July 20, 2018

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Lowry loves to draw

Lowry attempts to steal the puck from Minnesota Wild's Matt Dumba Friday night. (John Woods / The Canadian Press)</p>

Lowry attempts to steal the puck from Minnesota Wild's Matt Dumba Friday night. (John Woods / The Canadian Press)

Winnipeg Jets centre Adam Lowry may not look like a grizzled vet, but his most recent work on draws has all the hallmarks of a savvy go-to man in the faceoff circle.

Since his first full NHL season in 2014-15, the 25-year-old’s faceoff percentage has gone from 47.3 per cent to 46.3 as a sophomore and 50.8 in 2016-17. In 2017-18, despite missing 37 games due to various injuries, he’s boosted his percentage to a whopping 55.9.

In Game 1 of Winnipeg’s first-round NHL playoff series with the Minnesota Wild, Lowry dominated with a 9-for-13 mark in the circle, including several key defensive-zone draws in the final two minutes with the Wild armed with an extra attacker and pressing for the tying goal.

That total, combined with Bryan Little’s 5-for-9 effort and Paul Stastny’s 10-for-14 provide a healthy advantage for Winnipeg (a 54 per cent team mark was lowered only by Mark Scheifele’s 6-for-17 effort).

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Winnipeg Jets centre Adam Lowry may not look like a grizzled vet, but his most recent work on draws has all the hallmarks of a savvy go-to man in the faceoff circle.

Since his first full NHL season in 2014-15, the 25-year-old’s faceoff percentage has gone from 47.3 per cent to 46.3 as a sophomore and 50.8 in 2016-17. In 2017-18, despite missing 37 games due to various injuries, he’s boosted his percentage to a whopping 55.9.

In Game 1 of Winnipeg’s first-round NHL playoff series with the Minnesota Wild, Lowry dominated with a 9-for-13 mark in the circle, including several key defensive-zone draws in the final two minutes with the Wild armed with an extra attacker and pressing for the tying goal.

That total, combined with Bryan Little’s 5-for-9 effort and Paul Stastny’s 10-for-14 provide a healthy advantage for Winnipeg (a 54 per cent team mark was lowered only by Mark Scheifele’s 6-for-17 effort).

"I think a lot of it comes down to experience," said Lowry following the Jets’ morning skate prior to Friday’s Game 2 against the Wild.

"The more faceoffs you take, the better you’re going to get at them. And bringing in a guy like Paul Stastny, he’s been one of the better faceoff guys throughout his career, so he’s definitely added to our group."

That being said, Lowry has noticed linesmen have changed of standard of faceoff etiquette since an early-season crackdown.

"They’re not kicking everyone out like they were at the start of the year," said Lowry. "Everyone kind of realized that wasn’t going to be effective, that it was going to slow the game down.

"Now, I think they’re doing a good job of trying to minimize guys cheating and trying to make them as fair as possible and still kind of keeping the flow of the game."

Is there less cheating now?

"I think you look at the way guys have to line up now, so yeah," said Lowry. "You used to take faceoffs and a guy’s whole foot would be over the line. Now it’s maybe just his toe. So I think it’s kind of pushed back and put some guys back on more level terms, I guess you could say."

Lowry also admitted watching a mastercraftsman such as Stastny, 32, who has a career 52.5 per cent record on draws, has been very helpful.

"You can learn a lot," said Lowry. "You see the way he prepares himself off the ice and just in the day-to-day things, the way he approaches every game and on practice days and the things he does to recover. He’s been so successful in this league for so long. It’s just little things like that."

"In terms of faceoffs, it’s important to have guys with experience, guys who have taken (faceoffs) against guy a lot. You can bounce certain ideas off of them. We use (assistant coach) Todd Woodcroft as kind of a sounding board and bounce different ideas off him."

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @sawa14

And in-game adjustments, that helps if you’re struggling against certain guys. You can sit on the bench and ask, ‘What do you think we could do differently against him?’ That helps out later in the game."

Lowry was also asked if there’s one opponent he still hasn’t figured out yet.

"I didn’t play Carolina this year but last year Jordan Staal, he hurt my percentage pretty badly," said Lowry. "I’d say he was my Kryptonite last year."

BACKUP PLAN: minor leaguer Jamie Phillips has been recalled by the Jets to serve as the third goaltender for emergency situations in the post-season after bouncing around most of the season between Florida and Winnipeg. And he’s soaking up the playoff atmosphere.

"It’s awesome," said Phillips, who has 16 appearances with ECHL Jacksonville and 16 appearances with AHL Manitoba in 2017-18. "Obviously, the NHL is where you want to be and the level you want to play at. It’s an opportunity to help out and fill in whenever I need to. You have the best players in the world shooting on you, world-class goalie coaching. So I want to take advantage of it and next season, hopefully I’ll be full time in the (AHL) and take a few things from here and put them in my game."

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Sports Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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Updated on Saturday, April 14, 2018 at 7:14 AM CDT: Photo added.

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