HAZELWOOD, MO. - The numbers were so skewed, the Minnesota Wild were getting tons of credit for their astounding faceoff success ratio against the Blues through the first three games of their Western Conference first round series.
The Wild won 59 percent of the draws in Game 1, 63 percent in Game 2 and 58 percent in Game 3. Their captain, Mikko Koivu, after winning 48 percent of his draws in Game 1, won 67 percent (16 of 24) in Game 2 and an astounding 74 percent (23 of 31) in Game 3.
Well the numbers were more balanced in Game 4, with the Wild still holding an edge, but at 51 percent. There were plenty of delayed faceoff drops in the game, with linesmen Brian Murphy and Mark Shewchyk doing the honors. And it became a restless tactic for the 19,791 at Scottrade Center that was in attendance for an 8:45 p.m. puck drop, and it has become clear that on more occasions than not, skaters were being kicked out of the dot.
The Blues have said that Wild players "cheat" during faceoffs and made it clear to officials, thus the number of delays on faceoffs throughout Game 4.
These ploys are nothing new; players try to use whatever tactics they can, but officials were obviously paying attention last game.
Blues left wing Vladimir Sobotka, who has been one of the better faceoff players for the Blues in the series, explained.
"In the defensive zone, they're supposed to be first with the stick on the ice and we come in second, so we should have a little advantage there, but they cheat a lot," Sobotka said. "We need to adjust that and try to cheat more too. They're not holding the stick on the ice so we need to have better timing.
"That's what happened last game. (The linesmen) tried to make it a clear faceoff. Sometimes they played the puck before it hits the ice. That's why we got kicked (out) or they got kicked (out)."
Center Kyle Brodziak wantd to make clear to fans why so many delays.
"I think they're trying to make the faceoff as fair as possible," Brodziak said of the linesmen. "When they drop the puck, the puck's supposed to hit the ice. They were hitting the puck (early) a lot so draws weren't going straight down so I think that's why they were kicking guys out.
"I know it slowed the pace of the game up quite a bit, but I know the linesmen were just trying to make the faceoffs as fair as possible."
Blues coach Mike Yeo tried initially to brush off the claim before explaining.
"Every game's a new game," Yeo said. "I haven't spent a whole lot of time thinking about that.
"Faceoffs are something that's been a big story right from the start. I think for the first three games we obviously didn't do real well in faceoffs. We're trying to do what we can to equal the advantage and we feel there's been some cheat on the other side. We're just trying to make sure we go in with the mindset that we're going to force everybody to be starting on equal terms."
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