Getting the puck deep is more than just an expression in hockey, it is a way of getting the Sharks offensive machine going. However, there is more to getting the puck deep than just hit the blue line or the trap and blindly flinging the puck to the boards.
“Where we place the puck on the forecheck is the key to a lot of our game,” said Sharks Captain Patrick Marleau
. “You can’t just throw it in and let them break it out.”
With some franchises, the opposing netminder is as big of a problem as the defensive zone players and the puck can’t be placed where they can play it.
“As far as chipping it in, you have to keep it away from goalies like Marty Turco,” said Marleau. “He is like a third defenseman out there.”
Ideally the puck could be carried into the zone without losing possession for even a second, but the neutral zone trap can make that a virtual impossibility on some nights. One key is to keep the blueliner guessing make making the decision to dump the puck at the very last moment.
“Any time the D has to turn around, it gives you that much more time,” said Marleau.
Each Sharks player has his own individual talents, but when a puck handler hits the trap and decides to cede control, the end result should always be that Team Teal comes out with the puck on the other end. Or at least be in a 50/50 battle for it. Milan Michalek is one of the league’s speediest skaters and his favorite more is to chase the puck down himself.
“Milan is really good at getting it in,” said Marleau. “Basically it’s a skill now and putting it in the right spot. Before you just dumped and chased.”
“I think it goes with each individual,” said Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan. “Milan skates so well, he can go and get it. Cheech is much more of a grind it guy. Every player is different, but the goal is the same.”
Michalek says there is one fear in the attack.
“You don’t want the D to pick it,” said Michalek. “It’s a split second decision to dump it in or carry it in and you don’t want it going the other way.”Dan Boyle
has to face such attackers every game and is constantly forced to turn and chase loose pucks against a rushing forward.
“When the puck is fired along the boards, it is hard to handle,” said Boyle. “That’s the hardest (to face). The puck is coming around at 100 miles per hour and you have to make a play. The best guys flip it in time for their guys to get there first.”
That will be very important against a patient club like Vancouver on Saturday.
Travis Moen skated in his first Sharks practice and found himself on a line with Jonathan Cheechoo and Tomas Plihal. The irony is that Moen spent plenty of time on the ice against Cheechoo over the years. Both found their goals against the other over time, with Cheechoo landing a couple of hat tricks.
“I’ve tried to shut them down (Cheechoo and Thornton) and had success sometimes and sometimes not so much,” said Moen. “I think I remember about three (Cheechoo hat tricks).”
Moen was simply happy to hit the ice with the Sharks and the feeling was mutual.
“It’s going to be fun,” said Cheechoo. “He’s a smart player and he knows how to play the game. Our team system will be a little different, but he’ll get it quickly.”
“It’s good to get out there with the guys,” said Moen. “It’s pretty similar to Anaheim. It’s a 1-2-2 there and a 1-2-2 here.
Moen will sure to be a fan favorite as he already has a bit of dislike for a certain Dallas player. Steve Ott was suspended for one game recently for attempting to eye gouge Moen.
“We definitely don’t care for each other,” said Moen. “There’s not a history, we just don’t get along.”
UP THE MIDDLE
Injuries continue to force McLellan into new formations. The current version of the fourth line has Jamie McGinn centering a group with Jody Shelley and Brad Staubitz. McGinn is a more natural winger.
“I practiced at center today,” said McGinn. “When they explain the drills, I have to know the correct spot and can’t get confused. We are three big guys who like to hit, but we can all three go in deep.”
McLellan said he would leave all the injured players in San Jose and that includes netminder Evgeni Nabokov.
“We hope it resolves itself and he’s on the ice Monday and ready to go,” said McLellan.
The Sharks will visit Vancouver at 7 p.m. on Saturday and the game will be on CSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.