I’d say it was an underrated play, but fortunately, it seems to be getting the respect that it deserves.
On Jussi Jokinen
’s tying goal with 1:20 left in Game 7, Tim Gleason
made a diving play to keep the puck in at the blue line before sending a pass, still while kneeling, over to Joni Pitkanen
, who found his compatriot across the ice for the momentous finish.
Without Gleason’s effort, the Devils, who were already pinned into their zone on a long shift, clear the puck and get a set of fresh legs or go in unopposed on a breakaway. If either of those happens, that probably would have been it for the 2008-09 Carolina Hurricanes.
“Timmy Gleason saved our season at the blue line,” said Coach Paul Maurice.
“Mr. Brind’Amour said it was a great pass,” said Gleason with a smile, referring to why he had to dive for the puck in the first place. “It was tape-to-tape. It landed on my stick, but I don’t know how the heck it did. I had to chip it, because I knew if I didn’t get any of it, it was pretty much a breakaway.”
He earned the secondary assist on that goal, but it didn’t end there. He also assisted on Eric Staal’s game winner just seconds later with the initial breakout pass, and was on the ice for the final defensive stand when the Devils threw everything they had at Carolina in the dying moments.
The diving play was just one of a number of memorable moments by the rugged 26-year-old in his first NHL playoff series. For a guy who is accustomed to flying under the radar with his steady defensive play, Gleason grabbed headlines for his overtime winner in Game 2 – his first goal of the season – and for the job he and partner Joe Corvo did in limiting Zach Parise’s line to just one goal in the final four games of the series.
In fact, if you do a search for Tim Gleason on gettyimages.com, as I just did for the purpose of this blog, most of the resulting photos also have the tags "Zach Parise" or "Travis Zajac" associated with them.
"Those are skilled players and if you give them time they’re going to make plays," said Gleason. "Our mentality on the back end is just to shut them down, and the more simple the better with lines like that.”
In addition to his usual defensive numbers - he finished second among all playoff performers with 28 hits and was fourth in blocked shots with 17 – he also ranked tied for fourth among the Hurricanes in scoring with four points, only eight fewer than he had in the entire regular season.
“He’s another guy [the Bruins] have got to shut down,” said Maurice, tongue-in-cheek.
Given the job he did in that series, the tendency is to say that he stepped up his game for his first postseason appearance. However, the Canes don’t see it that way.
“I think that’s been pretty much his game,” said Maurice. “I hope what he’s understanding is that his regular season game and the determination he plays with every night – that’s good enough in the playoffs.”
“Whether it’s a regular season game or a playoff game, I try to play with the same type of intensity,” said Gleason. “I’m not going to play better in the postseason just because it’s the postseason. My goal in the playoffs is to keep that consistency, do my job on the ice and don’t change a thing from the regular season.”
The Canes may not be able to count on Gleason to put up the same kind of offensive numbers against the Bruins as he did against the Devils, but his role on the defensive end will be just as important. Much in the same way Boston will send Zdeno Chara out against Eric Staal whenever possible, Gleason will likely be counted upon to neutralize the likes of Phil Kessel and Marc Savard.
Of course, if he took a liking to the more dramatic side of the game and wants to pop in another OT winner, the Canes will take that too.