The San Jose Sharks turned Game 1 around with a renewed forecheck after killing the Colorado Avalanche’s four-minute power play in the second period. According to Kevin Labanc and Lukas Radil, the momentum from the penalty kill fueled the forecheck.
A strong forecheck does more than create offense.
“We do a good job on the forecheck, it stops their speed,” Joakim Ryan said. “They’re not rolling out on their breakouts with full speed. Stopping them on the forecheck is huge.”
According to The Point Hockey, the Avs didn’t have any rush chances in the third period.
Both teams got over half of their shots on net from the slot in Game 1, but it's the Sharks who were able to capitalize on their opportunities the most. Surprisingly, they also won the rush chances battle against MacKinnon and co. #GoAvsGo #SJSharks #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/hOQcZprjGu— The Point (@ThePointHockey) April 27, 2019
But the forecheck was also a big part of the three goals that San Jose scored to close the middle frame, most directly on the Brent Burns’s goal.
From Colorado’s perspective, trying to counter this forecheck, Jared Bednar offered: “It’s getting numbers down to the puck. We stopped skating, coming back into our zone. In the first period, we did a good job with moving hold-ups and skating all the way back to the goalline.”
In this clip, you can see how Joe Thornton (19) came in on the forecheck unobstructed, first in on Ian Cole (28). Carl Soderberg (34) put a stick in front of Marcus Sorensen (20), but Sorensen was still able to bother Cole. Labanc (62) jumped on the hurried pass.
“We left it for our D to break it out instead of helping as forwards,” Bednar indicated. “If we improve in that area, we’ll get in and out of our zone a little bit better.”
Both Peter DeBoer and Erik Karlsson firmly defended Burns’s defensive game yesterday.
DeBoer stated: “The people who wrote about his defensive play, the last three games of the Vegas series, MacKinnon last night, he’s been All-World defensively.”
Karlsson added: “People like to have something to say about a person’s game. But when you’re a skilled player and a smart player, you can play any type of situation. His hockey IQ is just as high as anybody else’s. Just because he does great things offensively, doesn’t mean he’s not equally as good defensively.”
After Drew Doughty assaulted Burns’s defensive game in March, I wrote extensively about the things that Burns does well defensively. He did a lot of those same things in Game 1.
Obviously, his defensive highlight was cutting Tyson Barrie (4) off on a third period 2-on-1:
Burns's overaggressiveness on defense can make him look really bad, but on other hand, it often surprises people too, like how he took away Barrie's options on that 2-on-1 with MacKinnon— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) April 27, 2019
But Burns’s aggressiveness, length, surprisingly quick stick and mobility were on full display in quieter moments:
Burns ripped the puck away from Tyson Jost (17) with a quick stick.
At the blueline, Burns’s length and mobility closed on Erik Johnson (6) so quickly, Johnson had no option but to backhand a weak dump-in.
Of course, you can’t forget about the offense. Burns exploded for four points in Game 1.
“The great thing about him is he’s taking what they’ve been giving him,” DeBoer pointed out. “In the Vegas series, they stood beside him, so he checked the offensive side of his game. But if they’re going to give him room, he’s going to create offense.”
Gambrell makes his playoff debut
Dylan Gambrell found out that he’d be making his NHL playoff debut on Thursday. Who was the first person that he told?
“It was Dad, he was just excited,” Gambrell revealed. “He had a few people over at the house to watch the game.”
While it wasn’t a banner post-season debut — Gambrell took a minor penalty and sat for all of the third period — it should be a springboard for future success.
“I think I got all the nerves out in that game,” said Gambrell.
One area of emphasis this season for the young center has been faceoffs.
In February, Gambrell mentioned: “We work on it a lot. Kind of little things, little tricks.
“It’s mostly being hard, looking at the puck more. I had a habit of trying to time it perfectly when it would hit the ice. Now, just stare at the puck when the ref has it.”
Gambrell also talked about using his body more on the draw, not that different from getting in on the forecheck first: “Take over the circle. The quicker I can get in there, the better chance I have of winning it.”
I also asked the Washington native what the Seattle expansion team should be named. He favored the Sockeyes or the Rainiers.
How about the Kraken?
“We’ll see what happens,” smiled Gambrell.