Vision, positioning and an accurate shot are qualities attributed to nearly every natural goal scorer in the National Hockey League.
But according to Avalanche forward Marek Svatos, one trait is more important than any other when it comes to putting the puck in the net.
“I think it’s all about the confidence,” said Svatos. “When you shoot to get the puck on the net it’s different than when you shoot it to score.”
If his production lately is any indication, the forward’s confidence is currently through the roof.
The Kosice, Slovakia, native has been on a goal-scoring tear of late, notching seven goals in his last nine games. The recent streak has also seen him take over the Avalanche’s goal-scoring lead with 17 tallies in 40 contests, a welcome sight for Colorado fans following a 2006-07 season in which Svatos admits he struggled with injuries.
|After an injury-plagued 2006-07 campaign, Marek Svatos has bounced back in a big way this season |
After posting an impressive 32 goals in only 61 games during the 2005-06 campaign, Svatos seemingly took a small step backward in 2006-07. The injury troubles began with offseason shoulder surgery and concluded in him missing 14 games – including the final two contests of the season – due to groin issues. Svatos claimed that he never really felt right all year and had a hard time finding his rhythm, managing only 15 goals.
“I think last year I struggled from the beginning. I didn’t feel very good coming off the surgery,” said Svatos. “It was getting very frustrating. Every game where I had an empty net I couldn’t put it in. It built up and I couldn’t get through it.”
Already this year Svatos has posted more goals through 40 games than he did the entire season a year ago. And when compared to his breakout 2005-06 campaign, the numbers stack up favorably. That year, he notched his 16th and 17th tallies in his 31st game.
With an eagle’s eye for the puck, Svatos has shown to be more comfortable around the front of the net than most players his size. The 5-10, 185-pound forward believes that being stationed around the crease is exactly where he needs to be to score goals.
“I always try to go to the front of the net, because that’s where most of the loose pucks are. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to get those rebounds and loose pucks.”
Svatos has also shown off his versatility this season, playing on numerous line combinations with various players. From skating on the checking line with the likes of Ian Laperriere to the top scoring line with Joe Sakic early in the season, Svatos has shown he can adjust to different situations seamlessly.
|Svatos leads the Avalanche with 17 goals, including seven tallies in his last nine contests |
“I’ve played with everybody on this team. Whatever line I’m on, I try to do the same thing,” said Svatos. “Sometimes the responsibilities are different with different lines, but I feel comfortable with every line.”
With recent injuries to Sakic and forward Ryan Smyth creating more playing time on the top scoring lines, Svatos has grabbed the opportunity of having more minutes and run with it. In his last six games Svatos has logged over 16 minutes on the ice on four occasions, culminating with a season-high 18:51 of ice time on Jan. 9 against Washington.
And more ice time often translates to more scoring chances.
“I think he’s getting more opportunities. He’s a dangerous guy, whether he’s playing small minutes or bigger minutes he’s a threat,” said Avalanche Head Coach Quenneville. “The opposition has to be aware of him. He’s so quick and so dangerous around the net that you think you got him but you don’t.”
So dangerous that the forward has scored those seven goals over the team’s last nine games on only 24 shots, hitting at a 29.2% clip during that stretch while posting a +6 rating.
“Sometimes you get the lucky bounces, or the goalie might be out of position,” said Svatos. “Those are easy and it’s nice to get one of those. When you start to get that confidence, it’s a big advantage for a player.”