NEW YORK | Win a big faceoff and it can mean winning a game. Now, even a series. See Game 5 at Madison Square Garden when the New York Rangers came out on the positive side of two very late, turning both into goals to stun the Washington Capitals.
At this point, the key combatants are used to each other. For the Caps in Game 7, Nicklas Backstrom, Brooks Laich, Matt Hendricks and Jeff Halpern. For the Rangers, Brad Richards, Derek Stepan, Brian Boyle and John Mitchell.
“You take a lot of faceoffs over the course of a series, obviously, when it goes to seven games. So you kind of know players’ tendencies and what they like to do, what they don’t like to do,” Mitchell said. “I guess it’s a little bit tactical in that sense. But then at the end of the day it just comes down to the will of the battle and whoever can kind of outmuscle who to get that faceoff.”
It’s a balance between strategy and just plain will.
“It’s a lot of a lot of things. There’s a lot of things that go into it,” Boyle said. “It could be what side the faceoff’s on, even, who’s out there with you. There’s a lot of different things that go into it.”
And it’s even just about the centers, something coach Dale Hunter has pointed out on numerous occasions.
“When you take faceoffs, it’s a head-to-head battle with help from your wingers and D on both sides,” Hunter said Saturday. “But basically a head-to-head battle and it’s a lot of trickery goes to it, and strength and anticipation.”
Anticipation is easy after six games.
“It’s just a battle. Especially now,” Hendricks said. “I could say for Richards and I, I feel like I know all of his tricks. He knows all of mine. And now it’s just whether you can get the read on him or not and battle through and see who can win them.”