The weekly breakdowns usually feature a goal, but this week’s is a little bit different. Thanks to Conor Patrick (@ConorOGinger) and his videography skills, we have a clip of just how effective the Hurricanes forecheck can be.
That clip is 1:05 long. They were already in the zone before Conor began to record, so let’s say it was closer to a minute and a half that Carolina had Boston trapped. How did they control the play so effectively for so long?
The clip actually starts with the Bruins gaining possession in the form of Torey Krug behind the net. Lee Stempniak sees and begins to add pressure.
As Krug waits forever to make a pass, Stempniak wisely blocks the boards with his body and keeps his stick in the passing lane, giving Krug limited options. Take a second and guess what happens.
If you answered, “he’ll block the pass and thank Krug for the delicious turnover,” congratulations! You can see above that Stempniak now has control of the puck and is coming out of the corner with three Bruins watching him.
Hmm, Boston. Does a three player coverage on a single guy coming out of the corner sound like responsible coverage?
Not really. Because as soon as Stempniak beats one man, the other has to bite, leaving Teuvo Teravainen (facing camera) open to support.
Even when the Bruins do strip the puck, Teravainen is able to easily play it back to Justin Faulk. This is key #1 to the Hurricanes sustaining pressure: puck support and awareness.
Skip ahead a bit, and Faulk has passed to Ron Hainsey who is winding up for a shot. There is minimal traffic, but Sebastian Aho is working in front of the net.
Hainsey’s shot bounces up, and again, puck support is crucial. There are three Bruins who could get to this puck, but Teravainen beats each of them to it.
And again, the Canes maintain control above.
As Teravainen wheels out of the corner, he shows an example of the second reason the Hurricanes had such a great shift. He shoots the puck despite being in a low-danger area.
When a team is under pressure, they often leave themselves susceptible to cross-ice passes and surprise shots due to puck-watching and putting too many players on the puck carrier. Above, Teravainen’s shot goes off a skate and sits in front of the net...
...for Aho to come through with a golden chance to score.
Skip ahead again, and Hainsey once again finds himself with the puck, but no shooting lane. Now we will see the third key to sustaining pressure: keeping the feet moving.
Hainsey begins to skate across the line again, causing Jimmy Hayes to hustle to keep up with him, and drawing the attention of Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron.
As Hainsey continues, Marchand steps towards him, opening either a drop pass option to Faulk or a nifty pass to Teravainen.
The pass comes to Teravainen, who gets a quick one-timer off. But the entire play comes because of Hainsey’s quick thinking and quick feet. If he dumps the puck in the corner (which was the safe play), a battle ensues and who knows if Carolina maintains possession. But he instead keeps it, and creates his own options.
The remainder of Conor’s clip shows another few examples of the puck support of Aho and the quick shooting ability of Teravainen, but to avoid redundancy let’s finish with a broad look at the play.
They did not score on the play, but the 5-man unit for Carolina did everything they could to do so. The ability to support the puck so well comes from chemistry, which Teravainen and Aho clearly have with one another. We’ve actually seen them do this to teams on multiple occasions before, which lends strength to the notion that this is something to be expected.
Stempniak fits in nicely with this line—his work ethic and hockey smarts allow for his linemates to get open more easily. And Faulk and Hainsey were essential to keeping the play alive, with Hainsey in particular. His ability to find the open space and create more options for himself is a very underrated skill, and one we haven’t always seen from him.
All in all, despite the lack of evidence on the scoreboard, this type of zone control is crucial to Carolina’s puck possession style. Maintaining control through the neutral zone is one thing, but doing it in the offensive zone is what creates goals and subsequently, wins.