Late in the first period of the Capitals’ eventual 4-3 win over Boston back on March 10, Patrice Bergeron won a faceoff against Jay Beagle. The Bruins then earned possession when Milan Lucic beat Matt Hendricks to the puck and then snapped a shot past Tomas Vokoun into the net.
It was an example of the worst-case scenario of a lost draw and against the Bruins, who boast the league’s best faceoff percentage at 54.4, Washington knows it’s an ever-present threat.
From all indications at the morning skate, Coach Dale Hunter intends to scratch Washington’s faceoff leader Jeff Halpern for the eighth time in the past 11 games. Halpern’s 58.3 percentage ranks sixth in the league, but Hunter said the recent success of players like Beagle make it an easier decision.
“Beags has been doing a really good job taking that right-handed side draws,” Hunter said when asked if he had any second thoughts about sitting Halpern against the Bruins. “So that’s the reason.”
Based on line rushes at TD Garden this morning, Brooks Laich, Mathieu Perreault, Beagle and Keith Aucoin will be Washington’s centers tonight.
Here’s a look at how they’ve done over the past 10 games.
Laich: 76 for 170, 44.7 percent
Perreault: 51 for 94, 54.3 percent
Beagle: 59 for 101, 58.4 percent
Aucoin: 23 for 54, 42.6 percent
All together over that span, those four centers are 209 for 419 for a 49.8 percent success rate.
To go up against Boston’s centermen – including Patrice Bergeron, who ranks third in the league at 58.8 percent, along with David Krejci (51.8) and Chris Kelly (51.8) – Laich and Beagle both acknowledged that it can’t be a one-man job to win possession. They need help from their wingers.
“If you’re gonna be a good faceoff team your centermen are going to have to win you draws, but your wingers are just as important,” Laich said. “For us as centermen, it’s a big task but we need a little bit of help.
“Any time you gain any sort of ground, if you knock it a foot or two back, that should be a win — it should be automatic,” Laich said. “I know when I played wing, I tried to jump as much as possible. Maybe that’s coming from a person who has played center and wants active wingers, but if your wingers can do that for you it really helps your night out.”
Beagle echoed that sentiment: “The compete level of your wingers is big if you want to win draws. [Matt Hendricks] and [Troy Brouwer] have been great for me. It’s something I don’t have to tell them anymore. They go out there and they know they’re going to help, and vice versa, I help Hendy when he’s taking the draws.”