How to stop a superstar is biggest challenge in NHL playoffs
|Report an Error|
Share via Email
Any time Connor McDavid, Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby goes over the boards, everyone in the arena is watching and waiting for something special to happen.
From the opposing bench, tireless efforts have gone into preventing that.
Nothing gets more attention in the Stanley Cup playoffs than a superstar, from the likes of McDavid, Ovechkin and Crosby to rookie of the year front-runner Auston Matthews and game-changing
"Those guys are difference-makers in the game," said coach Peter DeBoer, whose San Jose Sharks have held McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers to three points in five games. "When you look at the analytics and the percentage of the
There's a reason lesser-known players Zack Kassian, Bobby Ryan, Jaden Schwartz and Jake Guentzel lead the playoffs in game-winning goals with so much attention devoted to bottling up and frustrating the stars.
"Everybody probably more focused in the D-zone and everywhere and try to be smart all three zones. Nobody wants to lose," Washington Capitals
Hockey is considered the ultimate team sport because it's more difficult for a single player to make a significant impact than in other sports, but the process of stopping him is more complex. Columbus coach John Tortorella said "you can't map it out like football where you have a 3-4
Taking away a player's "time and space" is a time-
"Good players, if they have space, they're going to pick you part," Niskanen said. "The quicker you can get on him and force him to make good plays under heavy pressure, I think that's your best chance of negating his creativity and his ability to operate."
In Game 1 of Washington's series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Jay Beagle seemed at times almost glued to Matthews. Sharks
"You're putting yourself in defensive spots first," Couture said. "Even if it's in the O-zone, you want to be above him because he is so quick and he's got that extra step. If you can get above him and try to slow him down it only helps us."
Maple Leafs forward Eric Fehr, who played a shutdown role during the Pittsburgh Penguins' Stanley Cup run last spring, said defending an elite talent means being laser focused no matter where the puck is.
"It's a game inside the game," he said. "When you're playing against the same guy the whole series, every game, you start to get a little 1-on-1 rivalry. You just try to do your best to wear him out and make sure that every shift is difficult for him."
It's also a team effort, as the Predators showed in holding Blackhawks stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to two points apiece in a four-game sweep. Coach Peter Laviolette's game plan, Nashville's structure and Pekka Rinne's goaltending combined to do the trick.
"Everybody has to do their job that way (so that) when you get close on a guy and you have the close support, you can outnumber and put him in situations where you can get the puck back," Boyle said. "It's not 1-on-1 for 200 feet of the ice. It takes five guys."
Sometimes it takes six, and when the last line of
But the work to stop a star begins well before he takes a shot on net. Like the Sharks with McDavid, Maple Leafs
"Just be cognizant of where they're at," Hunwick said. "You have to know exactly where those guys are because the top goal-scorers in the league, somehow they seem to get lost sometimes."
AP Sports Writers Josh Dubow in San Jose, California, and Mitch Stacy in Columbus, Ohio, contributed.
More AP hockey: https://apnews.com/NHLhockey
Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SWhyno .