Patrice Bergeron is an elite faceoff man in the National Hockey League. But the Bruins center has also been accused of cheating at the dot to achieve such a high success rate.
Islanders head coach Barry Trotz became Bergeron’s latest critic when he spoke to reporters on Sunday. Trotz essentially went tit-fot-tat with Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy, who also called out the officials after Game 4. Trotz pointed out what’s been said before about Bergeron and other veteran centers in the league: he often times his faceoff moves so he doesn’t have to bring his stick to a complete stop on the ice before the puck drops. It often gives him a split-second advantage over his opponents, which in a faceoff is all the edge you need.
Some may call it “gamesmanship.” Trotz calls it cheating.
“Bergy’s a really good faceoff guy, one of the best,” Trotz said. “I think [Islanders centers] all study what he does. The biggest thing with Bergy, and really linesmen can control this, is he doesn’t like to get his stick down. He’s got to come to a stop, and then you have a fair fight. He’s a veteran guy who knows how to cheat on the faceoffs. I’m relying on our very capable officiating crew and linesmen to make sure the cheating doesn’t go on, because he’s good at it.
“All the veteran guys are, he’s not the only one, trust me. But he’s very good, he’s very capable, and he’s been a top centerman and faceoff guy for a long time.”
The last part is true: even Sidney Crosby has been accused of the same tactics that Bergeron uses at the faceoff dot. And let’s not mischaracterize these comments as some sort of fist-pounding diatribe. But Trotz knows exactly what he’s doing, here. He didn’t make much effort to disguise it.
Barry Trotz is asked about counteracting Patrice Bergeron during face-offs:— Islanders Videos (@SNY_Islanders) June 6, 2021
"He's a veteran guy who knows how to cheat on the face-offs. I'm relying on our very capable officiating crew and linesmen to make sure that the cheating doesn't go on" pic.twitter.com/a7SvcvCv7i
Bergeron also told it like it is: Trotz is just trying to lobby the refs.
“Personally, I’m gonna worry about what I’m gonna do out there and what I can do,” Bergeron said Monday, when asked about Trotz’s comments. “I think [Trotz] said it was a veteran play. I think it’s a veteran play by him as a coach to go into media talk to try to get the officiating to think about it.”
Bergeron later added that he’s simply going to worry about what he can control, which is to play faceoffs exactly the same way he always does. If the officials start kicking him out more, so be it.
This series feels like an odd time for Trotz to call out Bergeron’s crafty faceoff maneuvers. Bergeron is an uncharacteristic 53.4 percent on faceoffs in the playoffs so far, ranking 12th among players who have taken at least 100 faceoffs to this point. And he’s been even worse at the dot against the Islanders in particular, with a 45.7 percent success rate in the series. Guys like J.G. Pageau are already getting the best of Bergeron, anyway.
Now that Trotz and Cassidy have both said their pieces, we wait and see how the officials respond.
Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @mattydsays. You can also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.