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Cracking the Communication Conundrum

by San Jose Sharks Staff / San Jose Sharks
Communication is a key to any great company and that is the same for players on the ice during an NHL game. The coaches are talking to the players on the bench, the forwards are talking to the defenseman and maybe most importantly, the goaltenders are talking to the blueliners.

No great oration of significant length is taking place, but the quick words between the netminders and their defensemen are critical to the breakout and keeping the puck out of the net.

And just as important, communication between the goaltender and blueliners keeps the Sharks defensemen from taking a blind hit. One of the first places of communication comes when a blueliner is chasing a loose puck into the boards.

There is a different level of talking depending on who is in net for each contest, but the message is usually the same.

“It depends on who is playing,” said Marc-Edouard Vlasic. “They both (Evgeni Nabokov and Brian Boucher) talk. Both will let you know if you have time. There is more talking if you’re playing five-on-five.”

Without the verbal assistance from Nabokov or Boucher, it can be tough to tell who is charging up ice from the other team.

“If someone is on me, the goalie talking makes my job easier,” said Vlasic.

“If the puck is going around the net, we’re not sure if a guy is coming from the other side,” said Boyle. “He keeps us from getting run over and getting injured.”

Once control of the puck is gained, another simple verbal is yelled out to help facilitate the pass.

“If a man is on them and I see someone open I’ll yell ‘partner’,” said Boucher.

“The goalie can see what’s happening 95 percent of the time,” said McLellan. “When the defenseman is being pressured, it’s an absolute must.”

The conversations while play is going on are short but effective.

“You want to keep it short and make sure they understand,” said Nabokov. “There is not time for a full conversation.”

“There are no major revelations,” said Boucher. “We’re not spreading the gospel. We’re just trying to get the puck back into play.”

When there is a stoppage in play, a goalie may catch up on a situation with his backend help.

“Sometimes I’ll talk about a good play at a TV timeout,” said Boucher. “I’ll ask if there is another option for a different pass if I made the wrong decision.”

McLellan feels that good communication is vital to a strong hockey team.

“We encourage communication all over the ice,” said McLellan. “When things are not going well, it is one of the first things that goes.

The Sharks held back most of their injured players from traveling to Minnesota. That means Evgeni Nabokov and Rob Blake won’t be part of the action during the next two games.

“It’s better to take a couple of days and get it to 100 percent before I step on the ice and play,” said Nabokov. “We’ll take it day by day.”

Blake is not making the trip to the Central Time zone due to a shot that hit him in the Vancouver contest.

McLellan plans to keep using Captain Patrick Marleau at the center position while he is missing players like Marcel Goc and Jeremy Roenick. One player who could benefit from his new line is rookie Jamie McGinn. With Marleau and Thornton separated, it means that the ice time for Team Teal will be more evenly distributed.

“Every time you put a uniform on, it’s an opportunity,” said McLellan. “Sometimes the situation is a little different. Going into a game, Jamie is going to see 10-12 minutes. He did a very good job in Vancouver and had a positive impact.”

The Sharks will visit Minnesota on Tuesday at 5 p.m. and the contest will be available on CSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and

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