|DMac in 2013-14 Training Camp|
But hockey doesn't have a running game! Well yes, and no. My Dad is a sports nut. Loves football, baseball, and college basketball. Hockey is okay live, but he doesn't live in Central Ohio like I do, so is pretty ambivalent about it, and doesn't understand the game well.
Last year I was talking to him about hockey, and about cycling the puck deep in the offensive zone. And the analogy I used to explain why that deep cycle was good, was the running game in football. They are very similar. If you want to possess the puck and cycle it behind the other team's goal, than you had better be prepared to work darn hard, and be pretty physical. Our fourth line last year was exceptional at establishing this type of possession (which tends to yield no Corsi advantage), and Derek MacKenzie understood and drove that type of possession game.
Having your fourth line play 'keep away' below the red line in the offensive zone is very analogous to the running game in football, and conveys the same benefits. It is hard to do, so you are accomplishing something when you do it. You make your opponent expend extraordinary amounts of energy recovering the puck, and that has a cumulative effect in a game. And their offense doesn't have the puck.
The 2014-15 CBJ like to get the puck deep, but then tend to cycle it back out to the points for a shot that is often blocked, and possession goes the other way. Last year, when the chips were down in a game like last night, DMac and company would come over the boards, and start to play keep away. And more often then not, that lead to penalties, or other momentum changers that would allow the CBJ to get back in the game when they were being out skated.
While Chaput has done very well, he has more of a scorers mentality, when we need our fourth line center to embrace the cycle game, and use that to drive momentum. You want to know if Jared Boll is being a successful player? It's if he can get with his linemates, get the puck down low, behind the other teams goal, and play 'keep away'. If they can't learn to do that this year, it will be an important indication that one of the factors that allowed us to make the playoffs last year is missing this year.
We need to get our running game back on track. And is starts with Chaput and the fourth line. Derek MacKenzie had the right appreciation for the value of this, and made choices as a center to drive that grinder possession game. And we don't have that right now. But we need to get it.