|Ottawa Senators centre Antoine Vermette says the key factors behind winning faceoffs are timing and strength. Photo: A. Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/OSHC|
by Todd Anderson
The importance of winning faceoffs is punctuated in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and Ottawa Senators centre Antoine Vermette has been among the NHL's best in that department.
In fact, Vermette, who has won 92 of his 145 draws (63.4 percent), boasts the highest percentage among active players. New York Islanders centre Mike Sillinger, who was eliminated from the playoffs by the Buffalo Sabres in Round 1, won 68 percent of his 122 faceoffs.
The multi-talented Vermette says he takes prides in winning draws, especially during the post-season.
"I always try to bring the best at this time of year. You're battling a little harder to win the faceoffs. I think little details make a big difference. Obviously, winning faceoffs when you need to win them can be a big difference in some situations. I take pride in it."
Working under the tutelage of Senators assistant coach Greg Carvel, Ottawa's centremen spent time on the ice after practices working on their faceoff techniques and also watched video of opponents in action.
"We watched video on New Jersey's guys, and before the Pittsburgh series, we did the same thing," Vermette says. "We try to see what their tendencies are and adjust to them as best we can."
While knowing the tendencies of the opponent on the other side of the faceoff dot helps, having faith in your own technique is the most important thing, Vermette says.
"Most of the time you're going to go with your best asset. Sometimes you feel more comfortable going with your backhand, but it depends. You might be going against a lefty who likes going on his forehand, or not. You read them. You have to go with your feeling."
Into his third NHL season, Vermette has learned how to get the advantage in the faceoff circle.
"Especially when it's a big faceoff, you always try to get as much space as you can," he says. "You put your feet where you're more comfortable, at the limit of it being legal. It's your responsibility, as well, to make sure the other centre is not cheating (by taking up space you're not supposed to). I don't think it's about cheating. On my part, I don't think I'm cheating. I'm just trying to time myself and be strong. That's a big part, too be strong on it."
Led by Vermette, the Senators rank third among playoff teams with a faceoff success rate of 53.6 percent. Only Detroit (54) and Dallas (53.8) rank higher. Having players throughout the lineup capable of winning draws is a big bonus.
"If you're facing a situation where you need a faceoff win, knowing there's a couple of guys who can stand up if you get thrown out, we can use that to our advantage," Vermette says. "It shows our diversity as players. We're in pretty good shape in that department."
Heading into Game 4 against New Jersey tomorrow, Vermette has one goal and two assists in the playoffs. He says he would like to score more, but he's committed to continue helping out in other ways, too.
"You don't have to score to make a difference at this time of year. If you do, it's great, but if you don't, you have to help battle the opponent in other ways."