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How Sidney Crosby 'cheats' on faceoffs

Does Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby really cheat on faceoffs?

It’s how you interpret his method in the dot.

After Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture accused Crosby of cheating on draws. Crosby cleanly won the faceoff off Joel Ward that led to the game-winning goal.

Couture said Crosby times draws so he can cleanly swipe the puck backward to his defenseman. Some in the league agree that Crosby is allowed some liberties because of his stature as one of the game’s top players.

“He’s very good on draws but he also gets away with way too much because of who he is and I think that because of that it adds to his percentages or expertise there,” an NHL coach told Puck Daddy. “But he’s real quick, has a quick stick. He’s really good on both sides, which usually there’s sort of a stronger side and a weaker side but both sides are pretty solid. I would say cheating? Absolutely and I would say getting away with it because of who he is.”

Crosby’s percentages in the offensive zone are aided by the fact that the attacking center places his stick in the dot after the defending center. This could put the defending center at a decided disadvantage.

“What (the linesmen) do is they set up the defensive-zone centerman. They have to be set in the proper position for the faceoff, but then after that’s done it’s like a checklist. It’s ‘you’re set up? OK I’m dropping the puck.’ So the other centerman comes in flying, which that’s a huge advantage because that person is already in motion before I even react,” said an NHL center. “In that sense a lot of defensive-zone centermen do a block because you can’t beat their timing because (the offensive-zone centermen) are already moving. They have a jump on you. The advantage is more towards the offensive-zone centerman for sure because it’s a new rule and the way the linesmen are enforcing that rule where they’re really not having the offensive-zone centerman set up ever. It really gives them an advantage.”

So how does Crosby manipulate this?

“With Crosby, his timing is so good and his speed is so good that it’s tough when you take those draws to beat him,” the center said. “I was watching the angle he has his stick. It’s really low and he has an angle on his blade, but the thing that cued me off on him is that most centermen try to own the dot and push the other player backward and try to move forward on the dot. Crosby is different he actually backs away from the faceoff circle. So he actually backs away rather than moving forward. What he does by backing away is his angle for his stick gets to a point where you can’t block it because it’s so much lower than your stick by backing out. He can reach more.”

This makes figuring out a way to beat Crosby’s lighting-fast hands in the faceoff circle difficult. But ultimately it’s doable with the right type of preparation.  

“What he does, he moves back because it allows him to reach out with his hand so his hand is almost straight and his stick is straight and almost parallel to the ice and it’s really hard to block. So if you move forward two feet with him you can almost block his hand … it’s a tricky thing. It took me a while to figure out. I can see how guys are having a hard time with him because he’s quick,” the center said. “He was awful his first couple of years on faceoffs. Then he started to do this timing thing and it worked out for him.”

This past year, Crsoby won 51.7 percent of his faceoffs and hasn’t been below 50.1 percent on his faceoffs since the start of his third year in the league.

Hockey is a game of inches and even the smallest of margins can help team win. There’s a belief that Crosby isn’t alone in trying to find different ways around the rules in the faceoff dot.

Said a former NHL coach, “Everybody cheats in some way with their skates or how they put their stick. If you put your stick down in a normal faceoff you wouldn’t win two out of 10 if you didn’t cheat. Some guys turn their feet. Sometimes the linesmen have a ‘no-win’ job. They can’t get everybody to square up. They do the best they can.”

 A lot of this jibes with what Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said Thursday about Crosby’s faceoffs.

“I’m not concerned at all. Listen, all centers that go in there to take a faceoff are trying to get an edge,” Sullivan said. “That’s just the reality of it. They’re doing the same thing our guys are doing. The way I look at it that’s all part of being a center iceman and trying to figure out ways to get an edge and be successful. Sid’s not doing anything their guys aren’t doing.” 

Even if Crosby did time that game-winning faceoff, Ward lost it clean. That’s something the former coach said is on Ward.  

“It’s just hockey. It’s a hockey play. You shouldn’t lose the draw cleanly no matter what you’re doing. If you’re doing your job you’re not going to lose a draw clean unless you’re not ready,” he said.

And the notion that Crosby gets certain liberties in the Cup Final because he’s Crosby? That’s another narrative that the former coach says should be shot down.

“It’s the Stanley Cup Final. The referee isn’t going to give Sidney Crosby a better shake than anybody else because everybody is watching so closely right now,” he said. 

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

 

 

 

 

 

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