So, here’s a subplot to watch as the Finals shift to San Jose. Sharks center Logan Couture on how Sidney Crosby has been so good on faceoffs through the first two games:
“He cheats,” Couture said. “He gets away with that. He’s Sidney Crosby.”
Pressed for an explanation of Crosby’s methods, Couture didn’t back down: “He times them, and yet they don’t kick him out for some reason; probably because of who he is.”
Crosby has most definitely been on one: in this series, he’s won 26 of 40 faceoffs and last night he took 17 of 24, including the one that set up the overtime winner. That’s aberrant success—in the regular season, among anyone with significant work in the circle, Jonathan Toews led the league with a 58.6 faceoff win percentage; Crosby was at 51.7 percent.
But what’s Couture alleging exactly, with his reference to “timing?” Faceoff procedures are remarkably legislated—the rulebook entry is so much more than drop the puck and go.
By the letter of the law, players have to keep their sticks on the ice until the puck is dropped. That means no swiping, no making contact with the other guy’s blade, no attempting to anticipate the puck drop. In practice, that doesn’t happen, and the referee is empowered to order a player out of the faceoff circle if he pulls the trigger too early. Usually, this happens only when the ref thinks a player is being particularly egregious about it, or has done it too many times.
The debate here is one of degree rather than of kind; every centerman anticipates. Couture’s grievance is that Crosby is doing it frequently enough or blatantly enough to warrant a violation, but he’s allowed to slide because he’s getting star treatment. I haven’t paid close enough attention to know if Couture has a legitimate beef, but his complaint is likely more strategy than gripe: If the officials pay extra attention to Crosby’s faceoffs going forward, Couture’s done his job.