TORONTO -- The Boston Bruins are cheaters.
That's the word from their playoff foe, the Toronto Maple Leafs, after another evening of domination at the faceoff dot. The Bruins have won 58 per cent of the draws through three games of their first-round series that Boston leads 2-1 with Game 4 back at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 p.m. ET).
How exactly have Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Chris Kelly, Gregory Campbell and Rich Peverley taken advantage of their opponents? Maple Leafs veteran Jay McClement said after practice on Tuesday that it was a matter of the Bruins making subtle moves to get the Maple Leafs to jump and tossed from the faceoff circle, so Boston could take advantage of going up against a winger.
Toronto centre Tyler Bozak, who has taken a team-high 88 draws in the series, was a victim of Boston's trickery on Monday. He was tossed from a couple of faceoffs. He lost a draw in the defensive zone that resulted in the Bruins' first goal. Bozak pointed out that the Bruins don't come to a complete stop before the draw.
Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle reviewed the video. He felt linesmen Don Henderson and Shane Heyer allowed the Bruins to cheat.
"I talked to one linesman at the end of the period and he told us our guys were impeding on the circle," Carlyle said. "He stated it was supposed to be 'visitor down, home down, puck down' and that clearly was not happening, as per video."
Carlyle plans to complain to series supervisor Kay Whitmore in their game-day meeting on Wednesday and he hopes that the linesmen who will work Game 4, Scott Cherrey and Brian Murphy, will be wise to the situation.
"Specifically, when you're at home, you think that you would be afforded some of the staples of the opposition having to be first down and stop," Carlyle said. "In our view, there were some things that were going on that we didn't agree with."
'Lobbying for some breaks'
Gamesmanship? You bet. Bruins head coach Claude Julien didn't like it.
"I've heard a lot about the faceoff issue," Julien said. "I've looked at the video, too, and it is what it is.
"Guys are getting kicked out, tossed from faceoffs. When you lobby for something it's because you're looking for a bit of a break in the next game and that's what Randy is doing right now. He's lobbying for some breaks on the faceoffs.
"It's going to be interesting to see whether the referees and the linesmen just do their job and not worry about who's crying wolf."
The Bruins were No. 1 in faceoffs won in the regular season and haven't relinquished that spot in the playoffs. Bergeron doesn't have the best record in this series, but he's the most reliable because he has a variety of ways to win draws. The third line has both right-shooting left wing Peverley and left-shooting centre Kelly taking draws on their strong sides.
After Nazem Kadri reviewed some faceoff video on Tuesday morning, he admired the way the Bruins forwards hustled after loose pucks.
"They're getting the extra step on us," Kadri said. "They do a good job anticipating and they get a good jump to tap a loose puck back.
"You obviously have a better chance to score when you get the puck first."
'Don't have the experience'
To win a draw you need good timing and strength. But former Maple Leafs centre Travis Green, a master of the faceoff in Toronto's run to the 2002 Eastern Conference final, remarked there is more to it than timing and strength. He believes you have to communicate with teammates on where you're trying to direct the puck. But he said experience may be the biggest factor.
"As a young guy, there simply wasn't emphasis on faceoffs," Green said Tuesday from Edmonton, where, as head coach of the Portland Winter Hawks, he was preparing for Game 3 of the WHL final against the Edmonton Oil Kings. That championship series was tied 1-1.
"When I was 22 or 23, you just didn't realize the importance of faceoffs, especially this time of year," he said. "When you're younger, you just don't have the experience of the older guys.
"You haven't learned all the tricks or secrets yet. You haven't learned enough about the guys you go up against.
"For example, Mark Messier was one of the best, especially on his strong side when taking a faceoff with his backhand. He was so strong.
"With Messier, you just wanted to make sure he didn't win faceoffs too cleanly. But like anything, the longer you do this, the better you become."
'Timing is a big thing'
Sometimes, success taking faceoffs can be like the golf swing. There may be a flaw in your action that you don't notice. Green recalled one season he was having difficulty at the faceoff dot for the Phoenix Coyotes.
His teammate, Mike Sullivan, noticed that his bottom hand had slipped too high up the shaft.
"Timing is a big thing [and] so is strength," Green said. "But I wasn't a powerhouse, by any means.
"You have to know your opponent, know his tendencies, what he likes to do. Is he small and quick or big and strong?
"You also have to know if there is something particular about how the different linesmen drop the puck. There is a lot involved."
Here are some notable faceoff records for the Maple Leafs and Bruins through three games of their first-round series (player, win percentage, faceoffs won/lost):
Follow Tim Wharnsby on Twitter @WharnsbyCBC
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