The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/30/11 at 05:17 AM ET
Regardless of whether you’re a Wings fan, a Sharks fan, or any other sort of fan, you’ve probably been driven nuts by the fact that, over the course of the regular season and the playoffs thus far, linesmen have seemed so willing to herk-and-jerk the puck in an attempt to get one team’s player to flinch and then be thrown out of the faceoff circle, but not before offering a 30-second lecture to both the tossed out player and the one that replaces him. It’s as if the “hurry-up” faceoff has become the, “Hurry up and wait, and then listen to a lecture” draw—which is especially ironic given that the Jarrett Stoll stick-bouncers and players whose legs are spread so far wide that they may as well be attempting to do the splits are allowed to get away with that version of “cheating” on faceoffs—and it should come as no surprise that former referee Kerry Fraser defended his “lecture linesmen” while answering a reader question on TSN.ca:
The reason players are being ejected more frequently [in the playoffs]is due to a tightening of the standard imposed upon linesmen to reflect a zero tolerance for face-off “cheaters!” The linesmen take this element of their job very seriously, knowing full well the importance of conducting a fair face-off; especially in crucial areas of the ice. The last thing they want to do is impact the outcome of a game should a goal result from a bad face-off. In recent years additional markings on and around the end zone face-off dots have been added to ensure players line up square to one another and place their sticks on a white marking on the outer edge of their respective side of the dot.
Those lines are all but ignored, and every player tries to “cheat” in some way, but let’s allow the man to continue rationalizing:
Gaining player cooperation goes a long way in conducting fair face-offs and reducing player ejections. The best linesmen solicit cooperation through dialogue before players even set their positions at the dot. Hockey Hall of Fame linesmen, John D’Amico and Ray Scapinello were as good as anyone I ever saw in this regard. They cultivated professional working relationships with players and as a result were given tremendous respect. I witnessed both of them “talk” the players into NOT being ejected most of the time. “Scampy” would always call the player by his first name and say something like, “Listen Steve, I really want you to take this face-off just like your coach does so please don’t do anything that would force me to throw you out.” I think some of the current crop of linesmen would benefit by taking a page out the manual of these Hall of Famer’s.
Once a player is ejected a second faceoff violation by that team results in a bench minor penalty for delay of game so the integrity of the second face-off can often be compromised since no one wants to see this penalty called. I always subscribe to the “fast & fair” policy! Get the puck down as quick and fair as you can because a picture perfect face-off will never happen. The longer a puck is held out like a bone being presented to a dog, player movement and an ejection is a foregone conclusion.
We’ll also ignore the fact that teams can make two or three infractions without being penalized these days, but again, carry on, Kerry..
Face-off wins are a statistic that each team in the NHL plays close attention to. Face-off specialists are a key component of the power play and penalty kill. Two center men can be placed on the ice in the event that one is ejected. Face-off wins (or losses) determine puck possession in a crucial area of the ice. Winning an end zone face-off allows the defensive team the opportunity to clear the puck and go on the attack or end up chasing the puck to defend against an attack! We have seen many goals scored both at even strength and shorthanded when the attacking team wins the draw in end zone face-off situations. Many times late in a close game a coach will call a timeout to strategize and set up a play how to attack after winning an end zone draw. Big emphasis on “win” here!
The best way to gain an advantage is for the center man to time the movement of his stick with any tip or signal the linesman might offer that the puck is about to released. Linesmen have individual tendencies in the way they conduct a face-off no differently than players demonstrate certain tendencies to the officials. The intelligent centers will study these tendencies to gain an advantage wherever possible or as Dale Hunter once told me, “Frase, you ain’t tryin’, if you ain’t cheatin’!” It’s the linesmen’s job to everything they can to eliminate the “cheatin’! If the face-off takes too long my advice is to release the grip on the puck and let gravity do the rest!
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.