Luke Adam, went 4-for-11.

“I think we were doing some better things on draws, I think we climbed to fourth or fifth in the league, and we knew (The Bruins) were the top team in the league.

“They’re on a four, or five game streak now, and they credited it to their faceoffs,” Pominville said. “We wanted to be better on draws, I’m not going to lie, and we didn’t do a good enough job, so it was a big part of the game.”

Patrice Bergeron led the Bruins’ draw domination with 16 wins on 20 faceoffs, a mind-blowing 80 percent win percentage for that many draws. The only Sabre who had an edge on him was Ville Leino, who won their only duel. Bergeron was perfect in three faceoffs against Paul Gaustad and two against Pominville, and took three of four against Luke.

Bergeron was most effective against Derek Roy, winning six of their seven draws including all five taken in the neutral zone.

“Faceoffs are what control the start of the shift,” said Seguin, who also received a spectacular blind pass from Bergeron to set up his second goal. “It’s a huge part, and with Bergy, obviously I’ve said many times he’s an all-around complete player, but it’s the little things, it’s the little things in your own zone, the little plays in your offensive zone, the little things like draws.”

Bergeron was hardly the only Bruin to rule the faceoff circle. Only two Boston players finished with a losing record at the dot – Seguin, who went 1-for-3 against Roy, and Zach Hamill, who lost his only draw to Paul Gaustad.

The other six Bruins who squared off – Bergeron, Gregory Campbell (10-for-15), Milan Lucic (1-for-1), Chris Kelly (5-for-10), David Krejci (7-for-12) and Rich Peverley (4-for-7) all had 50 percent or better success rates.

The draws are something coach Claude Julien said he monitors closely every game, not just the ones against division rivals who happen to be quite good at the dot.

“It was, but it always is every night,” Julien said when asked if faceoffs were a point of emphasis before Saturday’s game. “You’re going to hear me mention that to players every night, that it’s important to start with the puck. After the first period, I have a look at those things, and even between TV timeouts, I’m having to look at who’s hot and who’s struggling.

“I’m on the guys a lot for that because I feel it’s an important part of the game. If you want to control it, you’ve got to start with the puck, and you’ve got to have it on your stick.”

The Bruins have listened well to Julien’s lesson all season, and on a night when they finally, officially pulled out of the rough waters of their 3-7 start, they did a little teaching of their own. Safe to say the Sabres heard it loud and clear.