Tyler Bozak skated once again this morning and even took some face-offs. Bozak has been dealing with an upper-body injury and there was some concern that although he would probably be ready for Game 1, he wouldn’t be able to take any draws. However, Jonas Siegel of TSN reported today that he is feeling stronger and should assume his regular responsibilities.
This is good news for the Leafs as face-offs are always a crucial stat come playoff time, and going up against the Bruins they are going to need all the help they can get in that area. Boston easily led the league this year in face-off percentage with a rate of 56.4%. That was a full 3% higher than the next closest team, the San Jose Sharks.
To illustrate just how good the Bruins were on the draws in 2013, consider that Bozak who led the Leafs with a 52.6% rating, wouldn’t even be in the top four on the Bruins roster. Patrice Bergeron led the NHL with 62.1%, Rich Peverley came in at 58.4%, Chris Kelly was just below that at 57.9%, and David Krejci was no slouch either at 55.2%. Someone like Nazem Kadri, who figures to be taking a lot of draws for the simple reason that the Leafs will want him out there plenty for his offensive abilities, only had a 44.2% rating.
The difference in winning or losing a face-off relates directly to puck possession and could mean playing a shift in your zone, or the opposition’s. For instance, if there is a neutral-zone draw and Boston sends out Jaromir Jagr, Tyler Seguin, and Krejci, winning that face-off and getting the puck deep could mean killing the majority of their shift away from the Leafs’ net. An NHL shift is roughly 30-45 seconds and one dump-in can eliminate a large chunk of it, which is especially important against the opponent’s top line.
Bozak by himself probably isn’t going to swing the face-off battle in the Leafs’ favour, but having him out there at least gives them a punchers chance to win some crucial draws. If for some reason he isn’t able to take face-offs because of his injury, the Leafs are going to have a hard time just keeping their head above water.