Down 2-1 in their first round series against the Boston Bruins, the Toronto Maple Leafs need not look far for the answer.
The Bruins are dominating the face-off dot.
Overall, the Bruins have won 58 per cent of the face-offs in the series.
The Bruins have gone 91-73 in even-strength face-offs and won an astonishing 15 of 21 draws when down a man.
While that eight percent advantage does not seem huge, the Bruins have won 10 more face-offs a night than the Leafs.
From the Leafs point of view, the statistics are downright gruesome. Rich Peverley has won 17 of 18 even-strength draws
Patrice Bergeron has won 58.3 per cent of his draws and he has gone 10-4 in power play or penalty killing situations.
The Bruins have managed to hold Tyler Bozak to a 43 per cent success rate, nine per cent under his regular-season average and since Bozak has taken twice as many draws as the rest of the Leafs combined, that success against the Leafs top face-off man is telling.
Bozak is 25-34 in even strength, 5-10 on the power play and 8-6 shorthanded. It was widely speculated that it was a shoulder injury that kept Bozak out of the Leafs final two regular season games.
The overriding truth, of course, is that the centreman is far from exclusively responsible for winning or losing a draw. The ability of the wingers to scrum and gain 50/50 pucks is big.
“We’ve talked about it,” said defenceman Carl Gunnarsson. “It’s the five guys on the ice, not just the centreman”.
“They’ve generated a lot of offence off the face-offs so it’s something we have to be better at,” said Leaf forward Joffrey Lupul.
Neither Leaf goalie James Reimer or Boston netminder Tuukka Rask are accomplished puckhandlers so whenever they get the chance they will freeze the puck. With the Bruins success in the circle, the tactic is far more effective for Boston.
The Leafs, meanwhile, were frustrated in Game 3 when Bozak was consistently thrown out of the face-off circle. The Bruins were 60 per cent from the circle in Game 3 and Bozak went 12-17 for 41 per cent.
“They told me stop and don’t come in on the fly and get my stick down,” Bozak said. “I was coming in on the fly a little too much and wasn’t really stopping on the ice.”
In between periods, Leafs coach Randy Carlyle had the same questions for the officiating crew.
“When you’re at home you would think you would be afforded some of the staples of the opposition having to be down first and stop,” Carlyle said. “In our reviews there was some things that were going on we don’t agree with as far as forcing the opposition to stop. The explanation I was given and I talked to the official between periods was it was supposed to be visitor down, home down, puck down. That clearly was not happening as per the video so we’ll talk about it.”