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Mastering The Draw

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
Penguins center Sidney Crosby is staking his claim as the best-all around player in the NHL. Crosby has always impressed with his scoring prowess and defensive abilities. But Crosby has become even more of a complete player with his improvement in the faceoff circle.


“I’ve just been working on it,” Crosby said. “It’s just practice and getting used to the guys you faceoff against helps too, finding a rhythm and a routine and sticking with it. I’m seeing some good results.”

Crosby won 99 of 156 draws for a 63.5 winning percentage in the Penguins’ opening-round series victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. His winning percentage is the second-best mark in the postseason behind only Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec (but Plekanec only took 45 draws). What’s more, Crosby’s 99 faceoff wins are by far the most in the postseason with 59 being the next highest total (Jordan Staal and John Madden).

“It’s a confidence thing,” Crosby said. “Faceoffs are always big. You get on a roll, it’s like anything. There are times when I’ve been on the other side of that. You’re trying to change things. Guys are beating you so sometimes you can just get into a rhythm and you’re able to win a string of faceoffs.”

It’s a confidence thing. Faceoffs are always big. You get on a roll, it’s like anything. There are times when I’ve been on the other side of that. You’re trying to change things. Guys are beating you so sometimes you can just get into a rhythm and you’re able to win a string of faceoffs. - Sidney Crosby
Faceoffs are always difficult for young players in the league. It’s a daunting task to go head-to-head with a veteran that’s had years to hone the craft. Crosby, always a fast learner, started making noise in the final stretch of the season. He won 55.2 percent of his draws (289 of 524) in his final 25 games of the season to help the Penguins’ late-season surge.

But Crosby’s postseason performance has been remarkable. Under interim head coach Dan Bylsma’s puck-possession system, faceoffs are extremely important. And Crosby has been even more impressive in critical situations – particularly in the defensive zone and on the power play.

Crosby has won 27 of 36 draws when the Penguins are on the power play, a league-best 75-percent winning clip.

“Sid’s been doing a great on the power play,” Staal said.

“In the playoffs every draw is so important so you’re probably more focused going in there,” Crosby said. “In the playoffs, puck possession is so important. I take a lot (of draws) on the power play too. That always helps when you win some draws. I guess it’s a combination of things too, but I haven’t changed anything.”

Crosby isn’t the only Penguin enjoying success in the faceoff circle. Teammate Jordan Staal is second in the league with 59 wins and his 55.7 winning percent is the 11th-best mark in the NHL.

“The more games you play, the more draws you take, the better you’re going to feel,” Staal said. “I think our team matched up pretty well against (Philadelphia). You can pick up on their tendencies at times. You try to shake it up a bit and keep them guessing as well.”

With Crosby and Staal’s help, Pittsburgh won 55.3 percent of its faceoffs against the Flyers, the best postseason winning percentage in the NHL.

“(You have to) feel strong and comfortable, thinking quickly,” Staal said. “It’s been the same all year long but now it’s the playoffs. All the centerman work together. Once all of us are doing well it puts (opponents) on their heels. The wingers lend support and all those things combined helps for puck possession.”

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