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Lorentz Shows His Stuff



Credit: AP Photo/Petr David Josek

PRAGUE – Steven Lorentz doesn’t have a track record that screams top-six winger.

Before the San Jose Sharks acquired the 26-year-old this summer from the Carolina Hurricanes, Lorentz had just 10 goals in 112 NHL games. He had been a solid AHL scorer, but on the Metropolitan Division winner, he was a fourth-liner.

So cue the outrage when Sharks head coach David Quinn shuffled the deck after Friday’s 4-1 loss to the Nashville Predators, and installed Lorentz next to his second line Logan Couture-Kevin Labanc duo.

But I suspect that Lorentz changed some minds after a solid performance in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the same Preds.

“I thought Lorentz had a real good night,” Quinn noted. “I thought that line was our best line. I thought [Couture] was really good. I thought Labanc had a really good weekend.”

Lorentz ended his night with an assist, but that wasn’t what impressed me.

In both plays, the 6-foot-4 winger flashed difference-making size, speed, and strength.

In the first clip, Lorentz (16) sticked away a centering pass to Mikael Granlund (64). Labanc (62) showed great vision and touch to get the puck down almost 200 feet without an icing, throwing a long bomb that Lorentz could get to. Lorentz blew by Filip Forsberg (9), then did that and more to big Jeremy Lauzon (3) to win the puck.

In the second clip, at least two steps behind Tanner Jeannot (84), Lorentz’s quick first step propelled him past the Pred for another puck battle win.

Now truth be told, I do not think that Lorentz is a top-six forward on a playoff team. He appears to be an outstanding puck battler, and that’s really, really valuable – per SPORTLOGiQ, he was eighth in the NHL at 2.2 Offensive Zone Puck Battle Wins Per 20 out of 439 qualified forwards (at least 300 even-strength minutes) – but I don’t think that he has the hands for the job.

This play, again, starts like so many of Lorentz’s highlights: He has a fantastic first step. Starting the race from roughly the same spot, Lorentz has Yakov Trenin (13) sucking wind from the jump. It’s a clear-cut 2-on-1 with Tomas Hertl (48), in large part because of Lorentz’s feet.

But then, the Lorentz saucer pass has too much sauce, and Hertl can’t corral it.

It’s tough to make a sweeping judgment based off one play – star winger Timo Meier, for example, has missed plenty of passes so far this season – and I’m sure the ice at a very hot O2 Arena didn’t help anybody. But there’s no doubt, plays like that, on the aggregate, are the difference between a top-six winger and a fourth-liner.

But let’s give credit where credit is due.

Again, Lorentz’s skating and length star. His forechecking pressure perhaps forces Dante Fabbro (57) into an ill-advised pass that Mario Ferraro (38) zooms into. Then Lorentz shows some top-six touch, putting the puck on a tee for Couture to smoke past Kevin Lankinen.

So hey, maybe Lorentz just needs a chance to show his stuff. Judging by Quinn’s comments, he’s going to get it.

Next up for the San Jose Sharks: Here come Lorentz’s old team, the Hurricanes.

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