If you look at how the San Jose Sharks have generated 5-on-5 offense in their 4-0-0 start, a lot of it has been off the forecheck and inner slot chances.
The inner slot, by the way, is this net front diamond area.
Here’s an example:
Couture ties it up 🙌 pic.twitter.com/4teZWJlucp
— Sharks on NBCS (@NBCSSharks) October 22, 2021
Yes, this forecheck is aided by a Shane Pinto injury, but you get the point.
Per SPORTLOGiQ, at 5-on-5, the San Jose Sharks entered this afternoon’s game third in the NHL in Inner Slot Shots and ninth in Forecheck Chances.
The Sharks also lead the league with a 57.9 Dump-In % — meaning the percentage of time that they dump the puck in as opposed to carrying it in.
Dump it in, get it back, put it on net – that appears to be the San Jose Sharks’ formula for success this year.
That’s what hockey tactics guru Jack Han noted on the San Jose Hockey Now Podcast last week: That Bob Boughner was using an aggressive 2-1-2 forecheck to great effect.
This type of forecheck is designed to create turnovers, though it does expose your backside from time to time.
The Boston Bruins, however, stifled San Jose’s forecheck and denied them the inner slot in their 4-3 victory this afternoon.
This was the case from the opening shift:
Timo Meier (28) dumps it in. Jonathan Dahlen (76) gets first touch – good news — and Logan Couture (39) beats Patrice Bergeron (37) to get the puck back to Dahlen. But Matt Grzelcyk (48) is on top of the rookie, who pops a pass that eludes Couture (00:05). The Bruins take it.
“They’re heavy team. They’re physical. When they get you down low, they play in layers. There’s not a lot of room there,” Bob Boughner pointed out.
“Every time you get the puck, they just jump on it right away. They don’t give much time,” Tomas Hertl said, before admitting, “They were just really aggressive. It gave us problems because we really weren’t ready for that.”
It’s now Forecheck 101: Charlie McAvoy (73) dumps it in from 200 feet away (00:07), knowing David Pastrnak (88) is going to win that race. In a sleight of hand, Pastrnak lets it go (00:12), certain that Bergeron is right behind him. That’s confidence.
Bergeron doesn’t let the Sharks get set: He gives it right back to Pastrnak (00:14).
Mario Ferraro (38) is played like a yo-yo by the Perfection Line: He’s pulled to Pastrnak, toward a puck that the winger doesn’t touch, then Bergeron gets him going again with the quick return to his winger.
Pastrnak holds, drawing the eyes of four Sharks toward him (00:16). Then, he changes the side of the puck again, passing it to Bergeron, a sort of standing give-and-go.
The San Jose Sharks are on their heels. And look at the top – Brad Marchand (63) is ready to take advantage (00:16). Between Brent Burns (88) and Couture, someone needs to account for Bergeron and Marchand. Instead, they’re both a step behind.
It’s easy to blame Meier, but his job as a winger is to watch the point. He’s not tethered to that position, but he’s closest to Marchand in the end because he’s trying to cover for his teammates.
As for Boston, this was a masterful example of executing a change to the side of the puck, which gets the D moving and opens holes.
So why couldn’t the San Jose Sharks match Boston’s effort here?
“We talked about that before the game,” Boughner acknowledged. “We call it getting in the mud, trying to get out of that mud, move our feet, changing puck side [of the ice].”
Boughner credited the Bruins for how they defended, while Nick Bonino concentrated on another one of their strengths: “Sustaining that forecheck once we stopped the puck, we got to have a second guy in there quick.
“They were good at reversing the net and taking it out the other side. If we swing by or if we get to the wrong side of the pile, they’re out so fast.”
Han told San Jose Hockey Now last week that he thought the Sharks were able to take advantage of Winnipeg and Montreal on the forecheck because they’re not outstanding puck-moving teams. No such problem, apparently, for Boston.
San Jose gets a chance to make a good road trip great this Tuesday at Nashville – let’s see if they can get their bread and butter going in the away finale.
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