Puck possession is a huge factor in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The team that has the puck more often is more likely to score and is less likely to be scored upon. With that in mind, here is a breakdown of the four Boston Bruins centers the Capitals faced most often in the regular season, the top Capitals centermen, and how they fared against each other.
The five most-used Capitals centermen against the Bruins this season were Brooks Laich, Mathieu Perreault, Keith Aucoin, Jeff Halpern, and Jay Beagle. Marcus Johansson took the second-most faceoffs on the team and finished 88th of 89 centers in the league in faceoff win percentage. Since Johansson was used mostly as a winger in the four match-ups (only 23 faceoffs) and will likely continue in that role in this series, he is not included in this analysis. Likewise, Keith Aucoin is likely to be used more as a winger than as a center.
The top four Bruins centers the Capitals should expect to face in the playoffs are Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Chris Kelly, Gregory Campbell. Rich Peverley was used as an extra center in 2 games in this series, but only took 15 faceoffs. None of Boston's centers are particularly large, they are all about 6'1 and under 200, but they are all capable in the faceoff circle.
As a team, the Bruins were the top team in the faceoff circle this season by a considerable margin at 54.5%. The Washington Capitals fell dead even at 50%, 17th in the league, and predictably were outmatched by the Bruins in the season series. The Capitals only won 102 of 238 faceoffs in 4 games, a 43% success rate. Only in the first game did the Capitals even tie the Bruins, winning half of the 56 faceoffs in the game, but the Bruins won the match-up in the other 3 games.
In brief, the Bruins have a distinct territorial advantage over the Capitals, not only in terms of their overall win percentage, but also in the head-to-head match-up. The return of Nicklas Backstrom will be the X-factor, as Backstrom is larger than any of the Bruins centermen and he won 51.1% of his draws in the regular season. Backstrom did not play against the Bruins in the regular season due to a concussion, but his return could help stem the tide at the dot by taking the burden off the Caps' other, often smaller, centers.
The Capitals' and Bruins' top five faceoff men are listed below along with their faceoff totals from the regular season. As Jay Beagle will likely be playing center in this series, he is also included.
|Brooks Laich||664||1394||47.6%||Patrice Bergeron||973||1641||59.3%|
|Marcus Johansson||307||710||43.2%||David Krejci||544||1045||52.0%|
|Nicklas Backstrom||353||691||51.1%||Chris Kelly||419||877||51.8%|
|Jeff Halpern||365||625||58.4%||Gregory Campbell||334||678||50.7%|
|Mathieu Perreault||229||451||50.8%||Rich Peverley||201||332||61.1%|
Left-handed Brooks Laich (6'2, 200) took the most draws against the Bruins this season, and most of them were against top centerman Patrice Bergeron. Pressed into top-line duty in the absence of Nicklas Backstrom, Laich's faceoff performance suffered greatly in this season series. Laich finished the season 14th in the league in total faceoffs taken and 72nd in effectiveness.
Mathieu Perreault (5'10, 185) slowly improved his performance in the faceoff circle against the Bruins over the course of the season, much as he did against everyone else in the league. The slightly-built left-hander did not post impressive numbers in any of the games, and especially not against Boston's two right-handed centermen, but he does seem to have Chris Kelly's number.
Jeff Halpern (6', 200) is the 5th-ranked center in the league in faceoff effectiveness, and that carried over into the two games he played against the Bruins. The right-handed Halpern was only mediocre against Bergeron, but he dominated everyone else he faced.
Jay Beagle is the Caps other righty, and at 6'3, 215, he is the biggest of the Caps centers. Beagle's faceoff prowess compares favorably to Halpern's, and he performed well in all 3 games he played against the Bruins. Of all the Bruins centers, only David Krejci seemed to give him trouble.
Here are the Bruins' centers and how they fared against the Capitals this season.
The lanky, right-handed Patrice Bergeron (6'2, 194) finished the season as the league's #2 centerman in faceoff win percentage and #4 in total faceoffs taken. Predictably, the crafty Quebecois dominated the Capitals this season and will be a formidable opponent in the faceoff circle in the coming playoff series. Of the Capitals' centers, only Jay Beagle had success against him in limited duty.
The right-handed David Krejci (6', 188) is another of Boston's slender centers. He had success in all but one game this season and generally did well against all of the Caps centers except for Halpern.
Chris Kelly (6', 198) is a left-handed faceoff man, and he is the oldest and most experienced of the four centers at age 31. He did not fare very well in the season series against Washington, with two very good games and two very bad games in the faceoff circle. The only player he had consistent success against was part-time center Marcus Johansson (6/11).
Left-handed Gregory Campbell (6', 197) is probably best known for his father, Colin Campbell, being former NHL disciplinarian. His normal prowess in the faceoff circle did not extend to games against the Capitals this season. Like Kelly, he had up and down games, and did not fare well against the Capitals' regular centers.
Expect to see lots of Bergeron and Krejci in the faceoff circle in this series. Now that Nick Backstrom is back in the lineup, he should be able to use his size and strength to neutralize some of Boston's faceoff advantage.