Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson talks about the Maple Leafs' goal scorers. Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
Toronto — Not only some great teams, but the Red Wings also are facing some of the elite goal-scorers in the NHL this week.
Having already faced Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay) and Auston Matthews (Toronto), the Red Wings have another explosive scorer to face Friday — maybe the best of them all, Washington’s Alex Ovechkin.
So, what’s the key to stopping these scorers? How does a team go about it?
The key, the Red Wings say, to slowing any great offensive player is preventing time and space.
Don’t give any room to a proven, dangerous goal scorer, and your odds of keeping him off the scoresheet improve.
“Those are great players,” Blashill said of the string of stars the Red Wings face this week. “The big thing is you have to do everything you can to take away time and space, to eliminate how much time they have with the puck.
“Once they’re able to take a stride with the puck, those types of players will deliver a heck of a play.
“We have players like that as well. So you just have to eliminate time and space as much as you can.”
Much of a team’s preparation these days is based on video.
Coaches will focus on individual players and what they do all over the ice, to enable their own players to have knowledge on what to expect from an opponent.
Where a player likes to camp on the ice, what kind of shot he’s likely to use, could he also look to pass instead of shooting?
Analyzing video will glean most of a players’ — or team’s characteristics.
“We watch what their line is doing,” defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said. “Obviously you watch the games and highlights and see what he’s (an individual) doing, but you can’t think about that.”
Still, Ericsson feels a lot of the game is instinct.
“When you’re out there, you just have to play your game and try to be close (to the opponent),” Ericsson said. “Don’t give him much space. That’s how it is with all good players. The more space they get, the more (damage they can do).”
Video, Ericsson said, is important to learn about an individual player’s tendencies.
“The more you see a player, obviously the more of his tendencies you can see and learn,” Ericsson said. “Ovi (Ovechkin) has been in the league the longest, so you’ve seen his tendencies over and over again and how he scores his goals. Where he likes to be (on the ice) and what kind of player he is
“I would say Matthews is probably the guy (we) haven’t really figured out yet. He’s got a lot of tools out there that he is using. He can score from kind of anywhere Obviously he does it all.
“It’s a challenge, but it’s always a challenge and we welcome it.”
An added difficulty about facing the three teams this week, forward Riley Sheahan said, was the depth of the teams.
In facing Toronto, analysts will focus on Matthews, or William Nylander and Mitch Marner. But the Maple Leafs are deep in offensive threats all the way through to the third line, with a future Hall of Famer (Patrick Marleau) and an offensive threat such as James van Riemsdyk, playing secondary roles on a goal-happy team.
“They have so much firepower up front,” Sheahan said. “You have to be aware of every line (not just one player) and make them play in their defensive zone and limit their offense.”