Here is a task harder than stopping Peter Forsberg on a breakaway.
Get him to talk about himself.
Good luck! No blow-hard here. Forsberg subscribes to the speak softly and carry a big stick approach to self-promotion. In a way that's a good thing because if Forsberg talked about himself the way he plays the game, there wouldn't be a hockey writer alive that could keep pace with him.
Forsberg is quiet, bordering on shy, when it comes to discussing why he is such a force once the puck is dropped or why he has been able to produce at better than a point-per-game average throughout his eight year NHL career. And while he may not want to talk about it, the fact remains. On any given night, Forsberg can dominate on both the ice and the score sheet. If you need elaboration, pump his teammates and opposing players for info because Forsberg isn't going to trumpet his accomplishments.
Forsberg will shrug his shoulders when asked how it was possible to have seen a streaking teammate slashing into the seam between two enemy defensemen and how he found him with a tape-to-tape pass to set up a perfect scoring opportunity. He'll seem unimpressed when reminded of how he undressed a goaltender with a dipsy-doodle move before depositing the puck into a wide open net.
Keith Carney of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim has faced Forsberg numerous times throughout his career and as one of those aforementioned defensemen knows full well how Forsberg can turn any shift in a living nightmare. Mind you, Carney is no slouch on defense, being a plus player throughout his NHL career, but he knows what Forsberg is capable of and tips his hat to his longtime foe.
"He's just so dominating and it's all because he's just so fast and strong and with the way that he can stickhandle and shoot it just means that he can beat you in so many different ways out there," Carney said. "He does it night after night, game after game and that consistency is why he's such a great player, simple as that."
Forsberg understands that the consistency that he seems to so effortlessly bring to the rink every night also is something that as a team, the Avalanche must achieve if they are do excel in the ultra tough Western Conference and skate deep into this spring's Stanley Cup Playoffs. Forsberg says that the Avalanche players all know what it will take to bring success to Colorado and another victory parade to the mile-high streets of Denver.
"As a team, we're starting to play better but we still have to look up in the standings," admits the two-time Stanley Cup winner whose team has battled Vancouver in the Northwest Division all season. "We know we have to pick up as many points as possible, but that we also have to begin playing more consistently every game. We know we've lost way too many games at home but we also realize that if we bring our most solid game to the ice on a nightly basis, we'll be fine."
When Forsberg brings his most solid game to the ice, there are few in the game who are better. A combination of strength and skill make him an almost unstoppable force, and while he seems to thrive in the heat of battle, Forsberg isn't the only one whose game benefits. His teammates are charged by his unflagging effort and often boost their own game with the energy he produces.
Jeff Odgers: A player as offensively talented as (Forsberg) is doesn't always need to get involved in the physical part of the game, but he certainly does and it seems to help his game.
Jeff Odgers of the Atlanta Thrashers played with Forsberg in Colorado between 1997 and 2000. He admires the tenacity that Forsberg exudes and speaks glowingly of how that attitude permeates throughout a team.
"He puts himself into so many physical situations on the ice that he doesn't need to, but I think that Peter feeds off of that," Odgers said. "A player as offensively talented as he is doesn't always need to get involved in the physical part of the game, but he certainly does and it seems to help his game. It helps as a teammate, too, because to see that is proof that he doesn't look at himself as any different from his teammates."
Odgers, a physical player in his own right, knows of the energy that is produced by a hard fought scrum along the boards or by a high-octane scramble in front of the net and says that Forsberg's actions do not often go unnoticed by his teammates.
"You see from the bench that he is willing to do those things and that goes a long ways on a team," Odgers said. "He's willing to battle for his ground and for his team and that is certainly something that teammates take notice of."
Forsberg's teammates and Avalanche fans alike also are aware of how he can incredibly find unprotected linemates when they get open. But when pressed on the issue of how he is able to spot his teammates through those tiniest of defensive cracks, he again dishes off the compliment. Forsberg says it is the work that they do in order to get themselves in position to score that is as important as his finding them for the scoring chance itself.
"Some people in this League are just born goal scorers and I know that if I am able to somehow get them the puck, then they are going to find a way to put it in the net," he said. "Those guys are the ones that are willing to pay the price in order to score those goals. They're willing to pay the price physically. In this League, if you want to score, you have to be willing to pay the price.
Forsberg: In this League, if you want to score, you have to be willing to pay the price.
With Forsberg leading the way for Colorado, any teams with plans on getting in the way of the Avalanche may be the next to pay the price. Just don't ask for a lengthy explanation by Forsberg on the intricacies how he'll get the job done.