By now, most people heard about last night's Bruins game where they punched through another 6-2 win, this time over the Buffalo Sabres. Tyler Seguin impressed with another two goals, Milan Lucic was called a "piece of [expletive]" by Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller for knocking the all-star goalie from his feet in the first period, and Brad Marchand continued to get more comfortable and grow some chemistry with Seguin.
Patrice Bergeron went unmentioned in the headlines, but he was arguably one of the most important players in that game. It's true he only assisted on Tyler Seguin's second goal, and he took only three shots on net, but the most important thing he did came before any cycling or shooting. He made the play happen.
A stat that often times goes unnoticed, especially when the Bruins continue to maul every team they face with six or more goals, is faceoff wins. People look at the percentage of draws won, and while it might look impressive, rarely does it make any articles or press releases or get mentioned at all.
But Bergeron had 80% in the faceoff win department, winning 16-of-20 draws he took. To put that in perspective, Luke Adam from the Sabres had a minus-4 rating at the end of the game and only managed to win 4-of-11 faceoffs. Centerman Paul Gaustad won 7-of-18 and held a minus-1. In fact, no one on the Buffalo team who took more than one draw had a percentage rating that went above 41%.
And here, Bergeron had 80%.
But what does that do for a team? Had can winning those draws really translate into goals and eventual wins?
" You’re going to hear me mention that to players every night, that it’s important to start with the puck," Julien said. "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."
And control is something the Bruins have been used to doing during the past two weeks. Each time the Black and Gold scored two quick bang-bang goals, they have taken all the momentum away and from their opposing team and used it against them to maintain leads and win games.
But as Julien said, in order to take control, it has to start before the puck even hits the ice, and the Bruins are lucky enough to have a centerman that is as consistent as Bergeron.
"I think any time we have a big faceoff, [Bergeron’s] the guy you go to," Julien said. "He’s the most reliable centermen we’ve got on faceoffs. There can be certain nights where other guys are hot, but overall, he’s been dominant in the faceoff circle. It helps that line in a way that, most of the time, they’re starting with the puck, and that’s where you want to start. When the puck is dropped, you want to start with the control of it, and he certainly makes that happen more than his fair share of times."
The 26-year old not only ended his night last night with a plus-3 rating, but his line was responsible for three of the six goals scored last night by the Bruins--one of which he was given an assist for. It's also not a surprise that Bergeron had the most time on ice of all forwards against the Sabres, skating 19 minutes and 46 seconds--putting in time on special teams as well as normal ice time. Both Seguin and Marchand were quick to credit the Bergeron on his consistent abilities to keep the puck on the right side of the ice and allow them to continue the offensive strikes.
"When people watch, I don't think they realize how big it is for us to have faceoff guys that are as good as what we have," linemate Marchand said. "When you start with the puck more often than not, you save a lot of energy and able to create a lot more offense because of it. It's very frustrating when you lose a lot of draws and you have to chase all game, but because of the amount of draws we win, it really helps us. Bergy has been unbelievable at that and that's why he's counted on for so many faceoffs."
Seguin, who has 11 goals in just 15 games agreed with Marchand and attributed parts of his personal successes to Bergeron's consistency.
"Faceoffs are what control the whole start of the shift," Seguin said. "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. Makes the whole package."